While the struggle against South African apartheid continues to dominate the campus political spotlight, a group of Harvard students are concentrating their attention on another international problem--the possibility of a U.S. war in Central America.
Over the past year, about 100 undergraduates, graduate students and professors have signed a national petition pledging to oppose an escalation of U.S. military involvement in Central America. Signers of the petition vow to combat military aggression with acts of civil disobedience.
The petition, titled "The Pledge of Resistance," has garnered an estimated 110,000 signatures nationwide, according to Thomas A. Bunch, a fourth-year graduate student in molecular biology who has signed the petition.
The Committee on Central America (COCA), a student group with about 20 members, has been organizing the campus petition drive.
Acting on their pledge, Harvard students have participated in a series of recent Boston demonstrations, and some have been arrested.
Two weeks ago, about 25 Harvard students joined representatives of more than 50 activist groups on the Boston Common to protest U.S. support for the Salvadoran government's bombing of rebel forces.
Last May, 3000 people, including about 40 Harvard students, marched in front of the John F. Kennedy federal office building to protest the Reagan Administration's declaration of a trade embargo against Nicaragua. Police arrested 589 of the demonstrators, including more than 10 Harvard students, said Gawain Kripke '88 of Adams House, who participated in the protest.
A similar protest followed on June 12 opposing Congress's approval of $14 million in military aid to the Nicaraguan contras.
Activities this fall have included a letter writing campaign and a fundraising effort in cooperation with other regional groups.
The petition has gained the support of at least two prominent professors, Boylston Professor of Latin American History and Economics John Womack and Higgins Professor of Biology Emeritus George Wald.
"Americans who care about what the American government does in their name should continue to find ways of opposing the United States' intervention in Central America. What the U.S. government is doing is both grossly illegal and stupid and must be opposed." said Womack, who serves as COCA faculty adviser.
"The peace loving people who are in opposition to policies in E1 Salvador and the Phillipincs have no where to go politically. Having tried everything else, we are turning to civil disobedience," said Wald, a Nobel laureate