Even those who shy away from protest turn out for mainstream activism such as the A IDS Walk to raise awareness and money for research.
East Carolina University after Hurricane
Floyd inundated their apartments and
homes in l<)te September.
"Ifit happened to us," said SGA cabinet
member Matt Robinson, "they'd do the
same for us. It's just a pervasive natural
disaster, and we can provide some tangible
benefits to make things better-that's
why we're out here."
Local initiatives, national attention
The campaign for a free-standing Black
Cultural Center, the sit-ins of the anti-
sweatshop movement, and similar widely
debated issues have hogged much of the
activist spotlight over the past few years.
However, controversy and large numbers do
not necessarily define activism at Carolina.
UNC Provost Dick Richardson has
watched five chancellors lead the Uni-
versity and can narrate the evolution of
three decades of student activism. From
the decline in the number of large, orga-
nized activist groups in the early 1970s
(partly due to the scaling back of U.S.
forces in Vietnam) to the loss of faith in
the government as a "solver ofproblems"
in the 1980s, Richardson said student
activism at UNC has become more
hands-on and locally oriented.
"To me, student activism is any activity
Jal/uary /Fe brl/a,.y 20 00
that's an expression outside one's own
self-interest," he said. "This campus has
always had a fairly high level ofactivism,
and today it runs the gamut here. It can
be helping to improve literacy, can1.paign-
ing for animal rights or a resurgence of
interest in international issues like the
Nike anti-sweat shop campaign."
Pittsboro native and UNC junior Dennis
Markatos has had a lot to do with bringing
international issues back to the forefront
ofUNC activism, and he's continuing to
do so with a locally active approach. After
founding SURGE in November 1998,
Markatos transformed his dorm room
into the office ofa nationally networked
Focusing its resources to help students
lobby policymakers more effectively,
SURGE aims to raise awareness of the
actions (or lack of) taken by the United
States in international affairs and in hot
spots such as East Timor. SURGE does
not limit itself to international issues, often
tackling local ones such as the lack of
affordable housing in Chapel Hill.
From an office in the basement of the
Campus Y, SURGE nms an e-maillistserv
that includes 250 universities and contacts
in more than 30 countries. Markatos said
he decided to start SURGE after having
witnessed first-hand the social injustices
in Nicaragua a few years ago. But he also
saw a need for more collaboration between
campus and national groups on intemational
issue, such as U.S.-Cuban relations. In
October, SURGE sponsored the first
International SURGE Conference, which
focused on the challenges of globalization
and offered several mobilization workshops
along with speakers and a concert.
"Whether it be individuals or other
campus groups like Students for Economic
Justice, people have helped us because it
feels good on a personal level to work with
others and to raise a little awareness or to
win a vote in Congress," Markatos said.
"Before SURGE, I would go to a great
rally protesting something like the [U.N.]
sanctions on Iraq, but there was no real
change afterwards. The only way there
can be change is if 100 campuses have
the same rally. That is when it will be a
national action that affects Congress or
other policy makers."
Traditionally, most actions that deter-
mine rankings such as Mother Jones' have,
been issues that hit close to home-"com-
munity service type things," Reynolds said.
However, among UNC's more notable
accomplishments, he cited the founding
of the national activist group the Student