The World Issues Forum is returning to Fairhaven College this fall. The Forum will feature a series of lunchtime speakers including scholars from many different disciplines.

The Forum originated shortly after Sept. 11, said coordinator and Fairhaven College professor Shirley Osterhaus. Students were concerned about global issues following the national tragedy so the University set up weekly dialogues to field questions pertaining to the Middle East that many students were confronting for the first time.

Since then, the forums are usually held on Wednesdays at noon in the Fairhaven auditorium. Students are welcome to bring their lunches.

Speakers have been selected to address a wide range of current world issues. The Forum has already hosted two lectures in October that featured Gilda Sheppard, a filmmaker from Evergreen State College who spoke about Ethnography in Ghana and Jeff Halper, an American currently working on Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Halper, an Israeli-American anthropologist and activist spoke on Oct. 8 about “breaking the siege of Gaza.” The Nobel Prize-nominated author gained acclaim in 2008 for sailing from Cyrus to Gaza with 43 other participants aboard a boat in resistance to Israel's blockade against Palestinians trying to return home. He was the only Israeli Jew in the group.

Osterhaus believes the scheduled lineup will help students think about the many links between current world issues.

Travel guru Rick Steves will present his views on America's drug policy in a presentation titled “Challenging the Prohibition of our Age” from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on Friday Oct. 24 in the PAC.

Steves is well-known in the Northwest for his views opposing current drug policies, speaking twice during this year's Hempfest in Seattle.

This year's lecturers represent a very distinct array of issues, according to Osterhaus.

“I'd like to think we got a variety of themes this fall. Students can make the connections and understand that these issues are intertwined,” Osterhaus said. “We live in a global world so it's imperative that we learn to understand each other.”

The Forum is also looking to extend their influence beyond the reaches of Western's campus this year. Osterhaus hopes that some of the speakers to attend local venues in order to draw larger audiences.

Two of the events this fall will be co-sponsored by the AS ROP Social Issues Resource Center. On Oct. 20, Dahr Jamail will retell his experience as an independent journalist embedded in Iraq.

SIRC coordinator Devin Majkut said that Jamail will bring a unique, non-binary perspective in contrast to the politicization often found in the media.

“He [Jamail] breaks through the political rhetoric and media bias to give the truth,” Majkut said.

Keeping with the topic of the Iraq War, the forums will also host Camilo Mejia, a Nicaraguan immigrant who was the first American soldier to file as a conscientious objector in the war in Iraq. Mejia was court-martialed and eventually served nine months in military prison.

The SIRC hopes to give students a different perspective on the war.

“We wanted to do events about Iraq in a new way…to take a new stance on the issue,” Majkut said.

She also feels that sometimes the veterans' stories are lost within the larger scale of the conflict.

“When people think about Iraq it seems abstract and far away,” Majkut said. “But when someone talks to you who's actually been there, it brings it all home. It makes it relatable.”

An additional opportunity is available to students hoping to earn a few extra credits. Through the Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies, students can choose to view the panels and register for an additional class which takes place Mondays from 12:00 to 1:20 p.m. When the course is completed students will pick up three credits from Fairhaven College. The seminar class can be repeated up to four times.

Osterhaus is proud of the popularity the Forum has garnered and the impact they've had around Bellingham, she said.
“The reason we do this is to provide the campus and community with a program that will bring acceptance and understanding,” Osterhaus said.