Subject: ETAN's Chris Lundy featured in article on student activism

[Excerpt: "He describes ETAN as, "perhaps the only group of our kind that has unequivocally achieved our goal from the start: A referendum and subsequent independence for East Timor.""

Serving Arizona State University Online Since 1995

Current Issue: Thursday, November 18, 2004

The election has been over for weeks, but activism doesn’t stop there. by Andrew Benson

With the election two weeks in the past, political pundits have hung up their hats and band-wagoners have hopped along to find their next cause. All the while, social struggles working for justice continue.

During the Oct. 13 debate at ASU, students picked up signs at their respective tables and chanted their respective chants, and that was the extent of popular political dialogue. Now, for the most part, their voices are silent. But a few key groups on campus refuse to let the voice of social change fade.

According to a new study by Political Research Associates, college campuses are an integral component to political dialogue and change. PRA is a non profit research group that, "provides accurate applied research and useful analytical tools to inform and support progressive activism that promotes equality and justice."

By using PRA's research and listening to student voices, we at SPM have compiled a primer for students who want to continue their contribution to political dialogue on ASU's campus.

Currently, ASU has 43 socio-political groups out of 500 student groups registered with the Student Organization Resource Center. These groups grant many opportunities for the gain of information and forums for students to express their views.

The number of issues these groups address is immense, but they all have one underlying theme: injustice.

Injustice, freedom, equality -- these are the buzzwords of social change and their definitions remain as variant as the individuals who strive for them. SPM looked for groups that go beyond partisan lines to the heart of politics in addressing pressing social issues. We found them by sending a questionnaire on activism to several group representatives on campus.

Activism, what is it?

Michael Gecan, the author of "Going Public, an Organizer's Guide to Citizen Action," gives a basic definition of activism "it's when more than one person focused on a specific issue, engages a person in power directly responsible for that issue, for the purpose of getting a response."

He gives examples such as, "3,000 leaders meeting with the mayor of Baltimore demanding that the city pay living wages."

Charles "Chuck" Banaszewski, a Ph.D. candidate in the College of Fine Arts Theater program, has a different take on activism.

Banaszewski can be found occasionally on Mill Avenue or in front of Lattie F. Coor Hall brandishing a gold-leafed frame around the word "protestor" written on his shirt. When he speaks to students outside the Coor building, he occasionally glances at the security camera that records every movement he makes.

Banaszewski is a member of the Arizona Surveillance Camera Players, a splinter group of the New York Surveillance Camera Players, who address the reclamation of public space and the growing "security culture."

As a performance artist, Banaszewski values free association, "I think it is unhealthy to attach

oneself to a clearly defined platform ... it has the potential to inhibit critical thinking about issues."

In his solo protest actions, Banaszewski engages people with performance theater that intrigues and allows for questioning, making for a very personal form of activism.

Impact

While Banaszewski works primarily on his own, Chris Lundry is active through a national organization that is specifically committed to the gain of independence for East Timor.

Lundry, currently working on his Ph.D. in political science, is the president of the East Timor Action Network.

He describes ETAN as, "perhaps the only group of our kind that has unequivocally achieved our goal from the start: A referendum and subsequent independence for East Timor."

When he speaks about the role of activism in society, Lundry says, "If everyone in this country devoted just a little time to a cause they supported, then our government would reflect much better the true will of the people."

ETAN is active in many ways, including organizing protests and street theater, direct lobbying, phone, fax and e-mail campaigns, speaking tours, films, lectures and newsletters.

Lundry tells people who are not active that it does not take much of a time commitment to write a letter or bring up issues to peers. He believes strongly that part of activism is "general consciousness raising, so just making people aware of issues may have an impact in other aspects of their life."

Students who want to join a group but can't find one that represents them well have the opportunity to start their own. Sociology and political science senior Joe Hargrave is the president of the recently founded Students For Social Equality, a group whose focus he says is "address[ing] any and every issue you can think of."

He adds that the group spends a good amount of time "analyzing the most pressing and burning issues of our day," including the economy, the war in Iraq and the recent presidential election.

Starting a group like Hargrave, working independently like Banaszewski or working under a national organization like Lundry are some of the options available for students to become socially and politically active.

What do we want to change?

According to PRA's research, students are in the fortunate situation of having increased representation and exposure to the pressing social issues of our time, more so than those outside of the university setting. It is the goal of student organizations to help increase dialogue and change by bringing together the strength of dynamic individuals like you.

"If you are not active, then you passively support the status quo," says Banaszewski, "I am not going to say the status quo is bad because that just creates a binary of 'us versus them' which is counterproductive in its own right."

If you're interested in more information, check out www.asu.edu/clubs.

Reach the reporter at andrew.benson@asu.edu.

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