|Office of the Chancellor / Public Affairs||
Monday, November 1, 2004
Oakland Tribune 10-31-04
Some Cal students anxious, others indifferent about draft
While presidential candidates trade accusations about
re-instituting a military draft, most students at the University of California,
Berkeley are concerned, but hardly losing sleep over the possibility of
their number coming up.
"There's the stuff going on around you politically," said Chris Condap, 19, an engineering and mathematics major, "and then the things that directly impact me. I would say there is a resounding sense of apathy in the face of large amounts of work and the recent rounds of midterms."
The focus on immediate concerns, however, does not wrap a campus of 30,000
in an impenetrable academic bubble. Berkeley students are politically
savvy, and the school's 60s legacy still attracts a number of progressive
"I'm not that concerned about the draft," said Sarah Schwartz, 20, an English major from Los Angeles, "because it would be a ridiculous political move by Bush."
While President Bush has said he would not impose a draft, his Democratic challenger, John Kerry, predicts the draft will return if Bush is re-elected. Two weeks ago, the Republican-controlled House overwhelmingly rejected a Democratic-sponsored bill to reinstate the draft.
"People here are more concerned with politics than the average young person," added Colin Elzie, 20, a German major from Grass Valley. "But to be totally honest, the draft isn't a real presence.... It's out of the scope of my concerns. I'm more worried about paying for school."
Twenty yards away, Henry Troung, a peer adviser, was manning a booth with information on university policies.
"Finding a job after I graduate is more on my mind than the draft," said Truong, 21, a political science major from Los Angeles. "And I'm not particularly worried about the draft. I know it's not politically viable."
However, not all students thought it was out of the realm of possibility.
Yve Laris-Cohen, 18, a political activist from San Diego, has been surprised by the apathy she has seen on campus, having envisioned a Berkeley more akin to its 60s spirit. She said the draft is a definite concern and just as likely whether Bush or Kerry is elected.
This time the draft would be more inclusive, said Laris-Cohen, referring to the defeated bill that mandated military service for men and women, college students not excepted.
Ben Ebert, 23, a native of Atascadero, graduated with a degree in social welfare last spring.
"I would certainly say the draft is a concern of mine, Ebert said. As far as the course Bush has us on, the necessity is almost inevitable. I think it's one of the most prominent reasons not to re-elect him."
Earlier across campus, 20 ROTC soldiers clad in camouflage battle fatigues stood in neat rows outside Berkeley's ROTC office. The student soldiers were about to begin exercises that protect soldiers coming under fire in the field.
John Makar, 21, the battalion's social coordinator, studies mechanical engineering who serves in the Army National Guard, is against the draft.
"I don't like the idea of a non-voluntary military. It takes away the willingness of someone to serve."
However, he described recall measures currently employed by the military as a sort of "reverse" draft.
When soldiers enlist, they sign a military service obligation contract, which generally covers an eight-year period. In times of peace, enlistees are only required to serve the first four years, but are still subject to serve the remaining four if the country goes to war.
"More and more people are finishing their deployments and opting to get out," said Makar, referring to such recall measures and the Army's stop-loss policy. "(They are) killing our numbers and our strength. We may not be able to keep going the way we are without the draft."
Melissa Nix is a student in the Graduate School of Journalism at the
University of California, Berkeley.
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