In light of the pending conflict with Iraq and the continued war on terror, there has been a phenomenon sweeping across college campuses of the nation.
Since September 11, 2001, and also more recently, college students have been speaking up, even going so far as to form organizations, to support their country. Harvard Law, Brandeis, Princeton, Yale and Columbia University are among the schools where such activism is taking place. What the following groups have in common is a feeling of patriotism and seemingly a sense that it is their duty to defend the United States at a time when its reputation is under attack by some of its very citizens.
Students for Protecting America's mission, as stated on their website, is very clear: "Defend America. Defeat Terrorism. Disarm Iraq." The organization was formed at Harvard Law School just this past week in response to recent anti-war protests that are going on not only at Harvard, but internationally. The group has thus far been busy sending out press releases, putting up posters, and getting the word out about Students for Protecting America (SPA) in order to start up membership. Brett Joshpe, Harvard Law student and President of SPA, states that the response from the student body has been very positive and that the group has received numerous emails from students interested in joining. He states that they have also received a lot of support from alumni as well as visitors to their website. Reportedly SPA has experienced some negative reactions in the form of vandalism to their posters, but this has not served as a deterrent to what the group is trying to do.
Though SPA has not yet held an event, they are planning a day when people could unite to show their support for America; they hope to include not only students from Harvard but from all over the Boston area. Mr. Joshpe has expressed that whatever event is planned, the group intends to be respectful of the University at all times and act in a way that will not disrupt the learning process.
Mr. Joshpe asserts that the group's main focus is not in advocating war, but in letting people know that "there is a lot of support out there" for what America is doing to disarm Iraq, especially at the college level where the voice of anti-war protestors is the one most commonly heard. He states that the organization intends to show support especially for the men and women of the military, and that "everybody should be respectful of the troops who defend this country."
United We Stand (UWS) is a similar organization born out of a web forum discussion at Brandeis University when students Joshua Wiznitzer and Maria Meyerovich connected on a point of patriotism. Shortly thereafter, they formed United We Stand and were officially recognized by Brandeis University on February 23, 2003.
The group's membership has since grown to fifteen, and Secretary and Public Relations Representative Mr. Wiznitzer states that many more have expressed the wish to join. Mr. Wiznitzer explains that UWS is in the process of coming up with ideas for events, some of which may include a student debate between members of UWS and anti-war protestors, in which each side could argue the reasons for its point of view. In the event that war between the United States and Iraq does break out, UWS is planning to hold a rally and distribute yellow ribbons that students may wear in support of America. Mr. Wiznitzer states that they are also hoping to obtain speakers who can "help explain the ideals and practices which make our country so great."
UWS is not yet eligible to receive school funding, but is working on gaining "chartered status" which will allow them to do so. Thus far, they have relied on donations of supplies as well as their own wallets in order to get the group started. According to Mr. Wiznitzer, one of the reasons he and Ms. Meyerovich formed the group was to "provide a forum for students who didn¡¦t agree with the whole anti-war crowd."
Yale College Students for Democracy (YCSD) is another relatively new group, dating back to February 6, 2003. It was created, according to President Matthew Louchheim, to educate students about the importance of defending democracy as well as to counter the protests of those at Yale who choose to demonize the United States yet ignore the abuses of leaders such as Saddam Hussein. YCSD recently hosted former CIA Director James Woolsey, who spoke on the importance of defending democracy in the face of terrorism. According to YCSD Vice President of Communication Zachary Safir, YCSD is planning to host similarly informative speakers in the future, including a former Iraqi freedom fighter who is scheduled to speak in April.YCSD currently has a membership of thirty, is a registered school group, and is in the process of becoming a recognized non-profit organization.
A slightly more established group, the Princeton Committee Against Terrorism (PCAT) was conceived in September 2001 to encourage patriotism as well as support the war against terror. Founder Carlos Ramos Mrosovsky states that the organization was launched in part to give a voice to those who did not support the "anti-American sentiment" demonstrated by some students at Princeton.
Since its inception, PCAT has organized rallies as well as hosted speakers such as Ravan Farhadi, Afghan Northern Alliance Ambassador to the United Nations. Mr. Mrosovsky contends that PCAT has experienced considerable opposition from some of the administration as well as from another student group called the Princeton Peace Network. He also states that at the annual commemoration of the 9/11 attacks, PCAT was politely excluded from participation in arranging the event, with some members of the administration citing that they did not want to politicize the day. PCAT was not deterred and manifested their patriotism at the commemoration by distributing hand-held flags and displaying "God Bless America" banners.PCAT presents as a non-partisan group with a membership of approximately three hundred students spanning of a variety of political affiliations. PCAT has been recognized at Princeton since October 2001 and is funded largely by donations from alumni. The group publishes a magazine called American Foreign Policy, which is financed by the school as well as advertisers.
PCAT is currently planning a March 8th rally intended to show support for America as well as to counter the anti-war rally being held on the same day. Similar to PCAT, Students United for America (SU4A) was founded in the wake of the September 11th attacks, in order "to join together with all those who love America to support the defense of our nation, our freedoms, and our way of life." Based at Columbia University in New York, New York, and led by President Jennifer Thorpe, SU4A has attempted to rally patriotism in the hearts of students through education and information.
SU4A's most recent event was a forum hosting Americans for Victory Against Terrorism, a Washington, D.C. based group. Speakers included former CIA Director R. James Woolsey as well as Director of the Center for Security Policy and former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy
Frank Gaffney. The forum dealt with the disarmament of Iraq and the reality of terrorism. In addition, SU4A has organized a movement to bring Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) to Columbia and is currently gathering signatures for a petition in favor of ROTC.
SU4A, currently numbering approximately seventy members, has been officially recognized since October 2001; the group receives school funding. Ms. Thorpe states that SU4A has faced some opposition in the past particularly in the form of harassment from another student group called the International Socialist Organization.
Ms. Thorpe seems to speak for all pro-American campus groups - and all patriotic American everywhere - when she says, "We want our troops abroad as well as the public at large to know that the youth of America supports the fight against terror."