by Adam Hudson
Throughout history, students have played a crucial role in furthering social change. During the Vietnam War, there was a nationwide youth rebellion in the U.S. against America’s imperialist war in Southeast Asia and the ensuing atrocities. On university campuses across America, from the University of California, Berkeley, to Columbia University, students organized sit-ins, teach-ins and rallies, printed flyers and occupied campus buildings to protest against the injustices occurring at home and abroad. These protests were not only a sign of moral outrage; they were also strategically designed to end the involvement of American universities in perpetuating the atrocities in Vietnam and other social ills.
An example of this occurred at the school I currently attend – Stanford University. Even though it does not have a reputation for being radical, Stanford was involved in this youth rebellion. On April 3, 1969, more than 800 people met in Stanford University’s Dinkelspiel Auditorium to form what soon became known as the April Third Movement (A3M). This movement called upon Stanford and the Stanford Research Institute, which was owned by the university, to halt chemical and biological warfare research, classified research and other programs related to the Vietnam War.
Through their dedicated hard work and passionate organizing, Stanford students were successful in eliminating classified research at Stanford and contributed to the nationwide popular movement that eventually ended the war in Vietnam.
While the war in Vietnam ended in 1975 and Stanford has become more corporate and politically apathetic over the years, the struggle for peace and justice continues to this day – at Stanford and across the world. In fall of 2007, a handful of other students and I formed Stanford Says No to War.
The group was formed in response to the campus’ apathy and silence about the Iraq War and the appointment of Donald Rumsfeld, a person who is responsible for committing crimes against humanity, as a “distinguished visiting fellow” to the Hoover Institution, a neoconservative think-tank at Stanford. We staged a rally that drew around 100 students and community members and garnered local and international press coverage, such as the TVNZ television network in New Zealand and Reuters. We also gathered over 4,000 signatures on a petition condemning the appointment.
A bill was sent to the Undergraduate Senate condemning the appointment. Unfortunately, it failed to pass by two votes. The Senate felt that it was not within their jurisdiction to vote on a politically charged matter that did not tangibly benefit the student population.
Basically, the student government chose the politically expedient route of refusing to challenge the power structure rather than taking a stand for justice and supporting the will of the 4,000 people who signed the petition condemning the appointment of a war criminal to a prestigious position at Stanford University. However, a subsequent bill was passed to invite Rumsfeld to speak to and answer questions from the Stanford community. Rumsfeld never accepted the invitation.
Interestingly enough, the appointment lasted for only one year and we learned that Donald Rumsfeld never set foot on campus. It was definitely the grassroots outrage that kept Rumsfeld from physically stepping on Stanford soil.
Even though one war criminal is away from Stanford, that has not deterred another, Condoleezza Rice, from coming back to Stanford after committing atrocities while she was in the Bush administration. As a group committed to working for peace and justice and making Stanford a university free of war criminals, Stanford Says No to War initiated a coalition to build a grassroots movement that leads to the prosecution of Condoleezza Rice and other high government officials for war crimes committed by torturing people and engaging in a war of aggression against Iraq.
We have circulated a petition calling for an investigation and prosecution of such actions committed by these officials. Currently, it has garnered over 1,200 signatures from students, alumni, faculty and community members.
The antiwar movement at Stanford is an example of the crucial role student activism plays in social change. Which brings to me to my candidacy for the KPFA Local Station Board election. One of Pacifica’s founding principles is working for peace and social justice. As an independent media outlet, KPFA and the larger Pacifica Foundation play a crucial role in educating the public about important issues and working toward a better world.
Unfortunately, KPFA is at risk of becoming obsolete. Its listener base is declining and most of the people who continue to listen to KPFA are over the age of 50 and tend to be of Caucasian descent.
It is crucial that KPFA broaden its outreach to young people and communities of color if it is to remain relevant. One way for KPFA to do this is by effectively utilizing the Internet to get information out to people, through blogs and video streams. Since many people, especially young people, get their news from the Internet, this would ensure that KPFA is a vibrant independent media outlet for the future.
New programming, such as a Black public affairs program, is also crucial. New programs can be suggested through councils in which listeners provide feedback on programming.
In implementing these policies in this crucial and tumultuous political climate, I believe KPFA will become a better instrument in informing the public on crucial issues and organizing for a better world. By voting for me and members of Independents for Community Radio, we can make this happen together.
Adam Hudson is a senior at Stanford University majoring in International Relations with a minor in Middle Eastern Languages, Literatures and Cultures. He is the co-founder of Stanford Says No to War, education co-chair of the Stanford NAACP and a candidate for the KPFA Local Station Board election. You can view his candidate statement on his blog.