UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang declined to sign a petition by a group of 20 protesters who stormed Cheadle Hall on Monday afternoon and demanded he support a ban of military recruiters on campus.
Carrying signs and flags, members of the Associated Students Student Commission on Racial Equality (SCORE) and other students marched from Storke Plaza to the university’s Military Science Dept. building and then to Cheadle Hall, protesting what they called discriminatory policies. The protestors demanded Yang sign a petition supporting a ban of military recruiters before members of UCSB’s Academic Senate discuss the matter or sign the petition themselves. Yang apologized to the students, saying he could not sign it.
“I think it probably is a good idea for me to not tell the faculty what to do,” Yang said.
Yang said he did not want to influence the Academic Senate’s decision by taking a stance on the issue. If he endorsed the petition now, members might question his motives, thereby turning the debate about military recruiters into a discussion about his politics, he said.
In January, Professor Emeritus Thomas Scheff drafted a proposal to the Academic Senate that sought to ban military recruiters on campus. Scheff said the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy discriminates against gays who want to serve in the armed forces. Seventeen Academic Senate members have signed the bill.
The protesters claimed on Monday that allowing recruiters on campus violates the university’s non-discrimination practices because of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The Dept. of Defense policy, which the military abides by, states that enlisted members of the armed services may face discharge if they display homosexual behavior.
“We are trying to fight [discrimination],” said Joel Rodriguez-Flores, a second-year global studies major. “The university is at the forefront in language [against discrimination], but we’re asking it to be at the forefront in action.”
The chancellor said he encourages faculty and students to attend the Academic Senate’s town hall meeting on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. in the McCune Conference Room in HSSB to discuss the proposal.
Yang said he would be unable to attend Wednesday’s meeting because he will be at the Council of Chancellors’ monthly meeting in Oakland.
The university’s non-discrimination policy states that the university will not discriminate against – among other things – race, religion, sex, disability, age or sexual orientation in its employment and admissions practices. It also states that groups will not be discriminated against in university programs and activities. University administration, faculty, student governments, residence halls and apartments, programs, and all groups operating under the authority of the UC Regents are governed by the policy.
The protesters began their rally at Storke Plaza, singing chants such as, “Hey hey, ho ho, the military has got to go.” They also held signs that read, “Recruit to Education, Not War,” “Books Not Bombs,” “Academic Senate Act Now” and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Me What the Military Is All About.” Two members held an upside-down American flag with rainbow stripes where red and white stripes would have been. At one point, roughly 100 elementary school children who were walking through Storke Plaza joined the protesters in singing, “We are the students, the mighty, mighty students.”
On their way across campus, rally members stopped for a moment of silence in front of 1,586 white wooden crosses placed on the lawn next to Davidson Library by the local Veterans for Peace organization. The crosses symbolized the number of American soldiers killed in the Iraq war thus far, said Bob Potter, a Veterans for Peace member. Potter, a professor emeritus of dramatic art, said he sits on the Academic Senate and had signed Scheff’s petition because he believes the military should rid itself of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. He said, however, that the military is still an important institution.
“I wouldn’t be against all military recruitment,” Potter said. “College students are grown-ups; they can make their own choices.”
The crosses are on display on the beach near Stearns Wharf every Sunday and have been dubbed “Arlington West,” Potter said.
When they reached the front of the Military Science Dept. building, six rally members wearing black shirts lay on the bike path, feigning death. Tiffany Pascual, a second-year Asian American studies major, read notes on the chests of the six prostrated members that listed their personal reasons for joining the military. One said the person enlisted for tuition money and to serve their country.
“They die and they believe in all these myths about the military,” Pascual said.
The myths about the military include the increased masculinity it provides recruits and the amount of adventure to be found in joining the armed forces, Pascual said.
Before the group walked to Cheadle Hall, speakers also talked about the unfairness of giving state money to the military rather than to outreach programs, as well as the destructiveness of war. The group then walked up the building’s five flights of stairs, while chanting, to the chancellor’s office, where the protesters presented their grievances to Yang.
SCORE Co-chair Katie Joaquin said the military is racist because of the disproportionate number of minorities stationed at the front lines and because of its recent advertising campaign geared toward Spanish-speaking communities.
The military is also sexist, Joaquin said, because 90 percent of women in the military claim to have been sexually harassed and a third claim to have been raped. She said the military discriminates against those who are less physically able because it requires those who enlist to meet physical fitness requirements. The military also harms the environment, she said, because it is the “single worst polluter in the world.”
Stephanie Lee, a featured student speaker, said she does not feel safe when recruiters are on campus because she is a queer student.
“I pay tuition just like any straight student,” Lee said. “I should have access to the same safety.”