Faculty members said last night they are uncertain what will happen next in the Middle East, but said that they are certain students will not sit idly by watching the events unfold. Several history and political science professors, many of whom specialize in Middle Eastern politics, said that they expect the invasion to intensify political debate on campus. And these projections proved to be fairly accurate. As the professors made their predictions last night at their off-campus homes, more than 200 students were rallying on campus against the war. Assistant Political Science Professor Graham Walker said that although many students may not fully understand all the issues prompting military action in the Persian Gulf, they will begin to air their feelings in the coming days. "No doubt, some students will become more vocal," Walker said last night, hours after fighting broke out. "Very few students will think they have mastered the complexities of the issue, but those who do think they have will probably be very dogmatic and very intolerant of those who have doubts on either point of view." History Professor Michael Katz said that student opinion will be polarized about the "legitimacy of this war." "I don't think there will be much apathy," he said. "I think students will be actively engaged and involved whatever their position is." Nearly all the professors made comparisons to the Vietnam era, a time of unprecedented student protest and activism. Political Science Professor Donald Smith said that he does not think students will become involved to the degree of their late 1960's counterparts because of a significantly different political atmosphere. "First, in Vietnam, the draft played a very visible role because it was a personal threat to students," he said last night. "Second, Vietnam dragged on. Student reaction to Vietnam is not likely to be repeated. The degree of international support for the war really makes the Vietnam analogy very shaky. I am not saying, however, that there may not be a huge outcry." Penn Israel Exchange Program Director Norman Oler, who said that he vividly remembers the turmoil of the Vietnam conflict, noted a discrepancy between student reaction to the current crisis and Vietnam. Oler said that the issues are more clearly defined, adding that the widespread support from the world community makes the situation far different from that in Southeast Asia. "When the whole current crisis began to unfold, I hoped and prayed the world could and would not be torn like it was in the Vietnam tragedy," he said. History Professor Drew Faust, who noted that her college career was colored by the Vietnam conflict, said she did not believe the United States would attack as soon as yesterday. "I thought it would not happen for another day," she said. "It was a real shock. Somehow you can't believe something this horrible would happen. You keep hoping something would avert this." "What troubles me is the tremendous confidence of people who undertake war," she added. "They are seldom right and that scares me. I was in college during the Vietnam War and it is so poignant in my mind." Faust, however, said there is a possibility of racial and religious tension on campus because of the war. She said she thinks there may be a division between Jewish and Arab students, something that was not prevalent during the Vietnam War because there were not many Vietnamese students at American Universities. "I think the identity of different groups may lead to a division and there wasn't that identification during the Vietnam War," she said. Although war may occupy students' thoughts outside of the classroom, professors said that they do not want to let the issue dominate their lectures. Adam Garfinkle, who specializes in the Middle East in the political science department, said that he will not ignore other topics in his course to concentrate on the conflict. "The syllabus was created long before the invasion of Kuwait and I'm not going to change it now," he said yesterday. "I'm not going to allow the crisis to devour the course." Faust, who is teaching the history of the American South this semester, said that she is somewhat uneasy keeping her lecture schedule because the crisis is dominating students' thoughts. "How can I give a lesson on secession?" she said. But, she said she would still go ahead with her plans and just try to incorporate the war into the course.Comments powered by Disqus
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