Buchanan immigration lecture tense but peaceful
By Danielle Gantt
Inside Vandy (Vanderbilt University), March 24, 2009
Students packed the lobby of Sarratt Promenade Monday night to make posters in protest of a speech by Angela 'Bay' Buchanan.
The former United States treasurer, who attended two events, one sponsored by the Vanderbilt chapter of Youth for Western Civilization, spoke about the need for immigration policy reform. Upon hearing about the speech, several campus organizations – including the Multicultural Leadership Council and Lambda – began to plan a protest against it.
Even before the protest, junior Erica Santiago, one of the organizers of the event, said she was incredibly pleased with the turnout.
'This speaks volumes,' she said in regard to the people making signs around the lobby. '… The number of people speaks louder than any decibel I could ever scream.'
Her main goal for the night was to keep the silent protest peaceful and respectful, which she planned to ensure by organizing a group of eight marshals to oversee the event. After explaining her vision to the crowd, the protesters moved to Garland Hall to line the pathway with their signs before Buchanan's speech.
In her presentation, which included both a speech and a question-and-answer session, Buchanan addressed a number of topics ranging from border patrol to labor laws
'America is a land of immigrants… No one can argue that,' Buchanan said. 'But we need time to say Hey, wait a minute, we need to assimilate the immigrants we have here already.''
Buchanan, who said she was against multicultural organizations such as the Black Student Association and the Vanderbilt Association of Hispanic Students, also said the celebration of diversity was dangerous to the American way of life and divisive.
'Assimilation is critical,' she said.
Buchanan said most of the immigration problems were a result of actions by the Mexican and American governments.
'The politicians in Washington are not leaders. They're sheep.' said Buchanan, who looked toward her audience to promote immigration reform. 'You begin the process right here in college. You can change minds with boldness and clarity. We need people to stand up for their beliefs.'
Buchanan was met with much opposition and support for her ideas from many people within and outside of the Vanderbilt community.
'I thought Ms. Buchanan was great,' said first-year student Michael Gadebusch. '… She really preached to not back down from what you believe in and how even though our leaders in Washington may not be standing up for what they should be, us as individuals on campus should be.'
Protester and senior Jose Grenet was not swayed by Buchanan's arguments, however.
'I think that she's very biased and that there is no real validity to what she said tonight,' said Grenet, who shared a tense moment with Buchanan during the question-and-answer portion of the lecture. 'Her views are very limited and non-inclusive to a lot of people. More than anything, she embodies what America should not be.'
Many protesters came not only to speak out against Buchanan but also against the YWC, a new group on campus.
'I came out tonight to protest against the group that's hosting the speaker and against the speaker,' said senior Amber Herber. 'Youth for Western Civilization is a very negative feeling group. And while I feel they have every right to be here, we try to be so inclusive here at Vanderbilt. This group is very separating and is pitting one group against another. I don't think that's what we're about, and I don't think that's what Vanderbilt should be about.'
Sophomore Devin Saucier, vice president of YWC, said he thought the organization's first open campus event was a success despite the fact that there were a few tense moments.
'I think we got our message across,' Saucier said. On their way into the speech, members of the YWC made sure to respond to the protesters by carrying signs of their own with phrases like 'America First.'
He said many of the labels that have been attached to the group, such as that of being are both unfair and untrue, including that of being a hate group.
'I think the most telling thing was when the lady in the back asked a question and said that she had heard all these labels and attached to our group and attached to Bay's message and came out and listened and found herself agreeing with everything that was said,' Saucier said.
Santiago said she recognized the impact the organization of the protest was making on campus, but believed the students' efforts were necessary.
'I know passions are high and tensions are high, but I know this is the best way for this to have happened,' she said.