February 20, 2004

'Season of Peace' Aims to Highlight Nonviolence

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Cornellians constantly complain about Ithaca’s frigid climate, difficult prelims and stressful lives, but a new Dean of Students’ initiative hopes to help students focus on something else this spring season — peace.

Season of Peace is a 64-day “ad and spirit campaign” designed to help students discover inner peace and also to promote ideas of nonviolence through a series of events and promotions.

“The goal is to create awareness of nonviolent principles,” said Sarah Simpkins, assistant dean for student support. “It is a way to empower people in their lives and in their communities and to honor the lives of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Season of Peace was based on Season for Nonviolence, a national movement with similar goals.

“We thought that it wasn’t descriptive enough for the Cornell community,” said Lynn Delles, director of new student programs and student support at the dean of students’ office. “We wanted it to include all aspects of peace … so that we can internalize what peace means to us as well as what it means to the community as a whole.”

The season begins on Jan. 30 and ends April 4, the days Gandhi and King were assassinated.

“It’s really meant to bracket the assassination of Ghandi and King with a series of daily remembrances or daily terms that we believe are worth considering,” said Kent Lovering Hubbell, dean of students. “In this world, and especially with what we see on the nightly news, it’s nice to remember that there is an alternative to violence.”

Daily thoughts and reminders are listed on the group’s “64 Ways in 64 Days” poster. There is also a Season of Peace e-mail list, whose members receive a daily thought in their inbox. For instance, today’s thought is inspiration, advising people to think of two people who exemplify nonviolence and think about why they are admired. Other days focus on topics such as service, understanding and celebration, and include quotes from Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Mother Theresa, Robert Kennedy and many others.

Although 1,000 posters were printed, Delles said that there are only about 100 left. When the Johnson Museum ran out of posters after a Season of Peace art exhibit, students were sent to Delles asking for more. Even people from outside Ithaca have been asking her to mail them copies.

“The posters were flying out of our fingertips,” said Dena Ruebusch ’04, who has helped with Season of Peace initiatives. “People love the posters. They are really effective and really moving. It’s hard to think that it wouldn’t affect people. Even if it’s just a quick thought once in a while, it’s still a thought.”

Season of Peace has also been promoting events sponsored by various on-campus groups that promote nonviolence and inner peace. Organizations that have been involved include the Women’s Resource Center, EARS and the Orientation Steering Committee.

“In March we’ll be making a peace garden on the bulletin board in Gannett,” Delles said. “It will have [paper] flowers that individuals can write what peace means to them, draw a symbol of peace or just write down a thought.”

This weekend Prof. Manning Marable, Columbia University, will be giving a sermon at Sage Chapel. On Monday, he will be delivering the 2004 Martin Luther King, Jr. guest lecture on “Dr. Martin Luther King and the Dream Deferred” as a part of the Season of Peace program schedule. Other upcoming programs include a lecture on surviving anti-gay violence, a Sunday art break with master painter Palden Choedak Oshoe at the Johnson Museum and a community drum circle. Any campus organization that puts on an event related to the mission of Season of Peace can notify the dean of students office and their event will be promoted under the Season of Peace name.

“A few students had already planned the programs we have put on,” Delles said. “They came to us for help in promoting them. I also did a lot of campaigning to different student groups. Anything to promote nonviolence or to celebrate the lives of Gandhi, King or other peace leaders is welcome.”

Overall, their goal is to make Cornell a more hospitable place to live and work.

“We like to think that Cornell is a caring place, a place where all students can feel at home,” Hubbell said. “It’s an ongoing reminder of community values.”

After the poster was printed, Hubbell realized that the last day on it, April 4, reads “Season of Peace ends.” The posters had already been printed so it couldn’t be changed. However, he hopes that the season will never end, and that through Season of Peace the nonviolent ideas and dreams of King and Gandhi will continue.

Archived article by Katy Bishop