USF students have protested war efforts during the past two months, but Wednesday night, professors gave their perspective on the issue.
A forum titled “War on Iraq” featured a panel of USF professors who spoke to nearly 100 students Wednesday night in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center Ballroom. It was clear that a majority of the panelists were against a strike on Iraq, and some students felt the same as applause filled the room to commend their speeches.
But when one panelist presented what he referred to as “the less popular side,” one member in the audience had a different reaction.
When Michael Pheniger, treasurer for the American Civil Liberties Union, said he wanted to provide a balanced opinion about war efforts, a student in the back of the room said “good luck.”
But, Pheniger took a shot at it anyway. Though he made it clear before he spoke that he is unsure whether he agrees with President George W. Bush, Pheniger said he believes taking no action will cause consequences just as going to war would.
“Several of the speakers here tonight have pointed out that going to war has at least the potential for unintended consequences,” Pheniger said. “But I would say they admitted the adverse side of the argument and forgot to suggest that doing nothing also has the potential for unintended consequences.”
Pheniger continued his conversation to speak about the threat of terrorism and called Hussein a “reckless leader.”
“The President of the United States and the government of the United States have an obligation to defend the United States during attacks,” Pheniger said.
Shortly after, Pheniger said that some suggested that the war efforts have been formed for political reasons, he was interrupted again when someone said “He is telling you lies.”
“What you find here is a heckler’s veto where someone takes a message and tries to shut the speaker down,” Pheniger said.After that comment, someone said, “No, you put them in a free-speech zone.”
At that point, Nancy Tyson, an associate professor of English and moderator of the forum, made it clear again that the forum was open to everyone’s opinion.
Tyson said the event, which was organized by Leena Al-Arian — daughter of controversial professor Sami Al-Arian — was intended to be educational and people should have an open mind when listening to each speaker.
At the beginning of the forum, Tyson said the event was also testing the USF administration’s new policy on academic freedom.A new rule that could be passed today arguably could limit a professor’s academic freedom to topics only within his or her field of study.
The comment gained some laughs from the audience, but she continued with her concern about the current situation the Board of Trustees will speak about today at the Lakeland campus.
“The new policy on academic freedom that they’re proposing (Thursday) in Lakeland, limits academic freedom for professors,” Tyson said.
Professors followed Tyson’s comments to speak about the danger in forming an attack against Iraq.
Harry Vanden, professor of political science and government affairs, said the United States should be concerned about the number of casualties that will come from a war and how it will affect the economy.
Vanden said it seems that the Bush administration is leading into this war blindly.
“To engage in an unnecessary war in Iraq does not serve our national interests,” Vanden said. “Many people ask why people in other countries hate the United States. I would say it is because of activities like this, arrogantly pursuing unnecessary actions. One cannot attack a nation simply because it wants to. This is terribly arrogant on behalf of the United States.”
Amnesty International and Sisters United Muslim Association were among the list of sponsors for the event.