Saturday, November 22, 2008

 

The BFC "Support the troops" resolution of 2003

Here is reprinted a 2003 weblog entry, plus some new BFC material I found.

Chancellor Brehm was helpful when the Bloomington Faculty Council passed a resolution on the War in Iraq last spring. Let me recount that, a good practice when annoyed by someone. I suggested a "support the troops" resolution to BFC President Eno, who gave me the good advice that he didn't think it would have much chance of getting through with a strong enough vote to make it worthwhile. I asked him for an example of someone who he thought would probably be opposed, and he suggested Professor Marsh. She took my idea seriously, and rewrote my draft completely, but in a way that satisfied both of us:

As in any democracy, a wide diversity of opinion exists among the faculty of Indiana University, Bloomington, concerning the War in Iraq. However, we wish warmly to extend our sympathy and support to those men and women whose lives are caught up in this conflict:

First, the members of the IUB community -- students, staff, and alumni -- currently serving in Iraq. We commend their devotion to duty, grieve for their losses and those of their families, applaud their attempts to limit injury to innocent Iraqi civilians, and wish them a safe return to their country.

Second, our thoughts go out to those thousands of innocents in Iraq -- men, women, and (above all) children -- whose lives, homes, and families have been lost in or damaged by this war. We hope humanitarian aid may be speedily and generously delivered for their assistance, and wish all luck to those members of the extended IU community who are involved in that effort.

Third, we think also of the Arab and Iraqi students on this campus and on campuses across America, and of Arab- and Iraqi-American citizens of all kinds, for whom the conditions and precautions of war have created distress. We hope that our country will maintain its tradition of tolerance and respect for all.

I told Chancellor Brehm that we'd like to introduce the resolution if there was time at the end of the meeting, but that if it looked like it would get bogged down in discussion, we wouldn't pursue it. Since this was the last meeting of the year, with a heavy agenda, and this resolution was a last-minute idea, she could quite fairly have killed it simply by not giving it any time. But as it turned out, there was five minutes free at the end of the meeting, and the resolution's wording was acceptable to pretty much everybody (I think maybe there were some helpful minor changes, but everybody was in a cooperative spirit).

The lessons?

  1. Even liberal professors who opposed the war were willing to say nice things about American troops.

  2. It's possible for a local organization to write a sensible resolution that touches on foreign policy. Note that we kept everything tied in to Indiana University, the idea being that such a resolution was appropriate because the war was having a significant effect on some members of the University. We weren't trying to make foreign policy with the resolution.

  3. It's possible for people with drastically different political viewpoints to work constructively together. I am very conservative; Professor Marsh is, I gather, much to my left, as Chancellor Brehm and most of the BFC probably is, but we came up with a worthwhile resolution anyway--one that was not even just a compromise, but that very different people could sincerely support in all its parts.

Reading it again, the resolution looks even better than it did at the time, since it turns out that our soldiers are spending more time helping civilians than they did fighting the enemy.

Today:

Here's what the April 15, 2003 Minutes say:

NEW BUSINESS ITEM: RESOLUTION ON WAR IN IRAQ
(Professor Eric Rasmusen)

BREHM: Now, Eric, that leaves you 10 minutes.

RASMUSEN: Okay, well that’s all I asked for. This is something that either we do quickly or we don’t do at all. And either is fine I guess. I was thinking it would be nice to have some kind of resolution on the Iraq situation. Not one on policy, which isn’t our business and could take a lot longer than 10 minutes but something in support of the IU people who are involved. And I’m passing around now a resolution to that effect and I’ll read it in a minute. I wasn’t going to bring it up at all if we didn’t have much time. If there’s a lot of opposition we’ll just table it and not consider it. It’s meant to be non controversial and if there’s a lot of changes to wording people want we’ll also have to just ditch it.

But, I’ve mentioned this to Bob Eno and he said if this is controversial it will take too much time. And I said, who’s somebody who’s likely to be very opposed to the war? And he said, and you might not like this, Joss Marsh. Sorry Joss. So I went to her and said is there any kind of language you would support and she came up with basically this resolution and I’ve made a couple more changes. So we’ve got two votes for it. If we find that ten people don’t like it and need more discussion, then we’ll just wait until the next war. But I’ll read to you what we have now. This is meant to be something very IU oriented, so we would like to have as many names of individual people over there as possible and I’ve talked with the Registrar’s Office, they found from the Department of Education that they have permission, they do have permission to tell us which students are over there, but they wanted to have the lawyers look over the resolution first. So, where there’s XXX, YYY would be for whatever names of people we could get. Also we would put in whatever staff members we can get. The University doesn’t really know, doesn’t keep track of that very well. I’ll read this. Shall I read it out loud? Probably the best thing to do.

“As in any democracy, a wide diversity of opinions exists among the faculty of Indiana University Bloomington concerning the war in Iraq. However we wish warmly to extend our sympathy and support to those men and women whose lives are caught up in this conflict. First, the members of the IUB community, students, staff and alumni currently serving in Iraq. We know this group includes—and we’re going to insert names—as well as the others. We commend their devotion to duty, grieve for their losses, for their families, applaud their attempts to limit injury to innocent Iraqi civilians and wish them a safe return to their countries.

Second, our thoughts go out to those thousands of innocent in Iraq, men, women and above all children who’s lives, homes, and families have been lost in or damaged by this war. We hope humanitarian aid may be speedily and generously delivered for their assistance and wish all luck to those members of the extended IU community who are involved in that effort.

Third, we think also of the Arab and Iraqi students on this campus and on campuses across America and Arab and Iraqi citizens of all kinds for whom the conditions and precautions of war have created distress. We hope that after hostilities cease our country will maintain its tradition of tolerance and respect for all.”

BREHM: Yes, Deidre?

LYNCH: I really appreciate the spirit of this but I’m very worried by the language of after “hostilities seize, we’ll maintain this tradition of tolerance and respect for all,” meaning that we won’t maintain it while hostilities are ongoing? Do you need the “after hostilities” why not just “that we hope that our country will maintain its tradition of tolerance and respect for all”.

RASMUSEN: That very good. Friendly amendment that I accept.

BREHM: Would someone like to move?

CARR: So moved.

BREHM: Yes?

MALE SPEAKER: Second.

BREHM: We have, it’s been moved and seconded. All of those in favor of the statement with the friendly amendment? Yes, Moira?

SMITH: Not a friendly amendment, just an editorial thing in the third paragraph, the third line where it says grieve for their losses and for their families, I think we need to say, “grief for their losses and those of their families.”

BREHM: Okay, all those in favor please signify by raising your hand.

BOBAY: I got 34.

BREHM: All those opposed [none]. Abstentions [3]? The motion passes. Not hearing any objections, I’m about to adjourn us for this year. However, we’re not really adjourned because you are all invited to my house and I hope I’ll see you very shortly. So we are sort of adjourned. Thank you very much.

I don't know, by the way, if the names ever did get filled in,a nd whether the resolution was publicized for quietly put away to hide, which is a standard way of getting rid of something one doesn't like.

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