The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday December 6th

Global Issues Draw Students to UNC

The multitude of non-UNC students on campus last Saturday was not limited to N.C. State football fans.

More than 14 out-of-state students from as far as Florida made lengthy drives to spend the weekend at the Students United for a Responsible Global Environment conference held on campus.

Although one student said he was disappointed with the one-sided nature of the conference, most of these visitors said they were pleased with the trip.

"(The trip) was well worth it," said Claire Rumore, a senior sociology and Spanish major from Auburn University in Alabama. "There's great people, good energy and an awesome conference."

Rumore led a group of eight students from Alabama to Chapel Hill this weekend. The group consisted of six Auburn students and two students from the University of Alabama.

The students learned of the conference through an e-mail sent to their history professor by SURGE co-founder Dennis Markatos. After reading the letter, the group canceled its plans to attend a march for women's rights in Washington, D.C., and headed to Chapel Hill, Rumore said.

Also making an eight-hour drive was a group of six students from the University of Florida. The UF students said a balanced mix between lectures and open discussions made the journey worthwhile.

"Some of the workshops dealt with personal issues of mine, and some were all-encompassing presentations of our movement," said Mary Barbarette, a senior English major at UF.

Both groups said factors other than the workshops added to the appeal of the conference. Several out-of-state students cited the vegan food and the musical performance by the Raging Grannies as particular standouts.

"It wasn't the workshops, or the discussions, or the people or the entertainment that made (the conference) so great, but the combination of them all," said Jason Tompkins, a senior political science major from UF.

Several students from Washington, D.C., also attended the conference.

But not everyone was satisfied with the event. Alabama senior Phil McHugh said he was disappointed to see discussion sessions with titles such as "Biodevastation: Genetically Modified Organisms," and "The United States: Owning up to a Genocidal History."

"When I see titles such as that, I don't expect to be educated as much as indoctrinated," he said. McHugh was further distressed by reading pamphlets passed out at the conference that he said were low on sources and extremely one-sided.

"You have to determine for yourself what is truth and what is not truth," he said. "This bias is counterproductive to what (the conference) stands for."

But after attending workshops Sunday, McHugh said he was less critical of the conference. "The first workshop left me lacking, but the second one (on alternative careers) I really enjoyed. I felt I was able to add something to it."

Many of the out-of-state students said the knowledge they gained at the SURGE conference could be applied in their own activism. "I'm looking to start my own conference like this, so I've been talking to the conference leaders and getting information," Rumore said.

Adam Clasens, a freshman political science major from UF, said he would be able to find practical applications for the information he had obtained at the conference once he returned home.

"Solar power, Dumpster diving, compost gardening - I have so many resources for things I can use when I get back home."

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