Students protest Syrian involvement


Scott McKibbon talks to a group of women about Syria conflict as other Young Americans for Liberty members hold signs and protest.

Brandon Zeris, Editor-In-Chief

Roughly 20 Pitt-Johnstown students protested proposed U.S. action in Syria last Tuesday with hopes of convincing students to call their congressional representatives  to speak against intervening in the Middle East nation’s civil war.

The students, all Young Americans for Liberty members, handed out fliers near the campus mall that listed Pennsylvania Senator and Representative contact information, while holding posters and speaking to passers-by.

Members said the group is non-partisan, meaning they don’t have any political affiliation, but they acknowledged that they take stands on particular issues.

Sophomore political science major Josie Bagnato said that many people are unfazed by American foreign affairs, but said they should be.

“Most people don’t care … it affects them, but they don’t think it affects them,” she said, citing potential increased taxes and debt associated with war as prime examples of things that students should be aware of.

Although they said they opposed U.S. military action, the group’s vice president, Cliff Maloney, said that the goal was to get people thinking about important issues.

“We want students to think about foreign policy in general … these wars are bankrupting us,” he said, quoting former U.S. vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

“Bombing Syria because Syria is bombing Syria doesn’t make sense,” he said. “It’s funny that she said it, but it’s so true.”

Their work got at least one student thinking about Syria a little more.

Senior psychology major Elizabeth Eger stopped to listen to what some of the protesters said on her way to class. She said that, before seeing the protest, she didn’t give much thought to what was happening in Syria.

“It makes me want to be more aware of what’s going. I don’t’ want to be out of the loop,” she said, adding that she was still undecided on her Syrian stance.

The group’s president, sophomore computer science major Scott McKibbon, said their message is in line with many others, and a Washington, D.C. Pew Research Center poll suggests he is correct.

The Aug. 29 – Sept. 1 poll results show that about 29 percent of respondents favor US action, 48 percent oppose it, and 23 percent are unsure.

“We don’t have to do much persuading. It’s common sense. We’ve been (unnecessarily getting involved in foreign affairs) for almost 20 years,” McKibbon said.

Academic Affairs Assistant Vice President Paul Douglas Newman walked past the group and did a double take after hearing senior Corey Salem yell, “Peace is cheaper.”

Newman said he was surprised to see a demonstration on campus.

“This is great,” he told them. “Raise hell.”

Afterward, he said he was thrilled to see students taking an interest in an issue outside the campus community.

“Regardless of which side of this issue students take, it’s important for them to become conversant on world issues, and then to engage the conversation.”