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Students at Stanford, Brown, and Cornell, among other schools, walked out in solidarity with the victims of last month’s Parkland shooting, while also advocating for stronger gun restrictions.
The March 14 walkout took place exactly one month after a shooting occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., claiming the lives of 17 faculty members and students.
Because there was no central location from which to “walk out” of, as was the case with many high school walkouts on the same day, students at all three universities met at a designated spot to hold a rally for 17 minutes.
“The walkout and the concept was not designed for colleges, and that was a big thing we factored into our own event,” Brown walkout co-organizer Keiko R. Cooper-Hohn said. “It asked for us to protest by standing up and walking out of a class, but our classes are principally lecture based, so the sight of student walking in and out of lecture, you know, you don’t pay any thought to that.”
The turnout was “incredible”, according to Cooper-Hohn.
At Stanford, event co-organizer and senior Zoe A. Goldblum said she thought the turnout was also good at their rally, especially given that the university was in the midst of “dead week,” a period in which students attend the quarter’s last week of classes while also preparing for upcoming final exams.
“I think that there were mixed feelings about the turnout. I thought that the turnout was pretty good considering it was dead week. We estimated at any given point that there were about 200 to 300 people there,” Goldblum said.
At Stanford, the event was co-sponsored by several organizations, including the Jewish Student Association, the American Indian Organization, and the Black Student Union, among others.
“The reason we reached out to so many co-sponsors and so many different organizations is because we wanted to recognize and put at the center of the walkout that mass school shootings aren’t the only way people are impacted by gun violence,” Goldblum said. “In particular, marginalized communities are impacted by it everyday.”
For some students, the walkouts also served as an opportunity to engage in political activism. Cornell’s event was led by the school’s College Democrats and was organized by the club’s president, Natalie S. Brown.
“We had a very clear message that we wanted students to demand change in any ways they could, so if that meant volunteering for efforts for Democratic candidates to change gun laws is one thing, if it’s donating towards advocacy groups that are trying to change gun laws, that’s another thing,” Brown said.
“The real point was to demand action and to act upon it. Don’t be complacent,” she added.
“I’d say that the Cornell Dems did a really good job rallying everyone around the issue,” said Liel Sterling, an attendee and undergraduate at Cornell.
At Stanford, Goldblum said she also considered their walkout’s message to be political.
“I totally consider it political. I think that there were some questions about if this was in memorial or in protest, and I think that there’s no reason that it can’t necessarily be both. I think that there’s a way to honor people who have been killed while also trying to prevent the same thing from happening to other people,” she said.
At Brown, however, the message was a little different.
“I don’t think the students or the faculty here saw it as political, because we are a community that, in its most intrinsic of its values, supports the safety of its students,” Cooper-Hohn said.
Harvard and Yale, which were both on spring break at the time of the nationwide walkouts, will host separate events. At Yale, a vigil took place on Feb. 25, and a separate March for our Lives is slated to occur sometime in April, according to Ananya Kumar-Banerjee, a co-organizer of the event.
At Harvard, a sit-in is scheduled to occur on the steps of Widener Library on April 2o, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting.
—Staff writer Idil Tuysuzoglu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @idiltuysuzoglu.
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