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Chapter 2: September 11, 2001 and Anti-War Protests

September 11, 2001 (2001)
Flag burning in Amherst (2001)
Students for a Peaceful Response Vote (2001)
War With Iraq: Student Strike (2003)

September 11, 2001

DATE:           September 11, 2001
TO:                 Students, Faculty, and Staff
FROM:           Gregory S. Prince, Jr.

Because of the tragic events in New York City and Washington this morning, the faculty meeting and faculty-staff reception scheduled for this afternoon have been cancelled.
There will be an ALL-COMMUNITY MEETING today at 12:00 noon on the Library Lawn.
This meeting will give us an opportunity to share news and information, and offer support to those of us who may have family and friends affected by these events.
Although we will not have answers to many questions and it will be difficult to grasp the enormity of this tragedy, we can at least come together as a community and attempt to gain some degree of comfort in that.
I ask that all faculty encourage students to attend this meeting, and that all offices close so that we can be together as a community. The college will close at 1:00 p.m.
Office of the President, Hampshire College, Amherst, MA 01002

September 21, 2001
Dear Members of the Hampshire Community:
More than a week has passed since the terrorist attacks on our country. The passage of time has not diminished our sorrow for the suffering of so many, especially the members of the Hampshire family in New York and Washington. Nor has a week's time provided answers to the questions about this grave tragedy and its aftermath that we will continue to ask for a long time to come.
As best we can determine, alums who worked at the World Trade Center survived, as did parents of current students. Among Hampshire parents, there are injured who are recovering. I write with sadness, though, to let you know that our community has been touched by the tragedy: spouses, relatives and friends of our alums are among the missing. While we wait to learn more, Hampshire turns to what it does and the ideals it represents.
The primary mission of Hampshire College is "to graduate men and women with the skills and perspectives needed for understanding and participating responsibly and creatively in a complex world... including an understanding of the multicultural nature of our world and the necessity for responsible leadership within it." These tragic events underscore the importance of the mission and will lead us to an even more intense commitment to them. The college's mission reminds us that the Hampshire community is an international community, and that in this trying time we are called upon to put our deeply held values of social justice, tolerance and understanding to the test.
Faculty have responded to the crisis by holding special forums and discussion groups. Students have responded with vigils and rallies. The historical roots of the tragedy run deep, and their tangled nature and complexities bear the kind of study and scrutiny that is very difficult at a time when emotions are still so intense. My admiration continues to grow for Hampshire faculty and students, who in the college's best academic and activist traditions are trying first to make sense of the seemingly senseless and second are trying to find ways to address the very real needs created by the crisis. In the end, I come back to what I believe most deeply: no matter how painful the lessons, how difficult the text, education remains the best if not only hope for charting a course in this new world.

We use the word "community" in many contexts at Hampshire. In the last ten days I believe we have tested the limits of that word and found our community to be strong and enduring. Thank you for being among its members.
Gregory S. Prince, Jr.
A special postscript for Hampshire parents: We can assume that we will face further tests as this country and the world responds to this crisis and the larger crises that underlie it. Many will feel anxiety and fear in these times. If you have concerns that we can address, I hope that you will feel free to get in touch with the Dean of Students Office or my office.

Commentary by Hampshire College President Gregory S. Prince, Jr., on WBUR on October 9, 2001:
Over the last month we have heard a constant refrain that the world changed on September 11. Given our deep pain and despair over such death and destruction, I accepted that conclusion. But two weeks after the terrorist attacks, as I was preparing remarks for high school students looking at colleges, I came to realize that although their world had changed, mine had not.
I am a college president. Born in 1939, I have lived almost all of my life during the bloodiest century in history. The world has not changed in any profound way with respect to violence. My first memory, at two and a half, was of watching my father go off to a war in which over 12 million people died. Fortunately, he was not one of them. Since that time, I have watched four other wars and numerous conflicts, the assassinations of Gandhi, King, Lord Mountbatten, two Kennedys, Sadat, and Rabin; and the Holocaust in Germany and Poland and, more recently, genocide in Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, and Burundi. September 11, in all its horror, extends the bloody 20th century into the 21st: nothing, it seems, of the world I know, has changed.
But, for high school seniors looking at colleges, college students, and recent graduates, September 11 represents the first national tragedy of their young adult lives. September 11 will define their generation. It is to that younger generation I speak.
As you prepare to enter a new phase in your life, you will be making important decisions but none more important than how you react as this country makes its response to the attacks of September 11. You can be guided by the terror that the terrorists seek to incite, or you can plan a life that will engage the world through the lifework you select.
You can support those who would pull up the drawbridge by placing harsh and sweeping limits on visas and immigration. Or you can insist that our shores remain open because you want to be educated with citizens from all over the world and you recognize our obligation to citizens of the world.
You can read editorials that say the country is not yet ready for explanations of why many in the world hate the United States, or you can demand those explanations. You can listen to radio and television programs that exploit the horror by revisiting images of death and destruction, or you can demand commentaries that explore how different cultures interpret those same images from the perspective of their own histories of suffering.
You can join with those who claim it is a waste of time to look inside the minds of terrorists, or you can seek to study terrorists in ways that they will never study us.
No one thought the FBI misguided when it developed a profile as part of its efforts to capture and convict mass-murderer Timothy McVeigh: why should anyone attack the effort to explain and to analyze why other mass murderers act as they do?

You can look with suspicion on all Islamic peoples, or, as President Bush has urged, you can reach out to them to make them feel safe and accepted in our country, which since its founding has espoused principles of religious tolerance.
You can accept simple answers - our country is at war against evil doers - or you can accept that the reasons for violence are more complicated. Just as with medicine, you must look for root causes, not simply symptoms. 

If you, as some in my generation would have you do, turn your back on the complexity of the modern world, you will have insured that the world is not different because of September 11. But if you seek a broader perspective; if you lead this country to understand how others may perceive us as a threat to their way of life; if you have the courage to approach even painful questions with an attitude of skeptical reverence for the accepted wisdom, you will have helped build a fitting memorial for the innocent victims of these terrorist attacks, and you will have insured that the world will never be the same.

Flag Burning in Amherst, 2001

"Flag Burning at Amherst Rally." The Forward, Oct. 31, 2001, p.8.

On October 19, during a patriotic rally of about 100 people at Amherst College, about 10 demonstators stepped out from the crowd and burned two American flags, while trampling on a third. The flag-burners have chosen to keep their identities anonymous.

Since the act of protest, it has exploded into debate. President Greg Prince and the anonymous group of flag-burners have both issued open statements to the Community, both of which can be viewed on GREP. The debate has also been huge on the Daily Jolt website. However, there are other websites that have been bombarded by posts on the topic. Here are a few:

Posts from forum on the "flag-haters" of Amherst:
"The haters will become silent as they run for the cracks around the baseboards like the lowlife cockroaches they are. And when the furor dies down, they will be back out spreading their cancer."
"This day is going to galvanize the formerly laid back patriots throughout our nation. Our college and university campuses that ritualistically hate our country are part of the problem. The solution will not be pretty. Radical faculty and students will probably be set upon, hopefully soon."
"Remember when Reagan bombed Libya back in the mid-eighties (sigh...), and the French Embassy was 'accidentally' removed from the face of the earth? When Bush retaliates, perhaps an 'errant' cruise missile could find its way to Amherst?"...

From the forum:
"To the freedom loving people everywhere. While their [the flag burners] actions were reprehensible to most of us, distasteful at the very least, it can be said that they drove home the message to everyone around the world. In America you CAN have an opinion contrary to the majority of its citizens and NOT be put to death immediately. Had these been Afghani students who burned a Taliban/Afghan flag or symbol, I've no doubt they would've been hung until dead within the very hour of the deed. The fact that they still draw breath now makes me proud to be in America, and to have served in the armed forces..."

"Direct Democracy, Not False Unity: A Letter of Solidarity with the Flag Burning Protesters." The Forward, Nov. 14, 2001, p.8
On October 18th at Amherst College, a group of protesters disrupted an "Assemby for Patriotism" by burning two American flags. They stayed at the rally for an hour, talking and distributing literature to those assembled. One particpant in the flag burning identified himself to a reporter by name. Hampshire College revealed to the reporter that this particpant is a student there, a fact that was published in local newspapers the following day. This student's email and voice-mail were soon flooded with hate mail and death threats. The president of Hampshire College, Gregory S. Prince, issued a public letter condemning the protesters and their tactic. In general, the public response in this liberal valley has been one of condemnation and rejection.

This is a statement of solidarity with the flag burners, endorsed by community members, Hampshire alumni, Five College students, staff, and faculty. We believe in the protesters' right to burn the flag. We also commend their choice to do so as highly appropriate to this time and place in history.

Prince is "disappointed" in the protesters for not understanding the true meaning of the flag: "the best of our country's aspirations." In their statement, the flag burners say, "Now, as always, national pride is dependent upon the invention and persecution of a common enemy. During this time, people who have been historically marginalized are granted temporary insider status, while those who are perceived to be Arab, Muslim, or Middle Eastern are further alienated and attacked. America is not just a place, it is a false notion of a unified people." We are told that the flag has one meaning, just as we are told that our people are united and our leaders righteous beyond reproach. The image of a calm protester holding aloft a burning flag has the power to make room for new interpretations of the flag and the war--and new possibilities for dissent.
"In countries that overtly censor dissidents, thousands have been risking their lives in anti-America demonstrations. Here, where we supposedly have unparalleled freedoms, we internalize the government's repression...We are afraid to demonstrate because,
as dissenters, we face losing our jobs and being threatened, silenced, and marginalized by other citizens and police," say the flag burners. At great risk to themselves, the flag burners engaged in counter protest and in a conversation between themselves and the flag pledgers.
These are times when legislation legalizing racial profiling and allowing police access to our homes and offices without a warrant sits before a Congress afraid to veer from the line. These are times when burning a piece of cloth arouses more outrage than burning a village or a Red Cross in Afghanistan. These are dangerous times to be silent. Protesters that challenge sacred symbols represent our "great aspirations" better than any flag. They recognize the ongoing and unfathomable violence by which the US secures its power, yet they call on our country to live up to its promise of democracy. We add our voices to their call.

[Signed by 60 Hampshire Community members.]

Students for a Peaceful Response Vote, 2001

"Students for a Peaceful Response," by Rebecca Dobkin. The Forward, Oct. 5, 2001, p.3.

Students for a Peaceful Response (SPR) is a five-college community that [is] advocating and educating for a peaceful U.S. response to the tragedy of September 11.

Other than teaching the importance of peace and non-violence in reaction to September 11th, SPR is trying to figure out alternatives to war. It's easy to say what needs to be changed, but what needs to be done in order for a change to take place? Where do you go? Who do you talk to? What do you do? These are all questions the members of SPR are trying to answer. Elana Margolis, a first year member, believes that an appropriate response to the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon would be "to investigate the situation, and then to try (the perpetrators) in an international court of law." "Like Timothy McVeigh," she states, "we didn't go to his house and bomb him and his neighbors." For Elana, "SPR is not just about us going to war or dropping bombs. It's about not evoking our racism and scapegoating innocent Arabs, Arab-Americans, and Muslims. SPR is about looking into U.S. foreign policy to see how we have created a situation in which people want to attack us. This was not a meaningless attack."

Arab and Muslim students throughout the five colleges, and throughout the United States, have recently been victims of racial attacks. Students for a Peaceful Response states the following:

1.  We mourn the loss of life that occurred on September 11th, 2001
2.  We oppose the infringement of Civil Liberties
3.  We oppose military intervention
4.  We condemn anti-Arab and anti-Muslim violence
5.  We condemn terrorism

The only way to prevent something like this from happening again is to inform ourselves on the issues at hand. We have to ask ourselves why this happened and how we can prevent it from happening again. SPR wants to show that war is never the only option. After the events of September 11th, over 70% of United States citizens want to go to war. SPR is ready to represent the minority.

To: The Hampshire Community
An All-Community Vote

Proposed Statement for an All-Community Vote
The tragic day of September 11, and the days following, have been a time of profound suffering for people everywhere: firefighters in New York, secretaries in Washington D.C., and farmers in Afghanistan. One indiscriminate act of violence has been followed by another, a pattern seriously endangering the prospects for a just and peaceful world. In such a time of loss, we must ask ourselves--is there a path out of this escalating cycle of violence? Yes, we can respond to the tragedy of September 11 as a crime against humanity, carried out by individuals, not as an act of warfare for which a nation must be held responsible. This path would proceed within a framework of genuine international cooperation and be designed to bring to justice those guilty of the crime without destroying the lives of innocent millions. It would employ the proven tools of transparent and conclusive investigations, diplomatic and police efforts. and fair courts of law to achieve its goal. At home, we can meet the immediate need for effective security through common-sense solutions that apply fairly to everyone, while preserving our hard-won civil liberties.

Instead, the Bush administration has embarked upon a very different path--with disastrous consequences:
--The death toll of innocent Afghan civilians killed by inevitably imprecise bombing is mounting.
 --The U.S. military campaign has made it impossible for international relief organizations to deliver the food aid necessary to prevent the starvation of millions of Afghan civilians in the winter now beginning. The token and scattered aid efforts of the United States have been roundly criticized as insufficient, or even counterproductive, by such organizations. A massive humanitarian crisis remains.
 --While the Northern Alliance has forced the Taliban from power (certainly a welcome development), they too possess a disturbing record of human-rights violations, especially against women and political dissidents.
 --The current suffering in Afghanistan will only deepen the conditions of loss and desperation which foster international terrorism. Even the CIA has stated that strikes against Afghanistan are "100% certain" to lead to terrorist reprisals.
 --The recent "U.S.A. P.A.T.R.I.O.T." Act infringes upon everyone's First and Fourth Amendment freedoms. Rights to privacy, speech, and association remain as critical as ever and are, if anything, more so in times of trial.
 --The proposed "economic stimulus" package provides billions of dollars in corporate giveaways and tax breaks, but almost nothing for laid-off workers and poor communities most at risk.
 --Both at home and abroad, the "War on Terrorism" is symptomatic of the racism of American society, in its disregard for the lives of people of color overseas, encouragement of racial, ethnic, and religious scapegoating and violence, and practice of law enforcement "profiling."
 --New legislative and law enforcement initiatives threaten specifically the rights of non-citizens, through indefinite detentions without indictment, military tribunals, arbitrary deportation, and unfair targeting of international students.
For all of these reasons, and many more, we, the students, faculty, and staff of Hampshire College, have no choice but to condemn the current "War on Terrorism," and demand that it not be expanded to Iraq or any other countries. We call for the resumption of effective independent humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, and the immediate halt to the U.S. military action that prevents it. We call for a U.N.-led effort to establish in Afghanistan a democratic and multi-ethnic government, respectful of the rights of women. Furthermore, we demand that the Hampshire administration join us in resisting any arbitrary and unfair law-enforcement invasion of our own community, especially efforts targeting international students and campus activists.
Finally, military action will never put an end to international terrorism, which often stems from forces that have previously received the support of the American government. In its place, we must, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., "rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter--but beautiful--struggle for a new world," a world where hunger, war, and economic injustice, the root causes of terrorism, are eliminated. This way alone leads to safety, security, and lasting peace. Thus, we commit the full resources and energies of our community to this endeavor, and challenge our colleagues at schools around the country, and all over the world, to do the same.
Why are Students for a Peaceful Response organizing towards an all-community vote? What effect will it have?
 By strongly and publicly making a statement as an institution, we can attract a great degree of attention. By distributing our statement to other campuses, and to student organizations, we hope to inspire others to make similar statements. Local media is certain to cover the story, and there is similar potential for national coverage, in both mainstream and alternative outlets. Together with their voices, we can open up a powerful space for dissent in the public dialogue and fuel the growth of a movement which can change the course of American policy.
Activists never get anywhere.
 Read a good history book (we recommend Howard Zinn)--there is a long legacy of effective student organizing which has contributed significantly to real and important social change. Just two of countless examples specific to Hampshire College are the successful efforts of our predecessors incalling for the impeachment of President Nixon, and being the first college to choose to divest from apartheid South Africa. Student organizing has played a part in every people's movement, and is critical to the ongoing struggle for global peace and justice.
How do I vote?
 Beginning Monday, student organizers will have tables outside the post office, and in the dining commons, with ballot boxes. Other students will be canvassing student housing to answer questions and collect votes. We will also present ballots to faculty at their meeting on Tuesday, and speak with staff. On Wednesday afternoon (4 PM in the RCC), we will gather to collect any final ballots, announce the results of the vote, speak with the media, engage in dialogue and discussion, and (hopefully) celebrate our victory!

"Hampshire College Takes Anti-War Stance," by Cheryl B. Wilson, Staff Writer. Daily Hampshire Gazette, Dec. 6, 2001, p.B1
Amherst--The "voice of conscience and conviction" was heard at Hampshire College Wednesday, said student Kai Newkirk, in announcing an overwhelming majority of support for an anti-war resolution.

More than half of the 1556 students, faculty and staff participated in balloting over three days. Of 823 votes cast, 693 approved the anti-war resolution while 121 voted against it. There were a half dozen blank and ambiguous ballots including two that said "withheld," organizers said.

Students said they believe their election is the first in the nation on a college campus to deal with the war in Afghanistan.

The community resolution will now be sent to the college trustees and to student groups across the country.

"This is liberal arts education; it is democracy; it is patriotism," Hampshire College President Gregory S. Prince, Jr. told 100 students gathered in Franklin Patterson Hall for a community meeting.

Prince hastened to say that while he supported debate by students, he withheld his vote because balloting took place before the community debate. In a three-page statement, he called the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks a "crime against humanity" and urged caution in condemning U.S. actions in a complex situation.

The page-long resolution condemns the Bush administration's tactics in bombing Afghanistan, saying it resulted in civilian casualties as well as interfered with the delivery of international humanitarian aid. In addition, the resolution opposes the loss of civil liberties in America, the proposed establishment of military tribunals and the failure to deal with the root causes of terrorism in the world.

"Community Statement Results in Controversy," by Jesse Swenson. The Forward, Dec. 13, 2001, p.1, 3.

Students for a Peaceful Response, the student group formed shortly after the attacks of 9/11, held a referendum last week on a statement opposing the "war on terrorism." The voting took place on Monday, December 3 through Wednesday, December 5. The statement was a page-long list of demands and positions against the U.S. Government's "War on Terrorism," focusing on everything from humanitarian aid to refugees to the protection of students' rights to privacy. Their goal was to get a majority of supportive votes from students, faculty and staff in order to release it to the national press as a college-supported statement against the war.

The statement...had been in the works since an October teach-in organized by SPR. Several SPR members put many hours of work into the statement, the final draft being completed in a near all-night meeting the week prior to the referendum. The student activists released the statement into the community, by printing it on the Dailyjolt forum and putting it in student mailboxes on Friday, 3 days before the beginning of the vote.

The referendum began on Monday, with tables set up in the library. SPR volunteers manned the tables, checking off names and handing out the ballots. The tabling went on through Wednesday, and on Tuesday night SPR expanded their efforts into a canvassing campaign, visiting student living spaces to get votes in a more direct manner.

The final votes were collected and tallied on Wednesday afternoon, followed by an All-Community meeting at 4 pm and a press conference at 4:30 pm. It was announced that the statement passed overwhelmingly. The final tally being 693 for the statement, 121 against and 11 abstaining or ambiguous votes, amounting to 825 votes out of a community of roughly 1600 students, faculty and staff.

Greg Prince opened the meeting by reading a statement he had written in response to the referendum, which was also released to the press. Greg expressed concern over the lack of democratic process used in the referendum, and a few points of the statement, concluding that because of these things he abstained from the vote.

Shortly after Greg left the podium, the meeting became a heated debate over the processes employed by SPR in the referendum. Some students were angered by the intrusive and pressuring nature of the door-to-door canvassing, others were angered by the fact that there was no chance to review or revise the statement before the final decision, others just thought the statement was oversimplifying a complex situation. Despite the patient facilitation of Yanina Vargas, the meeting turned rather ugly at points.

The press conference, going on at the same time in another room of FPH, was attended only by reporters from the Daily Hampshire Gazette and the Springfield Union News. Three SPR members spoke about the origins of the statement, followed by a glowing review by SS professor Margaret Cerullo, and Greg Prince's reiteration of his statement.

Since Wednesday's meeting, it seems the campus has split and everyone is carrying an opinion on the jumble of the past week. One group of students organized a petition against the methods employed by SPR, and took up an hour or so on Intran on Thursday night to speak their mind and take callers.

The statement and the SPR's press release have been circulating around the press. In addition to the straightforward articles in the Daily Hampshire Gazette and Springfield Union News, the Chronicle of Higher Education featured a December 7th article centered more on the controversy that has erupted around campus than the statement itself, and the right-wing New York Post featured a paragraph-long article with the headline, "Kooky College Condemns War."

Student Strike Against the War in Iraq, 2003

DATE:           February 27, 2003
TO:                 Hampshire Community
FROM:           Gregory S. Prince, Jr.
SUBJECT:     March 5
As many of you may know, students across the nation are organizing a national "strike" to protest the likelihood of war with Iraq. Hampshire's committee to support this effort has asked that Hampshire suspend classes for that day in support of the March 5 "strike." We have had several discussions about the request and I felt that my personal response, and the position the college will take, should be shared with the community as a whole in order to expand that conversation as well as to keep everyone informed.
Many at Hampshire, but by no means all, oppose the current course of action that the United States is following. Whatever one's position, however, all realize that this crisis already has generated a high level of anxiety throughout the community and will affect all of us. A war will put some number of close friends and family at direct risk. It is a tense as well as critical time.
Because of the seriousness of this crisis, we already have announced that if war actually begins, we will interrupt the normal routine of the college in order to provide support for all of those who fear what is happening and the effect it might have on those close to them as well as on the many nations and citizens that are in harm's way. Many will need and deserve support, independent of any specific views about U.S. policy.
In contrast, the March 5 events, as I understand them, are focused on the issue of the wisdom of the government's policy. Some are designed to send a message in opposition, others are analytical. On March 5, we would like to encourage all members of the community, whatever their position on Iraq, to engage in these events, taking positions, respecting differences of opinion and participating in discussions that will take place on campus...
We will prepare a press release for March 5 that will indicate our support of the action that the students organizing the events for March 5 are taking, arguing that the critical issues unfolding require unusual responses. We will emphasize that such action is in keeping with the goals of a liberal arts education, whatever one's individual position...

Date:          March 4, 2003
To:             All Staff, All Faculty
From:         Prachee Sinha

As part of a (inter)National Student Strike, with the participation of hundreds of campuses around the world, Hampshire students, faculty, and staff will be joining for a day-long action against war with Iraq.
By acting together with our colleagues at institutions all over the world (including Harvard, UC Berkeley, NYU, University of Pennsylvania, University of Texas, Wesleyan, and many others), we are taking a very clear stand for Books, Not Bombs. Many of us have been protesting in the streets for months, but the Bush administration is not listening.
Striking is an act of social non-cooperation; we are willing to disrupt the institutions in which we play a part to make our opposition clear.
Join us in coming together for a day of action and alternative education against war.
9 AM - begin gathering in the RCC for a light breakfast and DJs
10 AM - 12:30PM - teach-in against the war, including:
- Faculty Speakers (including Betsy Hartmann, Christoph Cox, Lee Spector, Falquni Sheth, Margaret Cerullo, Larry Winship, Ellen Donkin, Robert Coles, Stephanie Levin, and a special presentation with Q&A by Michael Klare, plus many more)
- Student Speakers
- Community Art Project
- Poetry Readings
- Postcard-writing to elected officials
12:30PM-2PM - All-Community Lunch & Discussion Space
2PM - Move to FPH for an afternoon of:
- Video screenings (including No Man's Land, Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq, and In Shifting Sands) in the Main Lecture Hall
- Art- & Poster-Making for evening vigil in the East Lecture Hall
- Organizing / networking for future activities
5 PM -- Students from 8 area schools gather at UMass (Haigis Mall) for a march to Amherst for a vigil. PVTA buses leave at 4:10 and 4:40, and carpools will be leaving at 4:30. Be there to support our fellow students at public schools suffering serious budget cuts in a time of war.


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