March 8, 2017

Hundreds Attend University Day of Action, Responding to Recent Trump Initiatives

Hundreds of students, faculty members, and others crowded into more than 60 different teach-in sessions at Princeton University’s Frist Campus Center Monday, as part of a Day of Action in responding to new Trump administration policies and the current political climate.

The event was organized by Princeton Citizen Scientists (PCS), created by graduate students after last November’s election, and Princeton Advocates for Justice (PAJ), a coalition representing more than 25 different campus organizations advocating for human rights.

Dealing with a wide range of issues from local to global — civil rights, knowledge and democracy, international peace and security, climate and environmental challenges, the teach-ins, led mostly by faculty and staff, took place in eleven different locations in the Frist building from 9 a.m. until after 8 p.m.

“Don’t Panic, Organize,” “Let’s Figure This Out Together” the posters read, accompanying an array of yellow “Day of Action” t-shirts, as participants moved from session to session throughout the day. They looked over the tables set up in the Frist lobby area: Citizens Climate Lobby, Coalition for Peace Action, Pace Council for Civic Values, Fair Elections Legal Network (voter registration), and many others.

“The success of this event exceeded our expectations,” said Paul Gauthier, associate research scholar in geosciences and head of press relations for the Day of Action. “People realized that they are not alone. They can talk to each other. They created a momentum where people got together and worked with each other, found solutions, and created action. This day was an example of what can be done. We hope others will follow our lead.”

PCS co-founder Sebastien Philippe emphasized the dual themes of reflection and action that characterized the proceedings. “Action is great,” he said, “but in this event action has been paired with reflection.”

At the evening’s final town hall meeting, Princeton University junior Nicholas Wu, one of the leaders of PAJ, stressed the importance of transitioning from discussion to action. “What’s next for us?” he asked. “Our goal is to find ways to connect people so they can get involved. We have to turn these conversations into real action. Keep up the fight to protect basic human rights in Princeton and beyond.”

Among future initiatives planned are participation in an April 22 March for Science and an April 29 People’s Climate March, both in Washington, D.C., and a Day of Action at MIT on April 18. MIT professor of Brain and CognitiveSciences Roger Levy, speaking at Monday’s evening town hall, noted that he will take back to MIT inspiration and ideas from the Princeton Day of Action.

“You should be so proud of yourselves,” he told the organizers and participants. “There was a stunning, impressive quantity, quality, and diversity of events, an inspiring range of activities.” In issuing an invitation for all to attend the April teach-ins at MIT, he added, “This has been a great experiment in 21st century democracy, the first in a series.”

Research scientist and co-director of the Woodrow Wilson School Program on Science and Global Security Zia Mian affirmed the faculty support for the Day of Action. “There is faculty at Princeton committed to this project,” he said. “This is going to be a continuing fight every day on so many issues.”