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The new generation of activism
Student activists at Minnesota's campuses are getting involved in the national debate over Iraq. Peace activists at campuses across the state are planning protests, debates and votes to show their opposition to a potential invasion of Iraq. Some say today's student activists are better prepared to present their case than their counterparts from the Vietnam era. For many students, peace has become part of the curriculum in school. But some students don't consider themselves peace activists and say professors need to teach both sides of the issue, and push aside the anti-war ideology.

War with Iraq is going to a vote. Students at St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict will hold a campus-wide referendum asking students to take a stand. Michael Livingstone is an associate professor of psychology at the private Catholic school.

"Students are going to be asked to vote yes or no on the war," Livingstone says. "Should the United States go to war on Iraq? Yes or no. And we're really hoping that people really think about the war and and what's happening and make some decisions for themselves about what they think should be done, and voting is a way to express their views."

Livingstone is one of several faculty members helping students organize the vote and he's one of 120 professors who signed a letter opposing war in Iraq. The letter, recently published in the campus newspaper, outlines political and moral arguments against war. The student vote is among several events taking place at St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict. There have been teach-ins, anti-war movies, and debates.

Some students at St. Scholastica in Duluth are taking part in similar anti-war efforts. Activists at the Catholic liberal arts college have joined in local protests and held prayer vigils. Senior Amy Schneider says if students unite, they can get their point across.

"As a generation we have a lot of power in what we have as ideals and vision for the future," Schneider says. "So I think that we can be a really positive force and a really large group of peope that if we are working together and have a common goal if we have a vision we can be a really strong force."

This new generation of peace activists have the same goal as those who protested during the Vietnam era. But some say student activists now are more worldly and than the activists of 30 years ago.

Tom Morgan runs St. Scholastica's Peace and Justice Program. Morgan was a soldier in the Vietnam war and was also involved in protests when he returned home. Morgan says not only are today's peace activists smarter, they're also getting involved earlier in the process. They're not protesting a war, they're trying to stop a war.

"Back in the early days of American involvement, say the early '60s, there would be one or two people at the University that I went to who would be a little bit outspoken and they were considered odd and unusual and not taken seriously. That's not true today. Lots of people are speaking out," Morgan says.

Morgan's colleague, Jay Neucomb, is helping St. Scholastica students plan peace events. Many students today are more conscious about what's going on around the world and that accounts for the number of students getting involved in anti-war efforts. Neucomb wants to see his students get involved.

"What we are seeing now is that kind of restraint against this military adventurism is really carried on by those of us who were working against the war in Vietnam," Neucomb says. "And now we are the professors and we are in charge of programs and so we are a part of it too. We bring that into the work that we do. It doesn't have to be separate from what the college does."

That anti-war ideology goes too far for some students, like Justin Byma, a 23-year-old sophmore at St. Cloud State University. Byma is a former Marine and chair of the College Republicans. He thinks the Bush administration has made its case for war in Iraq. He says that's not a popular opinion on the St. Cloud state campus.

"As far as a student having that opinion, sometimes you get some negative reactions, but for the most part what I'm finding a lot of students are coming around to at least see our side of the argument," Byma says.

Byma thinks there's too much anti-war teaching going on Minnesota college campuses, and he thinks students should learn about more options, maybe even war. Byma says he hasn't been involved in any kind of pro-war protest, but he says he's argued his point one on one with fellow students. It's an issue that he says requires a subtle touch.

"Because they are pre-conditioned with some of the teaching that goes on here. They're pre-conditioned to turn off to any use of force. But when you can explain it in a calm manner, and explain the history behind it, the point gets across," Byma says.

Byma says it doesn't bother him if his fellow students don't agree with his views, he just wants them involved in the debate.

That may be one thing that both sides can agree on.

Patrick Corey, a junior at St. John's University, says he hopes next week's campus-wide vote on the war will make students think about what the country is facing. And he hopes the vote carries a message to those outside campus: regardless of the vote's outcome, students are talking about Iraq.

"It's good for the campus community because it engages the students and get's the students involved with grassroots democracy. Amd I think that it shows people outside the campus community that students are taking this issue seriously and students are capable of serious deliberation,"

Students at St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict will vote on a war referendum Tuesday, Oct. 29. On Saturday Oct. 26, anti-war protesters plan to march from the Cathedral in St. Paul to the state Capitol.

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