Lawrence University’s Gender Studies program is sponsoring a performance of the ancient Greek comedy Lysistrata at 2 p.m. on March 3. The Aristophanes play is about a group of women who unite and withhold sex from their husbands as a means to stop war.
The performance, which is part of a national effort by the Lysistrata Project, is a protest against U.S. military action in Iraq.
In response to the play being sponsored by a university department, the Lawrence University College Republicans are organizing a rally against the group. LUCR is organizing their protest to start 15 minutes before the Lysistrata performance.
Gina Bloom, professor of English, helped organize the Lysistrata Project on campus. “I think it’s really important that Lawrence students are engaged in these kinds of issues,” said Bloom. She views this as an opportunity for the Lawrence community to answer President Warch’s call to be more civically engaged.
“We’re not organizing a rally here,” said Bloom. “It isn’t going to be a bunch of chanting and speeches.”
She feels the performance will be a forum for debate. “To me what’s exciting about the Lysistrata Project is that it brings us into a conversation that’s going on all over the world. We can get isolated here at Lawrence,” said Bloom.
The LUCRs disagree with Bloom and take issue with an academic department being involved with organizing the play.
“We are protesting because we don’t think that it is right for an academic department to advocate a particular political position,” said Kim Dunlap, a member of the College Republicans.
According to Dunlap, the LUCRs see the Gender Studies department’s support of the play as a direct violation of the Faculty Handbook.
The handbook states that faculty members retain their rights as citizens to “express themselves on any issue,” but also that, “their special place in the community brings with it special obligations,” and “in their roles as citizens, faculty members should, as a general rule, speak and act as private individuals (and appear to be doing so) and not representatives of the university.”
Bloom responded to this accusation saying, “I don’t see myself as speaking for the university. I don’t think any of us do. The press release I issued never said this was Lawrence University’s stance. Not at all.”
While the Lysistrata Project does take an anti-war stance, Bloom stressed that this performance is supposed to be a forum for debate. She said that she is currently helping draft a letter to the LUCRs inviting them to take place in the event by debating the issues after the performance.
Bloom also said she viewed the LUCRs’ response as positive because, “It’s important to us to get their perspective. Their response shows us what can happen when we bring these issues out into the open. It’s really exciting that there’s controversy.”
Dunlap wanted to be clear that the LUCRs’ protest is not against students holding an anti-war opinion, but is specifically against the departmental support of the play, stressing, “It’s not a personal problem. It’s the principle of the matter.”
Dunlap also stated that the point of attending Lawrence is to get a good, well-balanced education. She feels a whole academic department advocating a particular political stance impedes on her education.