No, They're Not Hippies, But Student Activists Are Back

Environmental Issue, Persian Gulf Crisis Inspire Involvement

January 16, 1991|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff writer

Politics bore Tina Dayhoff.

Even so, the 20-year-old Westminster resident has emerged in recent weeks as one of the more visible student activists on the usually quiet Carroll Community College campus.

At both CCC and Western Maryland College, in fact, there has beena resurgence in student activism in the past year. Students have organized --with considerable success -- to seek changes in environmental and administrative policies and to speak out against a slew of other issues, ranging from animal rights to the Persian Gulf crisis.

"I've seen a big change in students in the past two or three years," said Thomas Deveny, chairman of WMC's department of foreign languages."There's a nucleus of students who are a lot more involved on a variety of issues."

He noted, for example, that many of the same WMC students who organized the march on Annapolis last winter to bring attention to the problems confronting the environment are still involvedwith that and other issues. They include such students as Meeghan Ziolkowski and Pat Blackman, leaders of the Student Environmental Action Coalition.

"The reason I've stayed involved is because of my concerns with oppression in our society," said Ziolkowski, a 22-year-oldreligious studies and philosophy major. "I see the environmental crisis as one of the many facets of oppression in our society."

The Westminster resident also has been active in a wide variety of other issues, ranging from the women's movement to gay and lesbian rights.

More recently, Ziolkowski, Blackman and other students have organized to give themselves a greater voice in the college's decision-making process.

But the environmental issue probably has been the biggest catalyst for student activism, especially at WMC, college officials said.

"Activism has never been totally dead on campus," Deveny said. "There's always been a certain amount of activism. The focus wasbrought more in line with Earth Day and the publicity surrounding it."

On the Western Maryland campus, students, with the cooperation of the administrators and faculty, were successful in bringing about changes in the college's purchasing policies and in kicking off a campus-wide recycling program.

"The environment has been one of the big things to bring students together," said Philip A. Sayre, dean ofstudent affairs at WMC. "From what we've seen, you could make comparisons to student involvement in the the civil rights movements of the'50s and '60s."

Although Sayre's comparison is a positive one, some would venture to say that students today aren't nearly as active or as vocal as their 1960s counterparts.

"That's like comparing oranges and apples," Deveny said. "We don't have a galvanizing situationlike the Vietnam War was. It's just not the same situation. But thatcould change in a few weeks."

Blackman, also a religious studies major, finds the comparison unfair, too.

"We're not thinking aboutreliving the '60s," said the 22-year-old senior. "We grew up in different ways than those people. And activism isn't something that started in the '60s. It's an unfair criticism.

"We're concerned with what's happening now," he added.

One of the concerns for many is thePersian Gulf crisis and whether the standoff there will lead to war.Many, like Blackman and CCC's Dayhoff, do not have mixed feelings onthe issues of war and peace.

"I hope it galvanizes the whole country," said Blackman, who is trying to organize students on campus to get involved with a nationwide group known as the U.S. Coalition Against Intervention in the Middle East. "There's no moral argument that stands up to scrutiny."

Recently, Dayhoff was among a small group of CCC students and faculty members who rallied in downtown Westminster to protest the use of force in the Persian Gulf.

It was the English major's nightmares that led to the protest.

"No one I knew was over there at the time," Dayhoff recalled. "In one dream I saw tanks, helicopters and soldiers. I talked to two soldiers who were brothers -- I didn't know them. I wished them luck, and they mocked me because they were angry about going to war."

Dayhoff approached one ofher teachers about her dreams. She was encouraged to research the issue before organizing any kind of peace demonstration. Dayhoff read newspaper and magazine articles about the crisis before spearheading the protest with the help of CCC's Whole Earth Society, a student coalition concerned about the environment as well as animal and human rights.

"I think that's one area in which this group of students might be different," Sayre observed. "They're much more pragmatic along with their idealism. You might say we saw one extreme of idealism in the '60s and vocationalism in the '80s. Some sort of middle ground isemerging now."

He noted that the Student Environmental Action Coalition, for example, instead of just protesting about environmental practices on campus, worked with administrators and faculty members for change.

The success, he said, has been phenomenal.

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