Student apathy at Fairfield struck again this week as Campus Ministry scrambled to recruit students to take action and join in the upcoming protest against the institution formerly known as the School of the Americas.

Melissa Quan, assistant university chaplain, arranged two film and discussion teach-ins, and she spoke during two liberation theology classes in an effort to spur students to take up reins against the military training site

A meeting Sunday drew five committed students, finally confirming that the trip would take place. These students, and any more students who join, will travel down to Georgia on Nov. 17 with two or three faculty members for a weekend of political protest for political justice.

“We haven’t gotten the response that we wanted this year,” said Quan.

Fairfield University often accounts for a very small percentage of attendees. While there were approximately 100 students from Boston College last year, only 15 students hailed from Fairfield University. This year Fairfield came close to not being represented at all.

For the past two years, a small group of students and faculty have made the 20- hour trip to Georgia to take part in a protest against this institution, commonly known as the School of the Americas (SOA), in hopes of making their voices heard in the call to put an end to this military facility.

The protests focus on the fact that right here on American soil, funded by citizens’ tax dollars, Latin American soldiers are trained in methods of combat.

Critics say the soldiers use these skills to wage war against the impoverished people of El Salvador. Students 35 years ago would be outraged, but today concern is lacking.

Kevin Donohue’07 was one of the 15 Fairfield students who made the hike to Georgia for the protest last year.

“It was an intense experience in a variety of ways,” said Donohue, who is not able to participate this year because he is studying abroad. “It was physically grueling as well as disorienting to spend so much time – 40 hours – in a van over one weekend. The vigil outside the school was powerful. Overall it was a positive experience.”

This is an issue that should be especially close to the heart of Fairfield University since 16 years ago this month, six Jesuit priests and two women were murdered by soldiers who are believed to have been educated in this American-run institution.

Aside from the actual protest, representatives from all 28 Jesuit schools gather tspecifically to remember the seven murdered Jesuits in an event called the Ignatian Family Teach-In, explained Quan. This takes place Friday night and all day Saturday, giving students and faculty a chance to come together as a Jesuit community in song and discussion.

Michael Fry ’09 is one of the students planning on making the trip. After traveling to El Salvador and learning of the injustices firsthand during a high school spring break trip, he has become passionate about this protest and other social justice issues.

“I was very glad I had come to a Jesuit school because they would most definitely have a group dedicated to social justice and would be going to the SOA,” said Fry. “I was a little disappointed upon getting here. I was expecting the group to be present during the Campus Ministry fair, and all that was there was a small sign-up sheet at the very end with no one there and no signs.”

This is certainly not the first way in which apathy has managed to rear its ugly head on campus. A striking example of this can be seen in last year’s FUSA elections. Less than 25 percent of the student body showed up to vote. If students are not getting involved in issues right here on campus, perhaps it is no surprise that worldwide occurrences are even farther from their minds.

University Wire articles from schools across the nation point out the notable decline of student activism since the 1960s and 1970s. According to many of these articles, while political activism used to characterize college students, focus today lies on classes and careers.

Others argue that it is unfair simply to dismiss the student body as apathetic and uncaring. Also, there have been many other events and fundraisers on campus that have been met with much success and student involvement.

Donohue regards giving students a blanket description of being apathetic is undeserved. In regards to the SOA protest, it is a huge commitment to give up an entire weekend and travel 40 hours in a van.

“I think dismissing the student body as generally apathetic is letting ourselves off the hook. We have to think of new creative ways to show them what is going on,” said Donohue, who concluded that establishing the SOA protest as a tradition could help solve the problem.

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