In an act of memorial and protest, hundreds of Chapman students staged a walkout this morning as a part of a nationwide movement for gun control reform and to honor the victims of the Parkland shooting a month ago today.
#ENOUGH National Walkout
This morning’s walkout was a subsidiary of a national protest, the #ENOUGH National School Walkout, which was organized by Women’s March Youth Empower. Chapman’s walkout was one of over 2,800 planned internationally, according to the Women’s March Youth Empower website.
Banning of assault weapons, required universal background checks, and the passing of a gun violence restraining order law are among the Youth Empower’s demands, according to the #ENOUGH Walkout website.
Chapman’s satellite walkout was coordinated by junior political science major Alexis Sutterman via Facebook.
“We’re hoping that the walkout shows that Chapman students specifically care about this issue and we’re not apathetic to it,” Sutterman said. “We actually want to come out and continue this dialogue on campus.”
The event page listed 203 students as ‘going’ and 255 as ‘interested’. Students were given the opportunity to register to vote and to sign a petition for “common sense gun reform” to be presented to district Congressman Lou Correa. Many students dressed in symbolic orange in support of gun control.
Manning the voter registration table was freshman peace studies and political science double major Max Lopez, who said that letting students know how to be politically active in the future was key for this event.
“Last year in the election, I didn’t know that you could phonebank or campaign, I thought you just showed up to vote,” said Lopez. “College students is the demographic with the largest voting population of millennials but we vote at the smallest propensity to anyone else, so we wanted to push voter registration.”
The walkout began at 10 AM and speakers began after 17 minutes, in honor of the 17 deaths from the Parkland shooting.
Five community members spoke to the Attallah Piazza crowd about political activism, gun control, and the power of voting.
Arianna Ngnomire, Chapman SGA vice presidential candidate, started the conversation by emphasizing the need for gun control.
“There’s this weird misconception that being critical of America is anti-American. Our history shows that being critical of America is the most American thing you can do,” Ngnomire said.
Reverend Nancy Brink of the Fish Interfaith Center then took the floor to encourage political activism in students.
“One would think that I would be deeply touched by all of the thoughts and prayers we have gotten from Congress and from this White House,” Brink said. “I believe in thoughts in prayers. Thoughts and prayers are my trade. I am sick and tired to death of thoughts and prayers.”
Chapman graduate and candidate for Buena Park City Council Connor Traut also spoke to students and encouraged them to run for office as a form of political activism. Professor Tom Zoellner and President of Chapman University Young Democrats Olivia Kellett spoke as well.
Will professors penalize student activism?
Chapman professors are faced with deciding whether or not to excuse class absences in the name of protest due to the high volume of student participation.
In an email to Chapman faculty obtained by The Prowl, Provost Glenn M. Pfeiffer, Ph.D., explained that how instructors respond to the walkout is entirely their choice, though professors are encouraged to embrace student activism.
“Please remember that Chapman University embraces free speech among all members of our community and we want to encourage open debate of important issues,” Pfeiffer wrote in said email. “Therefore, regardless of your position on this or any other issue, I ask you to be tolerant of the protesters and plan accordingly.”
Legally, students have a First Amendment right to protest, but professors are still able to dock points or refuse makeup opportunity for class time missed by the protest.
“What’s the point of having a protest without having consequences?” Dean of Students Jerry Price said. “If the notion is, ‘I want to go protest but I don’t want any negative consequences for speaking out’, that seems kind of thin.”
Price said he was asked to include the walkout on his weekly announcement email but declined because he didn’t want it to seem like the university endorsed students missing classes.
“I would be disappointed if the only way students were engaged is when they had the opportunity to miss class to come to a rally. But if part of the larger engagement included this, then that’s great.”
Art as protest: Pirie’s installation
In another point of protest, senior studio art major Alison Pirie staged an exhibition piece on Memorial Lawn. The piece is a pile of 62 desks to represent the number of student deaths due to gun violence on college campuses since the Virginia Tech Massacre in 2007, according to Pirie.
“I knew I wanted to create an installation on campus to go along with the walkout as a visualization of the impact gun violence has had on schools, specifically focusing on college campuses,” Pirie said. “The advocacy shown by the Parkfield high school students to organize this march and spark institutional change inspired me to want to bring that conversation to Chapman.”
Pirie’s art was not directly coordinated with the walkout, but both Pirie and Sutterman said they feel that both acts of protest compliment each other.
“We’re really thrilled that this is happening on the same day,” Sutterman said of Pirie’s piece. “I think it’s an amazing work of art.”
With the walkout completed, student activists are turning their attention to the “March for Our Lives” protest planned for Saturday, March 24. The main march will be held in D.C., but over 700 offshoots are planned worldwide, including marches located in Orange, Santa Ana, and Irvine. A larger march is planned for Los Angeles.