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Students, faculty voice Burma support

Close to 20 faculty and more than 30 student organizations have signed on to support the Burma resolution that Student Council passed last month.

Third-year College student Andrew Price, a co-author of the Burma resolution, said he hopes to raise awareness and increase student interest in the University's business in Burma before an April 26 meeting with former U.S. Rep. Thomas J. Bliley Jr. of Virginia, a member of the Board of Visitors.

This week, members of the University's Free Burma Coalition are conducting a petition drive to gain more University-wide support and persuade the University to cut its ties to businesses that operate in Burma.

Price says over 200 University students signed petitions yesterday. The petition drive will continue through April 26.

Twenty percent of faculty members in the government and foreign affairs department have already signed on to the resolution.

Foreign Affairs Prof. Herman Schwartz, who signed the resolution, said, "I think clearly the more people who care, the more the Board will take notice."

Government and Foreign Affairs professors James Sofka, Joshua Dienstag, Michael Smith, Marshall Brement and Lynn Sanders also support the Burma resolution.

Religious Studies Prof. Jeffrey Hopkins - who organized the 1998 Nobel Peace Laureates Conference that brought Harn Yawnghwe, director of the Burma Office in Brussels, to the University - voiced his support for the resolution.

Student and faculty support "will certainly make an impact," Hopkins said.

Chris Andino - a third-year College student and president of University Greens, the University chapter of the Green Party - said members plan to form a committee to work on the Burma issue over the summer.

"When students and faculty support an issue overwhelmingly, the Board has to act on it," Andino said.

The University chapter of Students Without Borders, the umbrella organization for the Free Burma Coalition, has been very involved in disseminating flyers, petitions and educational materials.

"When we first started, we really educated," Students Without Borders President Linnisa Wahid said. "Now, it's time to do something about it."

Greg Staff, a third-year and president of La Sociedad Latina, said he has taken copies of the resolution to classes and to LSL meetings to encourage students to sign petitions and call members of the Board of Visitors.

Presidents of the Arab Student Organization, Greater Hillel Council and UniTE also voiced the importance of student involvement in the campaign to divest from Burma.

Ninety-four universities and colleges are participating in the movement.

American University divested several years ago, said Kevin Owen, a senior at American and president of his school's chapter of the Free Burma Coalition.

Last night, the University of Michigan passed a resolution to divest $20 million from Burma, said Jeremy Woodrum, director of the Free Burma Coalition in Washington, D.C.

"There are thousands of students taking initiative all over the country," Woodrum said.