IRAQ WAR TEACH-IN
SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITY
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 25
INTRODUCTION: Dean Joel Kassiola, School of Behavioral and Social Sciences
Panel 1) 10:10-12 The Iraq War and American Politics
“The Nature of Iraq” Maziar Behrooz, History
"Where We Went Wrong" Mark Sigmon, History
"Anti-War Strategies: Vietnam and Iraq" Jules Tygiel
Panel 3) 12:10-1 The Iraq War and Civil Liberties
"A Personal Saga," Mohammad Salama, Foreign Languages
"Torture and Popular Culture," Laura Lisy-Wagner, History
Panel 4) 1:10-2 Organizing Workshop
Code Pink; California Peace Action
Panel 5 2:10-3 Open Forum
Moderators: Jules Tygiel
David Caploe Princeton Club/Harvard Club
I put out a call to members of the History Department to see who was interested in participating. The response was somewhat disappointing. Only five people expressed an interest. We did not seek speakers from outside of the department mostly because we had recently organized a September 11 forum of Middle Eastern specialists and we did not want to duplicate this event. I did ask Mohammad Salama of Foreign Languages, who had recently been detained for three months in Canada and not allowed to re-enter the U.S. to speak of his experiences. My colleague Sherry Keith arranged for Code Pink and California Peace Action to do an organizing Workshop. We also brought in David Caploe, who has been giving talks about the Middle East under the rubric of the Princeton and Harvard Clubs, to help chair the final session.
We had a rather small group to work on organizational details and especially publicity. Most publicity went out through e-mail requests to announce the event in classes and flyers posted around campus. We received a great deal of help from the Dean’s office. The Dean of our college not only distributed e-mails on his extended list, but volunteered to open the teach-in with introductory remarks. In the future, however, far more advance publicity is needed. We will need more lead-in time and to recruit students to help with the posting of flyers.
The teach-in started out quite well, with the morning session attended by about 35 people. I had anticipated that during the course of the day, students would leave to go to classes and others would take their place. This did not happen. Many of the original group stayed through most of the day. Few students dropped in over the course of the day. Hardly any faculty attended. The afternoon sessions were very poorly attended. I would guess that we had, in addition to the presenters, about 50 people who attended overall.
The most surprising element of the day was the reasons that students came. Since the San Francisco area is extremely liberal and the campus population even more so, we anticipated that our audience already had fixed ideas in opposition to the war and our job was to offer information that the attendees needed to get out into the community and mobilize. The students who did attend, however, sought information, not motivation. Many remained highly conflicted about the war, particularly about what the U.S. role should be in the future. There was no general sentiment, even among the panelists, favoring an immediate pullout. Future forums will have to keep this focus in mind. The most spirited discussions came in the morning session and revolved around the issues of neoconservatism and where U.S. policy went wrong. I expected more of a response to the session on civil liberties and torture as both presentations were quite good, but the students did not really engage.