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Facts behind UCSC protest (of April 5, 2005)
The following Op-Ed was published on April 10 of 2005, a few days after the first major counter-recruitment protest occured on UCSC's campus. It was written by a group of SAW activists to counter the Sentinel's irresponsible journalism and highlight the motives for the protest.
A front-page article about a student protest in the Sentinel last week failed to report on several key aspects of the demonstration to kick military recruiters out of UC Santa Cruz.
What was described as a chaotic and random disturbance was in fact a carefully planned protest event coordinated by UCSC’s new anti-war group, Students Against War. The Sentinel’s account of the event omitted the perspectives of the hundreds of students who risked arrest to bring the national counter-recruitment movement to Santa Cruz.
The Sentinel article, which did not interview any protesters, neglected to mention the main rationale behind the action. The military’s open discrimination against queers is in flagrant violation of UCSCs non-discrimination policy.
This policy was adopted by UC Regents in 1983 to prohibit legally impermissible, arbitrary and unreasonable discriminatory practices within all university-sponsored groups, programs and events. The U.S. military’s policy on sexual orientation, while legally permissible, is clearly arbitrary and unreasonable discrimination. By rallying at the job fair, students did what the university would not: We enforced our nondiscrimination policy by ensuring the removal of all military recruiters from our campus.
The university justifies campus military presence with the 1995 Solomon Amendment, which threatens to withhold federal funds from schools that deny access to military recruiters. However, this law was recently deemed unconstitutional in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. With the support of universities like UCSC, it is only a matter of time before this unjust law is overturned. SAW’s action on Tuesday was a call for Santa Cruz to join this national struggle and honor our campus’ progressive history.
These clear objectives were carried out as systematically and quickly as possible. The protesters had a concise list of demands that were read aloud to military recruiters, passed out to job fair attendees, and delivered to Career Center directors. Pre-assigned negotiators made it clear that we did not want to shut down the entire job fair and that the action would end as soon as the university complied with its own policy and asked the recruiters to leave.
While Jondi Gumz’s article focused solely on disruption and disappointed job fair attendees, the reality was that the direct action achieved its goal within an hour. This left a full two-thirds of the job fair to continue without interruption. After all military recruiters were escorted out of the event center, a few SAW organizers remained at the job fair to educate students about nonmilitary, pro-peace options for future employment.
Gumz’s article also overlooked the diversity of student protesters’ personal motivations for challenging the recruiters. We are people who have family and friends in the military and don’t want to see them hurt. We are people who are specifically banned from this institution because of our sexual identity. We are conscientious objectors; we are former service women and men. SAW organizers consistently emphasized that the action was not intended as an attack on individual recruiters but as an expression of student opposition to the military itself as a hateful institution.
Many students who had to wait outside the doors of the job fair during SAW’s direct action felt that the inconvenience was unfair. But is it fair that the UC makes an exception in its nondiscrimination policy for the military? Is it fair that people of color represent 50 percent of troops on the front lines in Iraq? Is it fair that 90 percent of women in the military have been sexually harassed? Is it fair that the spoils of war line corporate pockets while the military does nothing to help mentally ill and/or homeless veterans? Is it fair that the government uses the bodies of the most disadvantaged people in our country to fight imperialist wars for the wealthiest sector of our society?
The demonstration organized by Students Against War on April 5 was intended to hold the university responsible for its own non-discrimination policy. At the same time, our strategy of disruption helped shed light on the fact that U.S. militarism and war-mongering is built on a foundation of racism, classism, sexism and heterosexism. To stop the war machine we have to cut off its fuel. Without soldiers there can be no war.
Erin Gilday, Mara Ortenburger and Julia Trist are members of Students Against War.