Aquinas Nixes Vagina Monologues, Allows Jane Doe Project

Aquinas The Jane Doe Project

On Thursday night, an original play titled The Jane Doe Project was performed at Aquinas College. The play was written by Aquinas student Cheyna Roczkowski in December after the Aquinas administration would not allow The Vagina Monologues to be performed on campus due its controversial sexual content.

In response, Roczkowski chose to write a play based on the experiences of Aquinas women (students, faculty and alumni, shared with the student writer and included anonymously in the play), meant to raise awareness about the issue of violence against women.

The play was part of a week of events, including a movie night and letter writing campaign on Aquinas’ campus. Before the performance was a cupcake sale, in which $381 were raised. The proceeds will be divided between several women’s organizations in the area. There was a high turnout, including members of the Aquinas Administration.

The Performance

The play was a series of monologues performed by eight female students dressed in black, all of whom entered the stage saying “I am Jane Doe,” who was established to be a “New Feminist,” a faceless person to represent all women. Silence as the enemy was the theme of the play–its goal to open up conversation about violence against women, and “fight the system” through education.

The stories varied in style and topic: a woman raped by her brother at a young age, a diary entry of a lesbian degraded and raped by a male, a series of letters burned on stage detailing an abusive relationship, a mother and daughter grappling with the daughter having been conceived by rape, and a woman whose sister had to have reconstructive surgery during an abusive relationship. In between were comedic sketches about happy relationships, bad pick up lines, and working out at the gym. There were also various derogatory phrases from around the world highlighted throughout the performance (“Words are for women, actions are for men.”)

The stories were powerful, for their content and the knowledge that they had actually happened to women in the Aquinas community. Although none of the students in the play were experienced actors, all of the parts were read passionately and effectively.

Pro-Choice Advocacy

The Jane Doe Project occurred during the second Pro-Life Awareness Week of the academic year at Aquinas. The abortion issue came up, as one student defiantly stated that being pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion.


A running theme throughout the play was the idea of a “New Feminist,” similar to third-wave feminism – the idea that wearing revealing clothes and make up (“high heels, red lipstick, curve accentuating jeans and showing a little cleavage”) should be empowering. Many who identify as feminists, however, would argue that societal pressure to cover their faces with products and wear clothes that reveal their body is extremely disempowering, and prefer not to consume these products.

The play was also hetero-normative, as every romantic couple portrayed (notably the positive, healthy examples as well as the abusive) was heterosexual.

Overall, The Jane Doe Project brought up an important issue, but its message was convoluted by some mainstream societal ideas.

Gay Rights Speaker Responds to Aquinas College’s Cancellation of his Speech

Gay rights advocate John Corvino has responded to Aquinas College’s decision to cancel his planned speech on homosexuality and morality because it goes against “Catholic teaching values.”

Last week, the Grand Rapids Press reported that Aquinas College–a Catholic university here in Grand Rapids–cancelled a speech by John Corvino, a well-known lecturer and gay rights advocate. Aquinas College cancelled the speech, claiming that the speech “displays an attack on Catholic teaching values.” The cancellation has prompted students at Aquinas to organize to bring Corvino to an alternative venue in Grand Rapids.

Additionally, Corvino has formally responded to the cancellation:

“On April 3, 2008, I was supposed to give a lecture at Aquinas College, a Catholic school in Grand Rapids, Michigan. That morning I was informed that the event was “postponed” so that an appropriate Catholic response could be prepared; one week later, the event was cancelled altogether by order of the school president, C. Edward Balog.

I am very disappointed in President Balog’s decision. For over fifteen years I have traveled to numerous schools, including Catholic schools, to promote rigorous yet respectful dialogue on homosexuality and ethics. My lecture at Aquinas was scheduled months in advance. The organizers knew that, although I disagree with Catholic teaching on the moral status of same-sex relationships, I have no desire to distort that teaching, and I invite response from all sides. When Aquinas officials suggested that a second speaker be present to offer the Catholic perspective, I welcomed that suggestion.

By canceling the event, Aquinas administrators have robbed us all of a valuable teaching moment–one where the Catholic position could be made clear while alternative perspectives were articulated and critically examined, in a spirit of rigorous free inquiry.

I am especially disappointed by President Balog’s explanation that “We want to explore the issue from an academic perspective, not from the perspective of an antagonistic attack to core Catholic values.” Anyone with even a passing knowledge of my scholarly research and public advocacy would recognize this description as a severe distortion of my work. (I would especially encourage members of the Aquinas community to read some of my many columns archived at the Independent Gay Forum website,

Several students are now organizing to invite me to speak later this month at an off-campus location, not paid for by school funds. I look forward to that opportunity, and if it happens, I invite school administrators and other members of the Catholic community to come and present their views. I believe that truth has nothing to fear from serious public dialogue, and I welcome occasions for thoughtful interaction.

John Corvino, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Philosophy

Wayne State University”

“Focus the Nation” Activities Planned at Area Colleges

A nationwide teach-in on global warming will include events at local college campuses as part of a national effort to spur action towards encouraging emission cuts of 80% below current levels by 2050 in order to stop global warming.

focus the nation logo

At the end of the month, a “nationwide teach-in” called “Focus the Nation” is being planned to raise awareness and encourage action on global warming. The teach-ins–which will be held on January 31–are encouraging a move from discussion and fatalism to action on global warming.

In answering the question “Why Now” the campaign says:

“Over the next decade, critical policy decisions will be made with irreversible consequences for the future. Dr. James Hansen, the top US government climate scientist, believes that if we do not stabilize greenhouse gas emissions soon, we may set in motion a process leading to collapse of the West Antarctic and Greenland Ice sheets, events that would raise global sea levels by over 40 feet, inundating many of the world’s major cities. This of course is just one of the myriad potential consequences of human-induced warming, with regional and global impacts ranging from hurricanes of greater intensity and duration, global water shortages, altered patterns of rainfall, drought and flood, massive forest die-back, and large-scale species extinction.

Students today face many important social, economic, and security issues. Global warming however, is unique, in that if we are to reduce the risk of large-scale, irreversible, world-wide damages, then ambitious–and potentially costly–policy solutions must be undertaken within a very compressed time frame. Failure to act soon increases the likelihood of a swing in global temperatures of Ice Age magnitude within our children’s lifetimes, only in the opposite direction. We have a window of time now to create the foundation for a just and sustainable future.”

As an action goal, the campaign is encouraging emission cuts of 80% below current levels by 2050. Legislators, elected officials, and university administrators around the country are being invited to the events.

Here in West Michigan, events are planned on three area campuses:

Aquinas College

01/29/2008: Green Fair

Location: Aquinas College- Wege Student Center (Lower Level)

Time: 11am to 2pm

Cost: Free

As a part of Aquinas College’s Focus the Nation programming, a Green Fair will be held on Tuesday, January 29th in the Wege Student Center. Locally-owned organizations will be on site with information and products for sale, including a local Art Gallery and Metro Health Hospital. All are welcome!

01/30/2008: “2% Solution” Webcast

Location: Aquinas College- Cook Carriage House (Upper Level of the Moose Cafe)

Time: 8pm

Cost: Free

As a part of Aquinas College’s Focus the Nation programming, a showing of the “2% Solution” will be held on Wednesday, January 30th in the upper level of the Cook Carriage House. “2% Solution” is a live, interactive webcast featuring Stephen Schneider, Hunter Lovins, Van Jones and youth climate leaders. All are welcome! Snacks will be provided.

01/31/2008: Local Lunch: Count your Carbons!

Location: Aquinas College- Wege Student Center (Level 2)

Time: 11:30am-1:30pm

Cost: $6.00 (cash only)

As a part of Aquinas College’s Focus the Nation programming, a local meal option will be served in the Wege Student Center on January 31st. Come reduce your carbon footprint, eat healthy food, and learn all about the benefits of eating locally and the dangers of global climate change. All are welcome!

Calvin College

Tuesday, January 29

* Kick-off event: 8:00 PM– Commons Lecture Hall

* View the newly released film King Corn. Good laughs, great film!

Wednesday, January 30

* Re-Gathering: 9:50 AM – Fine Arts Center

* Dr. Elaine Storkey speaking on Climate Change and the Global Poor

* Webcast: 8:00 Science Building 010 — The 2% Solution

* Focus the Nation will stream a free, live, interactive webcast called The 2% SOLUTION. Join Stanford University climate scientist, Stephen Schneider, sustainability expert Hunter Lovins and green jobs pioneer Van Jones and youth climate leaders, for a discussion of global warming solutions. Audiences can weigh in with cell phone voting. Our goal is 10,000 screenings–and a change in the course of history.

* 9:00 PM –Snow Festival on the Commons Lawn–Embrace the Cold (while you can!)

* Snowman contest, snow tunnels, build an igloo and sleep outside

* Free Snow Cones and Hot Chocolate in Johnny’s

Thursday, January 31

* “Teach-in” activities: All day throughout campus (Click here for schedule)

* Chapel : 10 AM Speaker: Peter Illyn, Director of Restoring Eden

* Belly Button Christianity: Reconnecting Faith to the Miracle of Life

* Round Table Discussion: 3:30-5:00 PM — Bunker Interpretive Center

* Institutional Responses to Global Climate Change: What Can Calvin College Do?

* Moderator: Claudia Beversluis, Respondents: Rick Balfour, Phil Beezhold, Janel Curry, Luke Kenbeek, John Witte.

* Panel with Elected Officials: 8:00 PM–Fine Arts Center

* Solutions for Global Climate Change: Ideas from Policymakers

* Participants: Congressman Vern Ehlers, City Commissioner Rosalynn Bliss, and others

* Concert with Anathallo:9:00 PM -Fine Arts Center

* Tickets: $5 with Calvin ID, $10 General Public available at the Box Office

Grand Valley State University

January 31 – 5:00pm – 10:00pm

Grand Valley’s Student Environmental Coalition brings you:

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS for “Focus the Nation” at GVSU

* 5-6PM: Local Business Fair and Food Reception

* 6-7:30PM: Panel Discussion

* 7:30-9:00: Showing of “The 11th Hour”

* 9:00-10:00: Discussion about movie

In the next few years, we as a nation will make, or fail to make, critical decisions regarding global warming pollution and clean technology investments. These decisions will have far-reaching and irreversible impacts on the lives of today’s students and the lives of their children. At this moment in time, we owe our young people at least a day of focused discussion about global warming solutions for America.

Focus the Nation is an opportunity for university faculty members to hold a discussion with their students on how global climate change not only affects the world at large, but how their professional discipline is interrelated with this issue. The idea is to spark conversation and critical thinking amongst students, faculty and their communities in the hopes of increasing their knowledge of this topic.

Following the classroom discussions we hope that students will join faculty and local community members in a culmination of the day’s events at a panel discussion and movie screening of The 11th Hour.

Currently over 1000 institutions, mostly colleges and universities have signed on to participate, and dozens of college and university Presidents have endorsed the initiative.

For additional information on Focus the Nation and “The 11th Hour,” please visit these sites: and

Aquinas College Dumps Coke

Aquinas College has become the 26th college or university in the United States to terminate its contract with Coca-Cola due to Coca-Cola’s role in the killing of workers at its Colombian bottling plants.

killer coke graphic

Aquinas College–a 2,300 student body Catholic college located in Grand Rapids–has become the 26th college in the United States to terminate a contract with Coca-Cola in response to Coca-Cola’s human rights abuses. In recent years, Coca-Cola has come under intense scrutiny from human rights activists for its indifference to the murder, torture, and kidnapping of workers at Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia. The “Killer Coke” campaign has motivated significant student and union organizing around the world.

A recent newsletter distributed by the “Killer Coke” campaign contains the following report from Claire O’Neill of Aquinas College’s Social Action Committee:

“I just wanted to say that after a two and a half year fight, the students at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, have successfully kicked Coke off our campus. Unfortunately, the replacement is another big corporation, Pepsi, but it has been decades since anything but Coke has graced our campus.

Part of our campaign to Kick Out Coke was putting “Out of Order” signs on Coke machines around campus, as well as to distribute fliers with information and pictures of the atrocities that the company perpetrates in countries such as Colombia and India.

We also tabled in our cafeteria and in the hallways of the campus, handing out leaflets and literature, and collecting signatures on postcards to send to Coke executives.

Members of our club met twice with the man in charge of finance of the school, who had the responsibility of choosing contracts. Five members of the Social Action Committee met with him and he was ultimately willing to listen to our requests.

The coordinator of the club worked on a committee of staff and students formed to choose the beverage contract for upcoming years. The coordinator was very vocal about why to oppose a renewed contract with Coke because of the Company’s human rights abuses in Colombia.

The school administration sent out an email survey to the students asking what drinks they preferred — interestingly enough, the students did not choose Coke. The administration informed the coordinator right before the end of the year that Aquinas College would not renew the contract with Coke. The students at the school were very pleased.”

Other schools in Michigan including Michigan State University, University of Detroit Mercy, and University of Michigan, and Wayne State University are among dozens of schools actively organizing to remove Coke from their campuses.

Professor Challenges Audience to Think Beyond Pink Ribbons

On Monday, GVSU professor Julia Mason delivered a lecture at Aquinas College titled “More Than a Cure: Examining Breast Health, Cause Related Advertising and the Environment.” In her lecture, Mason provided an interesting critique of breast cancer awareness campaigns and how they can distract the public from the causes of breast cancer.

The Aquinas College Women’s Studies Center hosted a presentation by GVSU Professor Julia Mason titled More Than a Cure: Examining Breast Health, Cause Related Advertising and the Environment. She provided an interesting critique of the proliferation of the use of pink ribbons and how it actually can distract the public from really thinking about what causes breast cancer.

Professor Mason began by talking about some of the basic realities in regards to breast cancer. About 2 million women in US are living with breast cancer and in 2006, breast cancer accounted for 1 out of 3 cancer diagnosis in women. Men can also develop breast cancer but that accounts for only about 1% of all people diagnosed with the disease. She also touched on the fact that there are cultural and social factors in the public understanding of breast cancer. Western medical traditions are rooted in male dominated ideology, so our understanding of breast cancer has historically been distorted.

The growth of consciousness-raising led some women to produce the resource Our Bodies, Our Selves. Women became their own health advocates, by talking with each other about their bodies and their sexuality. During the 1970s, breast cancer activists didn’t have a focused political agenda according to Professor Mason, but they did change the conversation about breast cancer. She mentions that environmental research pioneer Rachel Carson had breast cancer, but didn’t want to address it for fear that her research would be discredited. Mastectomies often happened without consultation between doctors and their female patients.

During the 1990s breast cancer activism finally became politicized and went mainstream. October is now breast cancer awareness month, with the pink ribbon as the main symbol. The pink ribbon, according to Professor Mason, has social significance, but the pink ribbon has also evolved with a broader meaning. The Pink ribbon “product” has promoted the notion of “shopping as activism instead of social change.” People just buy stuff with a pink ribbon on it and think it is making a difference.

At this point the presenter examined the media’s role around representation of breast cancer and what she called “consumer activism.” Breast cancer advertising is prolific, with many products displaying the Pink Ribbon on their packaging. Several large corporations are even spending lots of money to associate themselves with the “benign” social message of breast cancer. Professor Mason looked at two ad campaigns in particular; Avon and the Ford Motor Company.

Avon ads have raised $450 million for “breast cancer awareness,” but the speaker pointed out that what consumers need to is “look at what is being sold, especially what the environmental impact of the product is.” This commercialization of breast cancer puts its emphasis on a cure, but not prevention. “The largest drug companies who make cures also make carcinogenic products, which cause cancer.” Professor Mason referred to this phenomenon as Pink-washing, where companies distract the public from thinking about the causes of breast cancer to the feel good detection aspect. Pink-Washing is very similar to Green-washing, where corporations try to present themselves has environmentally friendly.

The Ford Motor Company campaign is called “Ford Cares.” They have created “Warriors of the Pink Scarf” with celebrities wearing this pink scarf. The messages are focused on personal health and personal detection. Ford also promotes Race for the Cure, but Professor Mason pointed out that chemicals in combustion may lead to breast cancer. Ford has donated around $87 million, but much of that amount has been on ads promoting the company’s role in breast cancer awareness.

What Professor Mason was demonstrating was that there needs to be an emphasis on prevention with breast cancer, the public cannot assume that because a package has a pink ribbon on it that it is for a “good cause,” and that people need to scrutinize the corporate roll in this issue. “Pink ribbons might cause us to become complacent and individualistic. We need to move beyond corporate sponsorship of breast cancer.” She encouraged people to investigate this issue on their own and suggested the Think Before You Pink campaign as well as support for the Sister Study.

Lecture series focuses on Mexico

On Monday, three panelists, including the Mexican Consul from Detroit, discussed the first one-hundred days of Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s administration. The panelists primarily supported the Calderon administration and offered little in the way of either criticisms or specifics about what Calderon has done thus far.

The World Affairs Council of Western Michigan hosted the fourth in a series of lectures this winter at Aquinas College on Monday. The February 26th forum was entitled “Mexico: Calderon’s First 100 Days,” which featured three panelists – Vicente Sanchez-Ventura (Consul of Mexico in Detroit), Khedeja Gadhoum, a GVSU professor and Manuel Chavez who teaches at MSU. The introduction was given by State Rep. John Jellema who did acknowledged that there was a substantial debate about the validity of last year’s Presidential Elections, but that polling shows that Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon has about a 60% approval rating.

Mr. Sanchez-Ventura spoke first and identified what he thought were the five main priorities of Calderon – 1) The Rule of Law – which meant dealing with drug trafficking, street violence and politically unstable areas like Oaxaca; 2) The Economy – which translated as reducing public debt and unemployment, stressing the importance of small businesses, and legal reforms important for these things to happen; 3) Equal opportunities – where the government is attempting to offer equal opportunities to the poor in health, education, and culture; 4) Systems Level Development, which he didn’t specify, and: 5) Democracy – which meant to include all parties in national legislative agenda and foster better relationship with United States. He also mentioned immigration as an important issue but did not state what the Calderon administration will do to address that issue.

The other panelists addressed these issues as well, especially the “rule of law.” Calderon has begun to crack down on drug trafficking by sending thousands of Mexican soldiers to several north states, but as independent journalist John Ross points out the focus is on street level dealers, not the big drug cartels. This translates into arresting and incarcerating the poor. The other aspect of the rule of law that the panelists addresses was with civil unrest in places like Oaxaca and Chiapas. Mr. Sanchez-Ventura said of Oaxaca “it’s an important situation for national security.” He also acknowledged “there have been some human rights violations” and that the movement in Oaxaca is “dangerous to Mexico.” Professor Gadhoum said “It started with a peaceful protest of teachers and became a social movement. Now many are concerned about Calderon’s use of the federal police and military.” Professor Chavez said that there is a “75% approval of military and federal actions in Oaxaca according to polls,” citing the mainstream media in Mexico. This seems to contradict much of what the independent media in Mexico and sources like Narco News are saying about Oaxaca.

Another major theme from the panelists was the economy. The panel members mentioned the need for increased trade and for more foreign investment, while arguing that stability and security would help the economy and that Calderon had a “clear economic plan.” There was also some mention of Mexico’s relationship with the Big 3 US car companies and Professor Chavez asked the question “Is there a possibility of Mexico and Michigan establishing an agreement since Mexico is 2nd largest trading partner of Michigan?” NAFTA was also mentioned by the panelists with Prof. Gadhoum wondering if Calderon will revisit NAFTA in light of the prevelance of maquiladoras (sweatshops). In response to her question, Mr. Sanchez-Ventura said that while he thinks NAFTA should be revisited “the Results of NAFTA have been positive for both the US and Mexico.” It was unfortunate that more time was not spent talking about the negative consequences of NAFTA which are widely known. Also omitted from the discussion on the economy was the decision by Calderon to raise the price of Mexican staples like tortillas. These price increases have resulted in major demonstrations in Mexico City and in other parts of the country. Additionally, there was no mention of Calderon’s actions at the recent World Economic Forum. According to Laura Carlsen with the Inter-Hemispheric Resource Center, Calderon went out of his way to distance himself from most of the other Latin American nations who have been challenging the US hegemony in the region.

Bishop Explores War and Forgiveness & Non-violence at Aquinas

On Tuesday, Detroit Bishop Thomas Gumbleton spoke at Aquinas College on the theme of “Forgiveness & Non-violence” and explore the Christian foundations for nonviolence and an opposition to war.

On Tuesday, January 30th Detroit Bishop Thomas Gumbleton spoke at Aquinas College on the theme of “Forgiveness & Non-violence.” A variety of groups were involved in hosting this event, particularly the Aquinas Campus Ministry and Pax Christi Michigan. Gumbleton centered his lecture on a call for people to “build peace” based on what he called the “pillars of love and justice.”

This was a follow up to last year’s lecture based on Pope John Paul II’s article on peace. As usual, Bishop Gumbleton pointed out many aspects of war and violence in the world, even the violence of unequal distribution of the world’s resources. He said that what the Christian community needed to do was to practice “Enemy Love.” He gave the example of Apartheid in South Africa and how brutal that policy was towards Black South Africans. He stated that Nelson Mandela’s participation in the violent wing of the African National Congress (ANC), the violent wing of the party, wanted to create chaos in the Apartheid system by using violence. Mandela went to prison for 27 years. It was in prison that Mandela had a conversion and began to believe that he had to work as hard for the freedom of the oppressor as the freedom of the oppressed. So Mandela came out of prison committed to non-violence, worked on reconciliation and became president. Gumbleton stated that South Africa is now at peace, but would not have been if the politics of the ANC continued. The speaker did not substantiate his claims with anything other than the autobiography of Mandela. If South Africa is at peace now why are so many people, particularly Black South Africans, living in poverty? Gumbleton did not mention that Mandela embraced the neo-liberal economic model in South Africa, which many critics believe is worse now than during the Apartheid years.

The Bishop then gave the example of the recent murder in Amish community in Pennsylvania. The response by the Amish was to comfort the widow of the murderer. The Amish community is a Christian community that has maintained a commitment to the non-violence that Jesus lived, according to Gumbleton. “This is what all of us are called to if we are Christians.” He discussed the example of Jesus in further detail and then said that the Church has instead “adopted the Just War theory for the past 1600 years” that has attempted to provide a theological justification for war rather than adopting the non-violence epitomized in the life of Jesus Christ. He explained that Just War Theology occupies a tenuous place in contemporary society, as the nature of war has changed so drastically that war now means total destruction. Gumbleton cited prominent military scholar James Keegan to back up his assertion that warfare has changed dramatically since World War II, with it now being “total war.” Gumbleton cited the example of Winston Churchill’s campaign in Hamburg against civilians, the bombing of Dresden, the US fire bombing of Tokyo, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which he calls perhaps “the worst acts of terrorism ever.”

Gumbleton then moved to more recent examples and spoke of the devastation wrought in Iraq from the first Gulf War, the US imposed economic sanctions, and the current US occupation of Iraq. Gumbleton cited Pope John Paul II’s writing following the Gulf War and his call for war “never again” as a proper response to a war that has destroyed Iraq’s infrastructure, killed tens of thousands of civilians, and displaced over a million people. He talked about the types of weapons the US military uses and their devastation, specifically focusing on depleted uranium munitions. Depleted uranium is a bi-product of the nuclear process and is used in bullets, tank armor, and shells and spreads radiation on impact. It is because of the depleted uranium that “56% of all cancer in Iraq is amongst children under the age of 5,” that cancer rates have risen 300-400% in Iraq since the Gulf War, and that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of children born with severe birth defects. Gumbleton explained that he had visited Iraq numerous times, both to visit children injured or dying as a direct or indirect result of the United States’ military operations and as part of a delegation with members of the 9/11 group Families for a Peaceful Tomorrow. He described how that delegation met with the Iraqi families affected by the war and the way in which that experienced affected both groups.

Despite the good information about the consequences of war, the speaker did not address any tactics or strategies to combat war and militarism other than through pleas that the audience should reject war. During the question and answer period there were some questions posed about the cases of genocide in Darfur and Rawanda — could non-violence work in those cases? Gumbleton thought it was possible, but not without great loss and it would take time. He mentioned the example of the Christian Peacemaker Teams in place like Palestine who are trying to put themselves in the midst of conflict to deter violence, but even this oversimplifies a conflict like that. Not everyone can and will do that kind of work, but people could challenge US policy that funds the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. There were several groups involved in anti-war work at this event, but there was not a conscious effort to state clearly what those groups were working on to end the war in Iraq or other anti-war efforts. The only organizing effort mentioned by Gumbleton was the campaign to establish a United States Department of Peace. Such a department, proposed by Ohio Congressional Representative Dennis Kucinich would provide a “counter” to the Defense Department (formerly called the Department of War) and would engage in activities such as teaching nonviolence to children, rehabilitation of prison populations, and build peacemaking between conflicting cultures. However, Gumbleton made no mention how people could get involved in that movement, meaning that his talk essentially told people to oppose war but gave no clear strategies as to how that should be done.

Aquinas Students Protest Pro-Life Week

On Wednesday, students at Aquinas College protested “Pro-Life Awareness Week,” a week in which the group Students for Life sensationalize abortion through the erection of a mock “fetus cemetery” made up of crosses to symbolize aborted fetuses and displaying plastic models of fetuses in various stages of development.

At 9am on Wednesday, October 25, pro-choice students at Aquinas College assembled in the middle of campus to protest Pro-Life Awareness Week. For several years, The Aquinas College Students for Life have claimed an entire week devoted to sensationalizing abortion through the erection of a mock “fetus cemetery” that is made up of rows of wooden crosses that symbolize aborted fetuses, and displaying plastic models of fetuses at various stages of development. Several students appealed to the Women’s Studies Center on campus, prior to the designated Pro-Life Awareness Week, in an attempt to gain administrative support for a more comprehensive approach to the highly controversial issue of abortion. The students requested a forum in which a discussion on the topic of reproductive rights could take place and be moderated. Even with the support of the Women’s Studies Center, the administration denied the students’ request. Two students then proceeded to organize a protest to counter the overwhelming anti-choice movement on the campus.

Over 20 students attended the protest and many more stopped by to commend the protesters for bringing a voice to the pro-choice movement on campus. Even a few of the college’s employees and faculty offered their support, either by joining the student protesters or by providing words of encouragement. However, some students were hostile, including one individual who pulled her car over to the side of the road, jumped out, and began yelling at the protesters. She accused them of being blasphemous, shameful, and anti-Catholic. A few anti-choice students called the protesters “baby killers,” and “pro-abortion.” Though the protest was originally intended to be silent in order to prevent emotional, unmediated confrontation, the protesters re-addressed the notion of the silent protest after an hour or so and agreed that their presence would be more affective if they could speak to individuals, and thereby better communicate the purpose of the protest and its significance.

Halfway through the day, Terry Marshall, the wife of one of the Aquinas theology professors, who is also a faculty member, approached the pro-choice group and implied that she wanted to create a dialogue between the pro-choice students and Students for Life. She then continued on to preach her views on the evils of abortion. The students said they felt that she was non-receptive and condescending. Later that day, two other anti-choice faculty members, Mary Clark-Kaiser and Eric Bridge, confronted the protesters but remained respectful and engaged in relatively meaningful discussion with them.

Throughout the protest, Campus Safety officers stayed near by, but did not interfere. The protesters held their signs silently unless approached and addressed by someone, and aside from a few verbal attacks, the protest went un-interrupted for the full 9 hours. A photographer and a reporter from the Aquinas College student newspaper, The Saint, were also present and they assured the pro-choice students that the protest would be covered in the next issue.

Dr. Jo Reger Discusses Feminism’s “Different Wavelengths”

Last week Friday, feminist author and activist Jo Reger spoke at Aquinas College on contemporary feminism and the movement’s past and future.

Jo Reger, professor of sociology at Oakland University and editor of the book Different Wavelengths: Past, Present, and Future in Contemporary US Feminism, came to speak at Aquinas College on March 31, 2006. She spoke about feminism in the United States – how it has changed over the years, and how it fits into society right now. Reger spoke of three themes that emerge from contemporary feminism: divisions and inclusivity, changes in ideology and strategy, and origins and delineations of feminist waves. Mentioned was the “commonly accepted” version of feminine history, which views the white woman as universal. The “reenvisioned” version, on the other hand, acknowledges that women of all ethnicities have worked on similar issues. Reger, a white woman, stated that while second wave feminism (feminist movement in the 1960s and 1970s) did have problems regarding its race and class makeup, the traditionally told history of second wave feminism writes off the significant contributions of nonwhite women and the times in which white women and nonwhite women from various socioeconomic classes did work together. Some challenges to contemporary feminism mentioned by Reger include the complex construction of feminine history and the necessity to avoid monolithic interpretations.

Reger noted that there has been a call for changes in the strategies and ideology of the feminist movement in the third wave (what some see as feminism’s current wave). These include an emphasis on power feminism versus a feminism that views women as victims as well as an emphasis on the individual’s actions rather than the actions of a group. Traditional strategies seem to be losing their effectiveness. Second wave feminism placed importance on the resistance of heterosexuality. Current feminism (known as the third wave) places importance on resistance through personal choices; for example, making one’s appearance a form of “everyday resistance.” Also, certain domestic tasks are being reinvented by women, such as knitting – Reger notes that knitting has become an especially popular method of making a political statement about domesticity. On the national level, Reger has observed that there are no feminist leaders. Instead, there has been a trend toward turning to musicians, such as Ani DiFranco and Kathleen Hanna, for “emotional empowerment.”

As for the future of feminism, Reger mentioned referred to “social movement spillover” – she noted that most activists are involved in a variety of causes such as anti globalization, and that these causes often intertwine. Feminism is shaped by local communities, and can not be universally defined; it is “diverse and fragmented.” It is for this reason Reger stated in her presentation’s end that it may be misleading to speak about values, tactics, and emphases of the third wave, since contemporary feminist movement is so decentralized.

After Dr. Reger’s presentation, small groups were formed to discuss issues regarding women’s liberation on local college campuses, as the audience was made up almost entirely of student and faculty from area schools. The discussions made painfully clear the draconian treatment of students working to dismantle patriarchy and heterosexism by the administrations of many local conservative colleges. While no concrete organizational plans resulted from these small groups, connections were made between schools and consciousness was raised of the reality of organizing and of life in general for those working on ending oppression while living under it.