About 40 students demonstrated against the Army College Tour on Wednesday, resulting in a meeting with CSUN President Jolene Koester and a review of procedures by Associate Vice President of Student Affairs William Watkins.
Most of the students were MEChA members, who were upset about the Army ‘s presence on campus and the carnival-like activities they had on campus, including a rock-climbing wall, game simulators and physical competitions.
“It’s one thing to bring a table for recruitment, it’s another to bring a festival of free iPods,” MEChA Chair Marcos A. Zamora said in regard to the MP3s the Army was giving away to the student who could do the most pull-ups.
Zamora, other students and faculty members recounted the day of demonstration at the MEChA meeting later that afternoon. Zamora said he was walking to his class around 11 a.m. and saw the Army on campus. While in class, Zamora said he started text-messaging people he knew were on campus, telling them to meet at the lawn at 1:00 p.m. He said there were about 40 students who came, but more students were texting him, asking where he was because they couldn’t see him. The group went to the MEChA house to make signs with posterboards and markers, which showed, “Military Out!”, “ROTC Out!” and one long banner sign that showed “Students Against War” in Spanish.
Capt. Brian Johns, commander at ROTC said there were about 60 students gathered near the Army event watching what was going on when the protestors came chanting, “Educationalization not Militarization.”
Johns said some students were shouting back at the other students, “Why are you here ? They protect our freedom!”
Zamora confirmed that some students showed some resistance and said, “If we are against war, why would we create war?”
Several professors joined the demonstration and went to the office of the campus president, “the person responsible,” Rosa Furumoto and Zamora said.
Koester said that contrary to belief, she doesn’t decide everything that happens on campus. The student development center or Matador Involvement Center approves requests for campus and outside vendors to be on campus. They approve the location and materials vendors bring to campus.
Furumoto, along with associate professor Sirena Pellarolo, went to Koester’s office and were asked to wait while the president finished a phone conversation. Professors left to inform and bring students with them.
Zamora said everyone wanted to meet with Koester, so more than 40 students marched to the president’s office in University Hall behind the “Students Against War” sign chanting, “1, 2, 3, 4, Stop this fucking war!” and “Stop oppression!” Students and professors were met by Koester outside her office and were escorted to the President’s Board Room in University Hall, Room 250..
While in the board room, an armed, “plain clothes” campus safety officer walked into the room, waited and left. Koester said she didn’t call campus police, but it’s their responsibility to provide a secure campus.
Associate Vice President of Public Relations Ken Swisher, who was called to Koester’s office to be present at the meeting, said it was common protocol to have campus safety present when a large group of people form to keep the situation safe and peaceful.
Campus Police Community Relations Officer Christina S. Villalobos confirmed Friday afternoon that someone called campus police when a large group of people were seen walking to the president’s office. Villalobos said a “plain clothes” officer was sent to observe the situation, but there were no problems.
Swisher also said the Vice President of Student Affairs Terry Piper and Provost Harry Hellenbrand were at the meeting as well.
“I thought it was great the students wanted to get their viewpoint out and the president listened.”
At the meeting, the Solomon Amendment, passed into law in 1996, was explained, which would deny campuses federal funding if military recruitment or ROTC programs aren’t allowed on campus. If the military is denied access to a campus and federal money is sacrificed, the campus can’t allow other organizations on campus either.
Swisher said Koester was interested in the concerns of students and may not have a lot of time, but will give any time she has available during her day.
Koester said she “applauds the passion and commitment to values” from the students. She later said she understood the opposition of war and presence of the military, but her responsibility is to serve the students, staff and faculty members, and she isn’t prepared to lose federal funding.
Furumoto felt she was “very condescending” when speaking with the students.
The discussion lasted about 30 to 40 minutes, Swisher said, and Hellenbrand was available to talk more, but Koester had to leave.
Zamora said before they left, Koester told the group to show respect as “I’m showing respect to you.”
“You can’t do much with the cops there,” Zamora said. He also was upset that students weren’t notified that a police officer was present.
Furumoto said in Wednesday’s MEChA meeting, “Even abiding by the law does not need to bring all that military machinery. It takes advantage of students when they have bad grades or no money.”
Koester told the students there will be an investigation by Watkins to ensure the correct procedures and approval was obtained to allow the Army College Tour on campus and at the prominent location of the law on the Oviatt Library.
Johns confirmed on Friday that about 350 students signed the waivers to participate in the event. The waivers will be filed in Johns’ office, but will not be used to contact students for recruitment purposes. Johns said that there was a box on the forms that asked students if they were interested in the ROTC program. About 20 students checked that box and Johns said he will contact them regarding the ROTC program.
“It’s like a job fair,” Johns said, “Those interested ask and we talk to them.”
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