Day of Action: Local iteration of national campaign focuses on education, science, and solidarity

Ellie Hislop, Staff Writer

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More than a hundred strike actions took place across the United States on Feb. 17 as part of the Strike4Democracy campaign to “stand up for America’s democratic principles.” Members of the University community and student activist groups organized their own Day of Action in solidarity with the campaign. The mantra of the day was “no business as usual” and encouraged students, faculty, and staff to leave their classes to attend this event. The idea was to come together as one community in order to learn, eat, and be together.

The students and faculty members involved in planning and organizing the Day of Action released a statement framing the current issues they feel are most pressing and significant in the United States and are thereby deserving of a call to action. One of the main organizing groups was the Bucknell Alternative Delegation (B.A.D.).

“In its first two weeks in office, the Trump administration has silenced scientific institutions, banned immigrants and refugees from several Muslim countries, attacked workers, the media, the climate, the judiciary, women’s reproductive rights and threatened to cut funding to universities, cities, and states that oppose its policies,” the statement said.

The statement went on to describe how the core values of the University such as “the importance and validity of science, women’s autonomy over their bodies, the importance of a democratic society, and the duty to save our planet” have recently become vulnerable and called upon “all students, faculty, and staff to reaffirm the values being threatened by this administration.”

The Day of Action schedule consisted of a march on the Malesardi Quadrangle at 10:30 a.m., teach-ins at 11 a.m., a funeral procession for science at noon, a cook-out for gender de-segregation which included music and an open-mic at 12:30 p.m., teach-ins at 2:30 p.m., a rally on the Malesardi Quadrangle at 3:30 p.m., and a call/write/fax-in to representatives at 4 p.m.

Matthew Giordano ’17 spoke at the funeral procession for science, where a somber funeral dirge was played through a megaphone and several engineers, science majors, and professors donned lab coats or somber black robes. Giordano read Edgar Allan Poe’s “Sonnet—To Science,” written in 1829.

He explained that the poem “advocates the rejection of science because of its unimaginative, stagnant, and dogmatic views.  Science is a glaring truth, an absolute, that crushes the imagination of Poe,” Giordano said.

Some students felt that the message of the funeral wasn’t clear.

“I’m a huge advocate for science and the environment, and I’m well aware of the setbacks that we have encountered recently in these areas of study, but a ‘funeral procession’ for science just seems overly dramatic,” Ali Reach ’20 said. “It carries a connotation of defeat at a time where we really can’t afford to give up hope.”

“Getting our voices heard, working together, and knowing that we are not alone are all key aspects of becoming a more unified community,” Giordano said when asked why he felt it was important that all students, regardless of their personal political views, attend an event during the Day of Action. “The Day of Action event I attended helped educate students, faculty, and staff about the importance of peer-reviewed science, rigorous testing, and public health—these are an issue that all of us must address, not just some of us,” Giordano said.

Professor of English Michael Drexler played a key role in arranging the Day of Action on the faculty side.

“I joined strike4democracy.com and suggested that Bucknell should strike via the Message Center and the faculty email list,” he said. “After that, B.A.D. took the lead. I attended the planning meeting with the students and several faculty members where the day of events was outlined and tasks assigned.”

Professor of English Saundra Morris explained how she supports B.A.D. via talking with the student group and working to publicize their events and petitions.

“I found the Day of Action, which I consider to be directly related to Bucknell’s mission statement about diversity, to be very inspiring. I am extremely proud of the students for their leadership, intelligence, energy, and moral courage. The events were carefully planned and wonderfully educational,” Morris said.

“I went on strike, as did many of my colleagues, to protest President Trump’s erratic and dangerous behavior since inauguration and to demand that he stop violating immigrants, refugees, women, the environment, and national security,” Drexler said. “I attended events throughout the day including a faculty discussion group on how faculty could forward B.A.D demands within the governance system.”

Members of B.A.D. could not be reached for comment.

“I think the event as a whole was very successful and I was impressed by the attendance,” Drexler said.

Morris both cancelled her class and attended events throughout the day.

“I learned a great deal from student speeches at the rallies and from professors at the teach-ins,” Morris said. “I attended the ‘Donald Trump and ‘the blacks,’’ session, led by Professors Cymone Fourshey and Leslie Patrick; and the session  ‘Refugees’ led by Professors Allen Tran and Mai-Linh Hong. Both were very well-attended.”

Not all students agreed, however, that the Day of Action necessitated cancelling class.

“I don’t think it’s right for class to be cancelled for the various strikes and walkouts, because we are all paying a lot of money to be here and be in class,” Matt Pomerantz ’20 said.

John Quinn ’18 played a large role in organizing the Day of Action.

“[I]n planning the event our main goal was to have something for everyone,” Quinn said. “[T]he idea is that you don’t necessarily have to be anti-Trump to participate … Getting people out, active, and talking was the goal. And we accomplished that and it was awesome to see,” Quinn said.

“It seemed to me that participants were buoyed by the events of the day. We really haven’t seen student activism of this sort in my 14 years here at the least,” Drexler said.

While he admitted that his primary motivation for attending the Day of Action was very political, he said that “I believe the program for the Day of Action was excellent and offered students of all political stripes opportunities to learn from each other and the faculty resources of the university in a different space than class,” Drexler said.

Whether the goals of the strike were accomplished is subjective, especially depending on the interpretation of the goals themselves.

“I don’t think that these strikes are effective at such a small, private university like Bucknell. I don’t believe it will make a big difference at the end of the day,” Julia Mcaleese ’20 said.

Morris saw this event as an opportunity to display support for B.A.D.’s activist endeavors while demonstrating that there is room for improvement.

“President Bravman has taken some admirable steps publicly to resist President Trump’s reprehensible immigration and refugee policies. That is encouraging. Yet I feel strongly that he also has a responsibility to work directly with these activists, and to welcome the opportunity to converse with this intellectually motivated and socially benevolent group of academics. I hope he can reverse his current stance, and be proud and supportive of them,” Morris said.

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