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Students protest Souter

By Mark Johnson

On Tuesday, two days before David H. Souter's nomination to the US Supreme Court was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, seven MIT students and former students joined about 150 Massachusetts activists in Washington, DC, for a full day of demonstration and lobbying against the nominee.

The committee confirmed Souter's nomination in a 13-1 vote yesterday. The full Senate is expected to take up the issue in a few days. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) was the only committee member to vote against Souter, according to the Associated Press.

The Massachusetts demonstrators gathered with about 50 other students and activists from around the country in a one-hour demonstration in Union Station Park as part of the "Do or Die Day" sponsored by the National Organization for Women.

NOW organized the day of demonstration in a last-ditch attempt to show senators the breadth of opposition to Souter. "This is a working day," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Fund for the Feminist Majority, to the crowd of activists.

Most of that crowd took her words to heart, and after a brief training session, dispersed to lobby their individual senators against the nomination. The activists spent the greater part of the afternoon wearing trails into the carpets of the lavish Senate office buildings.

Sen. John F. Kerry (D-MA) took 15 minutes between votes on the floor to discuss his vote with a group of students and Massachusetts residents. A similar group spoke with one of Kennedy's aides in an attempt to convince Kennedy, who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, to take a leadership role in the fight against Souter.

At the time, neither Kennedy nor Kerry had taken a public position on the nomination.

As of Tuesday morning, 38 national civil rights organizations had made public statements opposing the nomination, including the US Student Association, the country's largest national student organization, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

In addition to questioning Souter's refusal to state an opinion on the landmark Supreme Court abortion decision, Roe vs. Wade, speakers at the demonstration addressed a variety of civil rights questions stemming from Souter's records as attorney general and New Hampshire Supreme Court justice.

Activists specifically questioned Souter's attitudes on rape and the right to privacy.

Before the demonstration, NOW estimated in a press release that students from "a half dozen states" were likely to show up for the demonstration, including representatives from Rutgers University, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Virginia, and seven colleges and universities in Massachusetts.

Rebecca D. Kaplan '92, treasurer of the Association for Women Students, said before the demonstration, "The main reason I'm going is because I think Souter's opinions on rape and some other issues are repulsive. I think people need to hear that, whether or not it changes the Senate's decision."

By the end of the day, however, most of the students expressed frustration. Alexa D. Ogno '91 summed up the impressions of many demonstrators when she declared it "depressing" that so many senators were waiting for the committee recommendation before making their decision.