Brown: How Radical?

By Peter Ian Asen ’04 / September / October 2006
November 13th, 2006

I wish you could have published the brief profileof three class of 2006 members who joined the marines without rehashingthe tired stereotype that the average Brown student “thinks the UnitedStates is responsible for 95 percent of the world’s ills” and, byimplication, that many Brownies hold even stronger “anti-American”views (“Pride & Joy,” July/August).


WhenBrown students and others protested outside of the federal building indowntown Providence on March 20, 2003, the first day of the Iraq war, Iwas there.

And, as many readers of the BAM might be surprised to know, only a few dozen students were concerned enough to attend the protest. Similarly, when I wrote columns in the Brown Daily Herald in late 2001 questioning the wisdom of the war in Afghanistan, the response was hardly the cheers BAM would have its readers expect.

In short, I was far left of the Brown center when I graduated two years ago, and yet I find the notion that the United States is responsible for 95 percent of the world’s ills patently silly.

As Matthew Goracy ’06, Ashley Noreuil ’06, and Evan Pettyjohn ’06 say in your article, most of their classmates, whatever their positions on the war, did not disparage their decision to join the marines. Nevertheless, many do believe that the war these three marines will most likely have to fight in is a mistake, wasting billions of dollars and killing thousands of Americans and Iraqis alike. You don’t have to hate the United States to embrace that position.

Brown students are somewhat more liberal than the society around them, but the truth is that Brown is probably a far less radical place than most colleges were thirty-five years ago. It’s much easier to dismiss Brown activists as overzealous and recklessly radical than to actually engage with what they are saying. In this spirit, the stereotypes will probably continue.

Peter Ian Asen ’04

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September / October 2006