By CARRINGT0N WELLS, Staff Writer
Student power in grass roots movements, not just student government reform, turned out to be the focus of a forum Wednesday intended to bring about better communication among student activists and to discuss possibilities for the future of a student coalition.
Brendan Mathews, a junior English major from Albany, N.Y., and one of the sponsors of the petition signed by more than 1,100 students in the Pit last Tuesday, opened the forum by reading a statement of his ideas about the problem he and his group wanted to address. "Last week's petition proved that there are lots of other students who are concerned, who see problems with the way things are, not just in Suite C, but on campus and beyond," he said. "We looked for some current issue that dramatized the loss of student power. Student government seemed the obvious choice."
Student government reform was not the sole purpose of the coalition that wrote the petition, Mathews said. Concerned students need to be unified, he said. "We all have different interests, but if we are to get what we want then we need to work together." The group first met two weeks ago, Mathews said, and got started by a few students making phone calls to get some people together to discuss concerns. "Now we want to get input from other people. We're still in the talking stage, trying to get some solid things going."
Brien Lewis, former SBP, said he misunderstood the purpose of the group that started the petition. "I thought the petition was going in a different direction than it apparently was. I saw the petition as being the direct result of people wanting to do something about problems with campus elections. "In a sense, this (reaction from students) is the best response, the kind of response that students and administrators need to see. The worst would be no response, if people were willing to just let things die."
Elizabeth Kolb, a freshman from Raleigh, said she was led to believe the petition and the group that wrote it were emphasizing the flaws of student government. "I came here tonight with the understanding that there would be discussion about how student government could improve." But Mathews said the group's purpose was to build unity among activists and to empower students, not to be an adversary of student government. "I think it's self-centered of you to think that student government is our only focus."
Emily Lawson, a freshman from Washington, D.C., said, "Student government is merely a symbol of dissatisfaction, and the petition served its purpose to alert people to one specific problem." Ericka Kurz, a junior from Middleton, Wis., said she wanted to form an organization that would be the base for many different activist groups. "This grass roots organization could have a complementary relationship to student government. But student government cannot tackle a lot of issues which such a group could."
Bill Hildebolt, student body president, said he thought the meeting had an overall positive result. "Although we didn't get very far today, a lot of people left there knowing where a lot of other people were coming from. A lot of promise was shown for future meetings." The group will hold its next meeting April 10 at 4 p.m. in the Union, and all students are welcome.