Thursday, Nov. 2, many University of Maine students and community members gathered together to discuss the topic of student activism at the Bangor Room, Memorial Union. Hosted by the Student Women’s Association (SWA) and the Maine Peace Action Committee (MPAC), the event was part of a group of seven gatherings in the Socialist and Marxist Studies series which is put on every Thursday from 12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.
The event was an open forum for students and guests to pose questions and learn more information about how students are involved and affected by everyday issues, and how they can get more involved on campus and in the surrounding Orono and Bangor areas. The speakers dealt with topics such as war, racism in the student body, sexuality and sexism, sustainability and the preservation of natural resources and violence.
“Probably the strongest message conveyed is that another way of living our lives is possible, that we need not contribute to or be silently complicit with so much structural and institutional violence,” MPAC co-founder Douglas Allen said. “When we join together with other students to work for peace and justice, we live our best values and find meaning in our lives.”
The day and discussion was led and organized by Olivia Ruhlin, a member of MPAC and SWA, along with other group members and active participants. Each year, the MPAC plans and holds events that focus on the messages they want to convey to the student body.
“We are a very open and democratic group that offers a lot to students disturbed by so much violence and injustice today. We also need input from others concerned with nonviolent peace education and action,” Allen said.
The MPAC plans and organizes discussions and meetings which allow students to talk about the pressing topics current issues of the world.
“Events and activities over the years have been guided by the fact that MPAC is a peace education group, in which we attempt to educate ourselves about the major peace and justice issues and to share this with others,” Allen said.“We attempt to apply our education to make a difference on campus and in the world.”
Founded and created in 1974, the MPAC was started in order to offer an anti-war peace and justice group on campus, where students could freely express opinions and views on topics like the Vietnam War, oppression, injustice and violence.
“MPAC is one of the oldest peace and justice groups at any university in the United States,” Allen said. “Members decided that they could unite around the priority of ending the U.S. war in Vietnam, and we had anti-war Vietnamese and other speakers, films, concerts and actions on campus.”
There are two remaining events in the Socialist and Marxist Studies series. The Nov. 9 one deals with the follow up on Donald Trump’s victory one year after the election. On Nov. 16, the series concludes with a talk about the four foundational theories of labor activism in Maine.
To learn more about the series or the MPAC, please visit umaine.edu/mpac or check out their biannual newsletter located in Fogler Library and the Memorial Union.