WASHINGTON _ American college campuses that were once a hotbed of political protest stood quiet this week as NATO forces began air strikes in Kosovo.
“It's not a prominent issue in students' minds because most don't see the military first hand, because we live in an academic fishbowl,” said Cate Doty, assistant state and national editor for The Daily Tar Heel at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “That's what happens when you spend all day in a classroom.”
Doty, a freshman journalism major, isn't the only college editor with that sentiment. Across the country, college newspapers have featured the Kosovo crisis, but many have given it a back seat to campus issues.
“The papers are the windows into the campuses and provide a decent view of what's going on,” said Lori Morency, editor of University Wire, a news service for college students comparable to the Associated Press. “The campuses are a hub of a lot of political activity and thinking, and the Kosovo issue is definitely out there.”
But at the University of North Carolina, Doty hasn't heard much from students – unless they are asking what exactly is happening in Kosovo. The Daily Tar Heel, which serves UNC's 24,000 students, will continue to run news wire stories until agreements are reached, though, she said.
At Oklahoma University in Norman, senior Traviss (CQ—EDS.: IS CORRECT) Thomas argued not enough students have looked critically at the issues – and trust the military and the media too much.
“Whether or not the students know what's going on in Kosovo,” said Thomas, “they are pre-inclined to believe that the U.S. is fighting for freedom and democracy.”
At the University of Florida in Gainesville, student government elections and a misbehaving fraternity took center stage, said Shannon Colavecchio, editor of The Daily Alligator. “In another week, or if there was a ground war, it would get more immediate attention,” she added.
A small group of students called Islam on Campus protested the deaths from the air strikes, but reluctantly support the bombings, Colavecchio said.
Student Government president John McGovern, a third-year law student, said he had heard few comments from students. “Our people see it, in the technological age, as very remote,” he said.
But it's not too remote for Indiana University doctoral student Jason Vuic. Vuic lived in Novi Sad, a city in northern Serbia, for nearly a year. It frustrates him, he said, that “no one on campus cares about the bombings or even knows where these events are happening at.”
Many students are historically apathetic toward issues on all levels, said David Orensten, president of IU's student body. “Student live in their own little bubble of four or five classes and aren't concerned about global human right violations, the actions the U.S. government takes or campus issues,” he said.
At the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, students remain uninformed, said Knight Stivender, design editor for The Daily Beacon, UT's student newspaper. Although the bombings kicked other news off the front page on Wednesday, the paper put the war story inside the paper the rest of the week.
“There's going to be a group of people who protest, and there's going to be a group protesting the protest,” said Stivender. “But overall, students don't seem to be too worried about it.”
Will Carver, Student Government Association student services director, credits student apathy to midterms and final projects. “Students are more concerned with that,” he said.
At Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y., students aren't apathetic, said Ron DePasquale, editor in chief of The Daily Orange. They are just “trying to soak it all in,” he said.
For a full page on Kosovo on Friday, the bombings drew reactions from eight students. Two favored the air strikes and six were unsure or against, said DePasquale.
“They don't regard it as a war. It's NATO, not just the U.S.,” he said. “Declaration of war carries a lot of meaning and until that happens, people aren't going to pay much attention to it.”
At the University of Iowa in Iowa City, most students approve of the strikes, said Shirin Sadeghi, a reporter for The Daily Iowan. “But they wished it had happened sooner,” she said.
Some students worry that if the bombing fails, American ground troops will be sent, said Sadeghi. But, she added, “People are basically saying this had to be done for the human rights concern.”
This story was written by Nellann Young with reporting from Eboni Davis, Rebecca Goldenberg, and Tonya Maxwell