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Grapes Bring Activism Back

NEWS ANALYSIS

By Jacqueline A. Newmyer, CONTRIBUTING WRITER

For many members of the Harvard community, the most significant outcome of the controversy surrounding the grape referendum has nothing to do with the bite-size fruit.

Yesterday's vote, which will decide the fate of grapes in dining halls, followed weeks of debate between boycott advocates and those who oppose the moratorium on the fruit.

Adam R. Kovacevich '99, whose family owns a grape farm in Bakersfield, Calif., has been a leader of the pro-grape faction.

He founded the Grape Coalition, an ad hoc committee, to inform students about labor conditions and environmental standards in grape cultivation, issues which have been attacked by boycott supporters.

The boycott defenders included campus groups such as RAZA, a Mexican-American/Chicano/Latino student organization; the Progressive Student Labor Movement; and UNITE, an umbrella organization for undergraduate activists.

Students on both sides of the issue said they are amazed by the character of the grape debate. Many said they believe that the controversy may have set a precedent for activism by Harvard conservatives against liberal causes.

"I was really surprised that [anti-boycott students] were out there writing to The Crimson, putting up posters and all the other things they did," said RAZA President Gonzalo Martinez '98. "I was taken aback by the loud advocacy of conservative grape-eaters."

Traditionally hushed conservatives on campus mobilized the Grape Coalition to end the boycott.

They rallied support for the pro-grape cause by postering and demonstrating--tactics generally associated with progressive activism, Martinez said.

"Conservatives are usually quiet," said Noah Z. Seton '00, president of the Harvard-Radcliffe Republican Alliance. "But the more acclimated people get to the idea of active conservatives, the more active conservatives they're going to see."

The desire to see their positions victorious spurred representatives from both the pro-and anti-boycott factions to conduct active campaigns.

Sergio J. Campos '00, a member of RAZA, said the emotional build-up-leading up to the referendum stood out in a climate that is biased "against blatant activism."

"Things like this don't happen very often here," Campos said. "I'd never picture those guys [in the Grape Coalition] as activist types."

Undergraduate Council President Lamelle D. Rawlins '99 said she endorsed the multi-sided nature of the grape discussion.

"This is a progressive campus," Rawlins said. "Conservative views are unpopular, so they tend to be more subtly expressed."

Kovacevich described his experience defending a cause that is considered anti-progressive.

"It's not been an especially hospitable climate for expressing an opposing view," Kovacevich said. "I think I understand now why there hasn't been opposition in the past."

But student leaders on the pro-boycott side said even members of their organizations needed rousing.

"For RAZA, it was a real kick in the ass to people who had just been sitting around," Martinez said. "I think, though, that it provided a lot of momentum for RAZA in terms of involving members."

Kovacevich and Seton stressed the importance of supporting the anti-boycott cause in the face of vociferous campaigning by the opposition.

"We can't let the other side dominate social action," Seton said.

"I started the Grape Coalition because in the past a vocal minority has tended to steamroll these issues without being challenged," Kovacevich said. "I wanted this to be more than a one-sided debate."

Whether conservatives will progress from the grape issue to other campus causes remains to be seen.

In spite of the visibility the Grape Coalition has achieved in the last month, one board member predicted a less than outspoken future.

"I think there will be a return to normal," said Frank E. Pacheco '98 of the Grape Coalition. "Conservatives will all go back into their closets.

The boycott defenders included campus groups such as RAZA, a Mexican-American/Chicano/Latino student organization; the Progressive Student Labor Movement; and UNITE, an umbrella organization for undergraduate activists.

Students on both sides of the issue said they are amazed by the character of the grape debate. Many said they believe that the controversy may have set a precedent for activism by Harvard conservatives against liberal causes.

"I was really surprised that [anti-boycott students] were out there writing to The Crimson, putting up posters and all the other things they did," said RAZA President Gonzalo Martinez '98. "I was taken aback by the loud advocacy of conservative grape-eaters."

Traditionally hushed conservatives on campus mobilized the Grape Coalition to end the boycott.

They rallied support for the pro-grape cause by postering and demonstrating--tactics generally associated with progressive activism, Martinez said.

"Conservatives are usually quiet," said Noah Z. Seton '00, president of the Harvard-Radcliffe Republican Alliance. "But the more acclimated people get to the idea of active conservatives, the more active conservatives they're going to see."

The desire to see their positions victorious spurred representatives from both the pro-and anti-boycott factions to conduct active campaigns.

Sergio J. Campos '00, a member of RAZA, said the emotional build-up-leading up to the referendum stood out in a climate that is biased "against blatant activism."

"Things like this don't happen very often here," Campos said. "I'd never picture those guys [in the Grape Coalition] as activist types."

Undergraduate Council President Lamelle D. Rawlins '99 said she endorsed the multi-sided nature of the grape discussion.

"This is a progressive campus," Rawlins said. "Conservative views are unpopular, so they tend to be more subtly expressed."

Kovacevich described his experience defending a cause that is considered anti-progressive.

"It's not been an especially hospitable climate for expressing an opposing view," Kovacevich said. "I think I understand now why there hasn't been opposition in the past."

But student leaders on the pro-boycott side said even members of their organizations needed rousing.

"For RAZA, it was a real kick in the ass to people who had just been sitting around," Martinez said. "I think, though, that it provided a lot of momentum for RAZA in terms of involving members."

Kovacevich and Seton stressed the importance of supporting the anti-boycott cause in the face of vociferous campaigning by the opposition.

"We can't let the other side dominate social action," Seton said.

"I started the Grape Coalition because in the past a vocal minority has tended to steamroll these issues without being challenged," Kovacevich said. "I wanted this to be more than a one-sided debate."

Whether conservatives will progress from the grape issue to other campus causes remains to be seen.

In spite of the visibility the Grape Coalition has achieved in the last month, one board member predicted a less than outspoken future.

"I think there will be a return to normal," said Frank E. Pacheco '98 of the Grape Coalition. "Conservatives will all go back into their closets.

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