A point of view by Paul Montesino

Lessons to learn.
A Point of View © 1996
By Paul V. Montesino, PhD, MBA, CSP….CSD?

If you’ve been listening to the news recently, you may have come to the reasonable conclusion that university students have changed their original professional goals of building a life-long career to a new one more mundane building a camp of tents where they can protest and protect themselves from the weather and the rest of humankind. 

Students’ participation in public demonstrations against civic or educational leaders is nothing new, it goes with the territory. And the reactions and consequences of those expressions are nothing new either.

On May 4, 1970, this past week was another sad anniversary, members of the Ohio National Guard fired their weapons into a crowd of Kent State University students who were participating in a demonstration against America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, killing four and wounding nine students.

My intention today is not to revisit that sad episode that we have forgotten or its reasons, which I’m sure still resonates in the memories of the parents of those students lost and the minds of the wounded students. All I want to say is the fact that students’ participation in expressing their opinions about current events they find objectionable is part of our history. It was the Vietnam War then, it’s the Middle East war these days, something else tomorrow.

The weekend before Labor Day September 3, 2001, took place for me and my wife attending the wedding of a friend’s daughter in Long Island, New York. The weather and the celebrations couldn’t have been nicer than the horror our nation would experience the following week on Tuesday, September 11, when terrorism hit the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center not too far from Long Island, the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and the rural Pennsylvania crash of a plane caused by the reaction of passengers who wouldn’t accept the hijacking of their flight without putting up a fight that cost them their lives.

Universities canceled most classes after that event. I was teaching four or five first-year classes, and our university president asked us, the faculty, to make sure we talked about the attacks in class and allow the students to release steam. 

Well, release steam they did. I had mixed classes of approximately thirty-five students where every religious belief had representation. I had Muslims from the Arab World, Jews, and Christians from America or other countries. It didn’t take long after I started to discuss the New York catastrophe until a few students of those denominations started to approach each other aggressively with accusations of initiating acts in which they had not participated or even witnessed. For a moment I was afraid not only for the well-being of my students but also for my own. 

But I’m here, my students eventually graduated, many thanking me for keeping them away from each other that day and there was nothing else we did to remember the September date that caused the confrontation.

Every student participation crisis has a characteristic of its own. The Vietnam War, the Twin Towers attack, and the current Middle East war look completely different. I’m not trying to enter the details of the present war between Israel, Iran, Gaza, Lebanon, or the Palestinians. I have my own opinion, but it would not be helpful to disclose it because it would make as many unhappy or happier people to express it. I will concentrate on the current campus crisis; I’m not an expert in world crises, I only know about what I do.

Students have demonstrated against any side of the current conflict between universities of the left and universities of the right. Universities canceled or postponed Commencement exercises that those families and students had been preparing for years, parents traveling at the cost of time and money, to attend. But I’m sure that the opinions expressed by the students so vociferously are not much different from the opinions expressed frequently by the same disappointed parents at home. Like parent, like child. We reap what we sow. And it disappoints me to learn that not all so-called student demonstrators are bonafide members of the universities where they rebel, they infiltrated the camps.

Missing the melodies of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March 1 in D does not compare with the lost lives of those involved in the current conflict or the opinions of the students involved in the current demonstrations, but those students also must recognize their obligations to obey the law and simply concentrate on peaceful demonstrations. This crisis, like all the others, will also pass. It will make them worthy of another diploma they can display with pride: C.S.D, the “Common Sense Degree.” 

And that’s my Point of View today. So Long.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply