University professors lead talks on Mid-East crisis

Students and faculty discussed the recent surge of protests and uprisings around the world at the Politics and Economics of Social Upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa panel on Monday.

The panel of three consisted of St. John’s professors who specialized in various fields such as economics, government and politics and North Africa. Their open dialogue on what has happened and where it was going brought up concerns of race, religion and economics.

What seemed to be a general feeling of the three panelists was the youth movement that they say was crucial to ousting some of the oppressive powers. They also said one of the most fascinating characteristics is the unforeseeable future that lies ahead.

Dr. Robert Pecorella, a professor of government and politics, served as both a panelist but also the moderator for the discussion. Pecorella, who was also the first of the three to speak, laid the ground work for the discussion mentioning the recent Western intervention and what the future brought for the region.

Dr. Azzedine Layachi, who specializes in North African history, gave insight about the reality of these uprisings. While Layachi noted that for the first time the people of the area are trying to make changes to the system. However, the professor also noted that it would be a long road before total order was in place.

“Revolution does not take place overnight,” Layachi said.  “It’s going to be a long one.”

Dr. Charles Clarke, a professor of economics, discussed the youth population’s ire with the high unemployment rate in many of these countries. He also mentioned how the series of revolutions and uprisings vary from many others in history, notably those of 1848 or 1968/1969. Because many of these societies are not rooted in Western thought, Clarke said they “should play out in a way very different from other student uprisings.”

After each professor gave their input, the panel was open to questions from students and faculty. Since all three discussed the youth factor of these revolutions, one of the first questions asked was whether the youth would remain engaged in forming a new government.

Dr. Layachi said he believed that the poor would continue their involvement in developing new governments. He also noted that this was the first time that many of the nations were having open debates. In Egypt, Dr. Layachi said, there was talk about developing political parties – something he believed would help continue youth involvement.

Students and faculty who attended the event seemed impressed and intrigued by some of the matters discussed. Dr. Robert Tomes, a history professor, said he was pleased with the open communication between the panelists and students.

Of the recent uprisings in the regions Tomes admitted there is some potential and some skepticism. “I’m looking at this with guarded optimism,” he said. He also said that there is “a lot of wait and see.”

Tara Enahoro, a senior, said she attended the panel for class but was glad to see her normal classroom discussions expanded upon. Enahoro, who identified herself as being of African descent, said she was happy to see the people taking a stand.