GVSU students discuss Vietnam War protests at World Café event

By Annie Giffels | 2/26/18 1:31am

In times of great political tension, learning about the past can be especially important. On Thursday, Feb. 22, in the Kirkhof Center, Grand Valley State University's Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) teamed up with WGVU to put on an event called "The World Café: Civil Unrest on College Campuses During the Vietnam Era."

The World Café program, run by WGVU, is a way for attendees to learn more about certain events in an open, inviting atmosphere. The goal of this program is to encourage people to voice their opinions and thoughts while listening to the opinions and thoughts of others in a peaceful, non-offensive manner. 

Erica Bringedahl, a multicultural assistant in the OMA, thinks the civil unrest that occurred on college campuses during the Vietnam era is similar to what people are seeing today. 

“We wanted to try to relate this World Café program to events that are happening right now,” she said. “We can see that our country and students in particular are tense.”

Invited to this event were veterans of the Vietnam War, along with GVSU students looking to learn more about the history of the war, particularly its effects on students. The event was LIB 100-approved. 

The World Café started with a brief introduction led by WGVU. The introduction told the story of how GVSU reacted to protests happening around the country during the Vietnam era. The video also spoke of an event that happened in Ohio when four students of Kent State University were shot and killed by members of the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970. In this situation, GVSU officials did not close down their school, unlike many other colleges in the country.

Throughout the discussion, a few questions were posed to the audience, and attendees were asked to talk about their thoughts and feelings with the people sitting at their table. After talking with table mates about each question for 10 minutes, groups changed tables and another question was presented. 

Jimmy Jamieson, a veteran of the Vietnam War, had many things to say about the first question, "What do you know about the Vietnam era protests?" Drafted while in college, Jamieson told numerous stories of hardship and struggle. In answering this question, Jamieson recalled a time of high civil unrest in which students on campuses were looting and destroying property to protest the Vietnam War. 

“I remember there was a car that got stopped by police with half a cow sticking out the window," Jamieson said. "They had looted it."

Another question posed at the event was, “What similarities can be seen happening today on college campuses? How does it compare to what has happened in the past?”

To this, Jamieson answered with relief. In his opinion, GVSU students are protesting the right way. 

“I wish there were more college students interested in having discussions like these,” he said. “It’s awesome to see a campus and community that is so open to having these kinds of conversations."

Among the many responses that attendees gave, there was a general agreement that GVSU tends to be very open and honest about issues like protesting.

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