Starting a legitimate campus discourse

Here we are at code orange, and after a year of sporadic talk what does impending war look like at Yale? Not much — at least, not yet.

More than we have needed the occasional, nerve-wracking security update e-mail from University Secretary Linda Lorimer, Yale since September has needed a coherent, public and ongoing debate about Iraq. The pro-war factions have kept mostly to themselves; the anti-war ones have gone to Washington. In the last week, though, it seems Yale has gotten a tiny bit closer to having an actual discourse about this war. Perhaps it was the color-code upgrade, the mad rush to hardware stores or the increasing sense of urgency on the evening news. But even with the media hysteria and national alarm, Yale is just barely beginning to wake up.

Close to 150 Yalie peaceniks rode the train to New York City Saturday, joining hundreds of thousands of protesters in major cities around the world in opposing the war on Iraq. The anti-war left may not be articulately engaging students on campus yet — someday, maybe — but we are glad they are out in force, doing something. Opposition from intelligent college students, when it is intelligent opposition, can be significant in keeping everyone else honest. Because if any place has no excuse for not having smart discourse, it is this place.

Last Thursday, the brand-new Yale College Students for Democracy — the first hawkish cast to coalesce here, and one of the first campus groups formed to engage anti-war movements in the country — hosted R. James Woolsey LAW ’68, former director of the CIA. Even more important than what Woolsey said, or that he gave a speech at all, is the fact that there is an organized group of students who brought him here. When the opposition to the opposition is capable and coordinated, it forces pro-peace groups to come up with more and more challenging arguments, not just more and more five-word slogans and masks of President Bush.

And for those who have not quite decided where they stand, actually having two sides debating each other on campus will help. There is clearly an appetite for this that has for a time been left unfed: take as evidence New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s recent visit, half an hour before which there was not even standing room outside the door to the lecture hall. This is not an easy party-line decision, and students cannot take their opinions out of the weekly e-mails they get from one party or another in the Yale Political Union. Enough is at stake with this war that students need to come out of their common rooms, form an opinion and do something with what they think.

Comments

  • HC

    Also, they have yet to explain why a desire to get into a group that runs around naked created extreme pressure to get naked at the party. Wouldn’t those who are comfortable with it be the only ones who would want so badly to be in the group? Personally if I objected to a group’s behavior I wouldn’t abandon all of my own principles to gain admission.