By Lisa Donchak
Campus News Editor
On Tuesday morning, about 70 protesters affiliated with Students Against War (SAW) rallied in front of the College Nine/Ten Dining Hall to express their disgust and dissatisfaction with military recruiters, who were tabling on campus at the Last Chance Job Fair.
SAW and others were protesting an elaborate list of issues, including the war in Iraq, the militarization of the state, the participation of military recruiters in the fair, and the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuality.
The last time military recruiters came to campus for a job fair two years ago, students protested their presence as well. The rally turned into a physical confrontation, and according to campus spokesperson Jim Burns, the recruiters left midway through the event because they were concerned about student safety.
Many were concerned that Tuesday’s protest would be a repeat of the incident two years ago. However, faculty and staff were pleased that there was no violence.
“SAW’s position is always a nonviolent one,” said Kot Hordynski, a SAW organizer.
Brian Lionbarger was the representative for the Marine Corps at the event. “The whole time we were here, we did not feel physically threatened,” he said.
In a pre-emptive response to the planned protest, the Career Center sent out an e-mail informing students of the security measures that would be in place at the fair. Students were required to leave their student IDs at the door and check all backpacks and purses. In addition, campus police patrolled all entrances to the building and mingled with the crowds of job-seeking students.
SAW organized the demonstration, but the crowd included students, faculty members, and off-campus constituents. The group gathered at 10 a.m. at the Bay Tree Plaza, where they engaged in call-and-response chants and listened to brief speeches, poetry readings, and drum performances. The demonstrators then marched from the Plaza to the Nine/Ten dining hall, blocking traffic along the route.
“War is a structural problem,” fourth-year Sam Aranke shouted into a megaphone at the Bay Tree Plaza.
Aranke helped organize the event.
“We’re here to tell the recruiters that [the protest] is not just about them having equal access to the job fair,” Aranke said.
“People have a right to exercise their free speech,” said Alma Sifuentes, assistant vice chancellor of Student Affairs. Sifuentes was one of many faculty members who attended the protest and the rally to act as a resource for students. Sifuentes emphasized, however, that she did not have a personal opinion on the protest.
Legally, UC Santa Cruz must allow military recruiters to come to campus. The 1996 Solomon Amendment allows the Secretary of Defense to deny federal funding to higher education institutions if those institutions prevent military recruiters from coming to campus.
Jeremy Naves, currently a fourth-year UCSC student, was in the Marine Corps for almost six years, which included three tours in Iraq. He attended the protest to support the troops and the right of the recruiters to be at UCSC.
“SC has bright and intelligent students,” Naves said. “When you restrict them from [talking to the recruiters], you end up doing more harm than good.”
Keith Tschudi, a community studies major at UCSC, joined the Marine Corps after he graduated from high school. He took the opposite stance of Naves.
“I want to show my support for the anti-war movement,” Tschudi said. “America should pull out everywhere.”
Adrian Drummond-Cole, who came up from Santa Barbara to join the protest, wanted to see an edgier, more controversial protest.
“We should have rushed the building and actually stopped the military recruiting,” he said. “I’m not really interested in these rallies to raise consciousness.”
That approach is what SAW organizers intended, organizers said.
“People are just here to get the message across,” Hordynski said. “People are free to make their own choices. We’re not physically preventing people from going inside.”
Protesters inside the fair staged a brief, sarcastic awards ceremony in the morning, during which student John Williams, dressed as Uncle Sam, and student Janine Carmona presented fake awards to the military. Awards that the military received included Most Lies in Advertising, Highest Personnel Turnover and Most Homophobic Employer.
“Some institutions in this establishment just aren’t able to keep their employees alive very well,” Williams said during the event.
Protesters also monopolized the recruiters’ time by asking questions about controversies.
“There were times that [interested students] couldn’t actually approach the table, because there were other students who wanted to get into debates with us,” Lionbarger said.
However, Lionbarger said that a small number of students did actually express interest in the Marine Corps.
Burns was pleased with the turnout at the protest.
“This year’s fair was much more positive,” he said. “Students were able to come to the fair, and they did so in droves, despite the protest.”
_Additional reporting by Valerie Luu._