Students rally against apartheidTo the Editor:
According to Simson Garfinkel's article on student politics, and, it seems, to The Tech's own priorities for news coverage, the only students who are political at MIT are revolutionary radicals. I profoundly disagree.
Wednesday afternoon, after only two days advance notice, between 200 and 250 people (we counted several times, by groups of five, and this was our figure, not 100 as The Tech had said) came to the anti-apartheid rally at the Student Center. Organization for that rally began Sunday night after I received a phone call from a friend involved in anti-apartheid work at Berkeley.
He told me about the plans for a national day of protest for divestment on April 24. By noon Monday, when the MIT Coalition Against Apartheid held its first meeting, there were 40 people involved in the effort here. The way we got people to this meeting was by calling members of Pugwash, the Disarmament Study Group, The Hunger Action Group, the Political Science Committee on Central America, the Student, Profemina, and the Urban Studies affinity groups on Central America. Every group was represented.
There was a feeling, among those of us who attended that first meeting, and at the rally two days later, that people at MIT had been waiting for this to happen. Around the country people have begun to talk and think about American support of South Africa's apartheid system. The brutality of apartheid has the sort of deep moral impact that touches everyone. Not just urbanites, but farmers (I was in Iowa a month ago, where farmers expressed their disagreement with Reagan's constructive engagement policy), and not just student radicals, but all students with a moral conscience.
Perhaps the people in the Urban Studies Department and the Political Science Department see the importance of the apartheid issue more quickly, because we deal with social issues every day in our academic work. But this does not exclude students involved with technical issues from taking a moral stance. Clearly, students on this campus care about social issues. From blood drives to other charitable efforts such as the Ugly Man contest, that sense of caring is there.
Seven years ago, in the middle of the "apathetic '70's, "the last anti-apartheid drive happened on this campus and over 1000 students signed petitions calling for divestment. By talking with each other, we can educate the other members of our community, and then act in whatever socially responsible ways we feel are necessary to address the apartheid issue.
The Tech's mischaracterization of those involved in anti-apartheid work on campus is disturbing both because it belies the hard work of so many of us, but more importantly, because it prevents concerned students from becoming involved. Friday's front page makes no mention of the larger rally from which 50 chose to go to Gray's office. Worse, in the article on the rally, your reporter completely neglected to talk to any of the organizers, nor did he discuss the MIT Coalition Against Apartheid, and its future plans to address the apartheid issue. If you complain that the only politically concerned students at MIT are sensational radicals, then you have a certain obligation not to be sensationalist in your own coverage of campus events, and to give full attention to the broader efforts of conscientious students to address social issues on this campus.
The MIT Coalition Against Apartheid is open to all. For information concerning our next meeting, check in the Common Room of the Urban Studies Dept., or call me at 253-4037.
Gretchen Ritter G->