Logistics & Planning for Teach-Ins:

Some Suggestions


Prepared by Historians Against the War, Sept. 2006




1.  Planning Considerations

2.  Format Suggestions

3.  Two Weeks or More Before

4.  One Week Before




1.  Planning Considerations


As you consider what sort of events you would like your Teach-In to include, some things to consider are:


Realistic Goals.  How large is your planning group and can it be easily expanded?  Your format will be determined in part by how many people you can muster to take care of the mundane details of the events, such as obtaining space, writing press releases, posting up flyers, and doing necessary outreach.  Sometimes two or three people can organize very successful programs.  Small numbers should not deter you.  But make sure that whatever event you plan can be readily managed by the available crew


Allies: How can you identify others who might be willing to help? And what organizations are likely to endorse? Begin with the students and faculty in your own department.  Given the present crises, more people may be eager to become involved than previously.  Search for colleagues in other departments who can assist in planning.  Many non-historians will share your desire to promote thoughtful discussion and debate..


To find co-sponsors (or endorsers) reach out to campus clubs and religious groups.  If your school permits outside organizations to co-sponsor events, check the United for Peace and Justice web-site http://www.unitedforpeace.org/ (clickon “Member Groups”) to see if there is a peace organization nearby.  It might be helpful to contact local unions, civil rights organizations, and religious institutions to see if they would like to sign on.  This might enable you to expand your event because you will have extra help and resources.  Try to make these organizational connections early on and keep them informed of your planning and ideas, while being open to new suggestions.


Speakers & Contributors:  What local speakers can you find who might be willing to speak to your audience for free or for a nominal fee” This will include your own faculty and staff, speakers from nearby peace, social justice, and civil liberties groups, and local politicians with an interest in the questions you want to address.  Military Families Speak Out and Gold Star Families have representatives across the country, so be sure to check if they have someone in your locality, who can participate.  Consider as well local poets, artists, and performance group, whose involvement might enrich your program. 


For additional local and national speakers, Historians Against the War has compiled a detailed list of individuals and organizations with relevant expertise.  The speakers listed have agreed to forego honoraria, although if travel is involved they will need compensation for these expenses.  This resource also includes suggestions for finding speakers, who support the Bush policies and will debate the issues.  The list is at http://www.historiansagainstwar.org/teachin/speakers.htm


Another idea is to consult the SpeakOut! website for access to many prominent activist speakers and performers:  www.speakoutnow.org.   


Space and Resource Availability: What places are available for meetings & performances?  Make sure that you have an accessible and conveniently located meeting place available, and plan to borrow or rent equipment such as microphones, tables and chairs, overhead projectors, and/or DVD/VHS players with screen capability; also identify xeroxing needs as much as possible.  Will you meet on- or off-campus?  In the evening or during the day?  Who is your projected audience and when are they likely to be free to attend?  What forms, reservations, etc. are required for campus space and must be filled out in advance?  Do the campus police need to be notified, and do they have any special forms for gatherings that you might need to complete?  Gather these materials now, and read them over as you plan.



2.  Format Suggestions


There are many kinds of programs that will be useful.  If your resources are modest, even a simple film showing with opportunity for dialogue will be worthwhile.  A more elaborate event, will involve all-day or evening panels, and possibly a succession of panels over a period of days.  Whatever you decide to do, make sure there is ample opportunity for discussion.


Keep in mind that on most college campuses, there are now many students with a direct connection to the war either because they have friends and relatives there, because they are returning veterans or because they themselves night be going.  It will be especially valuable, if the events you organize leave space for these students to share their experiences, questions and concerns.


Some ideas for getting started:


Put together panels when possible, including a diversity of opinions or perspectives on a single issue; let participants know in advance who else will be speaking, so as to encourage interaction among the group and active exchange.  Eyewitness accounts by veterans, public officials and journalists can be especially compelling.


Put together panels that link issues.  The Iraq war and the new threats are part of a broader U.S. policy in the Middle East.  These are in turn connected to the domestic attack on civil liberties and the expansion of executive power.  By exploring these developments in relation to each other, we can deepen and enrich the discussion.  As historians we also hope to provide a long-term perspective on the contemporary crises.


Schedule a lecturer who is willing to engage with the audience, encouraging comments that are not confined to questions.  Consider having a respondent designated who can offer a critique of the lecture and take its points further or into a different area.  Make sure your respondents have a version of the lecture to be given in sufficient time to be able to read and prepare a response.


Set up a debate between two speakers with interesting differences on the subject; try to avoid simplistic face-offs, but at the same time remember that the debate format can often encourage participants to back up their arguments with reasons, and can clarify points for listeners, even when they don’t agree with what is being said.


Arrange for a facilitated discussion, in which students who feel connected to the war – whether because family or friends are there, because they are returning veterans or because they themselves are in officer training, the Reserves or the National Guard, or peace activists – can exchange feelings and ideas in a comfortable environment.  Check if there is a Veterans Affairs Office on campus, which may help you to identify participants


Schedule a performance by local poets, singers, actors, or storytellers who are interested in helping.


Consider a multi-day event series, to make it easier for folks to attend one or two lectures or other events.  There are also advantages to a full-day teach-in, however, including the possibility of university/college administration’s offering students a day free from classes in order to attend the scheduled programs.  Be sure to check out this latter possibility..



3.  Two Weeks or More Before


This is the time to work on scouting out more speakers and respondents, finalizing funding sources, applying for appropriate permits, and identifying resource needs (VCR/DVD, room possibilities, HAW and AFSC pamphlets to hand out), and also to send out press releases.


Make sure you make advertising deadlines for the more obvious places, such as the college and local newspaper and the on-line student pages and university/college news page.


Post flyers in classrooms where pertinent courses in History, Sociology, Literature, and other subjects are taught.  Get in contact with instructors who might be willing to bring their classes to your event.


Identify and leave flyers in the mailboxes of sympathetic faculty in all disciplines.   If your school allows it, send an all-university/college Voice Mail message or E-mail Announcement.



4.  One Week Before


This is the time to finalize all plans, and blitz the campus and surrounding areas with flyers advertising your event(s).   Send out second press releases to your press list, and contact the campus newspaper or TV/radio stations to ask them for live coverage of some part or all of your event, as well as any free advertising that is offered to public events.


Make sure you have housing and transportation plans for any speakers who need them; it is especially important to identify in advance who will be responsible for picking up and transporting out-of-town speakers, and what their itineraries will look like.  Put together and print out an itinerary for each visitor that includes the address of their place of stay as well as contact phone numbers in case of emergencies or transportation issues.  .


Prepare copies of handouts, estimating how many you will need for each part of your event.


Prepare boxes or other containers for cash donations.


Decide who will emcee the event, and finalize timing and permits, and any plans for food/drinks and clean-up.


Prepare to speak about concrete ideas and things for folks to do as follow-up to the Teach-In:  e.g. work with local anti-war candidates, plan further teach-ins on Israel/Lebanon/Iran, join or sponsor demonstrations, have your Student or Faculty Senate pass anti-war resolutions, etc.


Leave flyers in dorms and public areas of the school, and deliver to all student organizations (through mailboxes or personal attendance at their meetings).  Chalk sidewalks if your school allows this type of advertisement.


Be sure to have a sign-in sheet for the people who attend the event(s) so that you can contact people for future events.


Announce the next meeting of the group or a time when those who are interested in working together can meet.


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