Radical campus groups talk unity
Kelly Mangan
March 2003

A concerted effort is being made by radical UF students to provide the university's progressive groups with a greater voice on campus. The Colors of Resistance (COR) and Students Taking Action Against Racism (STAAR) organized panels on Feb. 4th and Feb. 11th, which provided progressive groups a forum in which they could explain more about their organizations.

COR member Dan Berger said the organization arranged the panels in order to bring student groups together to build a better university.

"COR feels that there are a lot of good organizations on campus doing important work," he said. "And if we were more coordinated, we could be more effective in making change."

After the Feb. 11 panel, it was suggested that radical UF student groups form a progressive coalition in order to give their organizations the support needed to complete with well-funded, conservative student organizations. COR facilitated a meeting between several organizations on Feb. 18 to discuss the particulars of a left coalition.

Mark Villegas, the speaker for the ASU at the second panel, said that the most pressing issue facing his organization today is disunity and ignorance of Asian American issues. Villegas, who is also the vice president of the Filipino Student Association, welcomes the idea of a progressive coalition as being beneficial to all struggling minorities.

"I see a necessity and importance in forming relationships with other organizations," he said. "These relationships help with the attainment of the group's larger goals in that getting to know other people outside ASU will give members a better understanding of others, as well as themselves."

Villegas says that, despite the groups' different goals and ideologies, the commonality between the progressive organizations is that they all struggle for equality, education, and justice.

Patrick Poyner-Del Vento, of GGSA, said he is interested in a progressive coalition, and is confident that it would benefit all organizations involved

I do think it's important for us to work together on issues that we can all agree on, and that would occur when the goals are more general," he said.

However, organizations with specific political ideologies are concerned that their goals would be lost within a coalition with vaguely out-lined objectives.

Rifk Ebeid, president of Nakba '48 (pro-Palestinian organization), said that forming a radical coalition might not be possible since groups have their own agendas to pursue.

"Since we're here to promote human rights for Palestinians, if [groups in the coalition] don't want to do that, there would really be no point in our group joining," Ebeid said.

Nakba Vice President Laura Hammad said that her organization would have no problem joining a coalition against racism, since Nakba also fights racism. However, she feels that a radical listserv (something proposed at the panels) might be better than a coalition, because each organization's cause is big enough on its own.

"Specifically, we're not sure how the coalition would work since each group has a different perspective," Hammad said. She also added that, while Nakba is currently undecided as to whether to participate, it could not be involved in a coalition with groups like Gators for Israel, which she says are antagonistic to her organization.

At the Feb. 18 planning meeting, groups in attendance decided that a radical listserve would be an effective way for progressive organizations to inform one another of upcoming actions. As for the coalition, agreements are yet to be made on how it would be structured, and what the unifying principles should be.

Campus NOW was upset by groups' initial hesitance for the coalition to take a pro-choice stance, though the points of unity have yet to be decided.

However, Campus NOW co-president Jennifer Joy said that Campus NOW would consider participating if the coalition is pro-choice.

More meetings have been scheduled in order to tackle these and other issues, and all groups interested in participating in a progressive coalition have been asked to submit paragraphs to COR stating what unifying principles each group feels should be addressed.

Berger and others from COR admit that forming a collective of radical and progressive groups will be a challenge, but reason that the potential gains are inestimable.

"If a coalition was formed, we could not only support each other's events more, but create a unified program of what we demand from the university and act in a concerted way on different fronts to make our vision a reality," Berger said.

More meetings have been planned to address the issues involved in creating this radical coalition.

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