'Anti-nuke' protest building with student blocs
Antidraft protesters, who have rallied their way into the campus spotlight, may soon be sharing center stage with another building student force -- the antinuclear movement.
Although some campus antinuclear groups have been around for two or three years, widespread student involvement in the movement increased dramatically only after the nuclear power plant accident at Three Mile Island, Pa., last year , say campus organizers.
Today that growing activism has reached the point where students are evolving as a sharply defined bloc within the antinuclear power movement -- rather than simply as individuals working within a community organization, which has been true of much of their past involvement.
As the antinuclear movement becomes more broadbased, drawing in sucn special interest groups as women's organizations, senior citizen activists, and medical groups, students in general appear to be seeking a larger, more distinct role within the movement -- organizing their own rallies, forming their own groups, staging their own campus protests.
"Students are coming into the movement now and seeing themselves as students, " says Mickey Kelly, a staff member of the Northern Sun Alliance Minneapolis, a community alternative energy group that recently established a student chapter at the University of Minnesota.
"Whereas before," he continues, "they just came in and blended in with community people. The whole focus of the movement used to be in the community. Now there's a lot more work being done on campuses."
At a recent student-sponsored antinuclear conference at the University of Massachussetts, Amherst, which drew more than 300 students from Boston, New York , Washington, and Philadelphia, the following campus-based activities were planned:
* A push for a larger student voice in the coming April 26 march on Washington, a national protest similar to last year's May 6 rally. Campus activists are seeking a both a student speaker at the April protest and a student vote on the coordinating committee that has been planning the event, according to David Sapp, a George Washington University student who is responsible for coordinating national student involvement in the march.
Campus organizers are trying to recruit students nationwide to march as one contingent April 26 -- an extension of the East Coast bloc of 500 students who marched together last May. In addition, a one-day national student conference is being planned for the day after this year's rally.
* A three-month campaign to be called "Survival Summer." Patterned after the so-called "Freedom Summer" of 1964, when college youths flocked to the South for the summer to work on the civil-rights movement, "Survival Summer" is expected to involve students fanning out across the US in an antinuclear blitz.
At least half-a-dozen centers will be set up in different regions of the country where students will be briefed on nuclear power and given tips on how to best argue the case against it, according to Stephen Zunes, a "Summer" staffer who is helping organize campus support.
Students will then be sent out to cities where they will wage a "one to one" communications campaign by canvassing, getting involved in local nuclear issues, and participating in neighborhood forums.
* The continuing growth of the Student Coalition Against Nukes Nationwide (SCANN), which is apparently the only such national group drawing together campus antinuclear organizations.
SCANN, the group that sponsored the Amherst conference, began just 15 months ago with members from a handful of Boston universities. It has since grown to include an estmated 30 chapters on campuses all along the East Coast -- and is continuing to build as a national organization.
"They've taught us how to organize," says Jane Horvath, a Baltimore-D.C. SCANN member, of community antinuclear groups. "But we prefer to remain distinct. Keeping a straight student perspective helps build momentum.
"It's easier for us as students to get the attention of other students than it is for an outsider to come on campus and try to get students involved," she says.
Even as campus groups begin planning either their own demonstrations or student involvement in local and regional protests geared to the March 29 anniversary of the Three Mile Island accident, many student organizers agree their efforts have been eclipsed -- but temporarily -- by the furor over draft registrations.
In the long run, say antinuclear activists, student energies now channeled into protesting the draft will spill over into the issue of nuclear power as well. the issues are linked, they say, and as students make the connection between the draft and nuclear war and nuclear weapons, the two movements increasingly will work in concert.