Posted by Andrew Cantor
Men please report to these tables, ladies go right on through," Duke Fisher, a conflict mediator, said to students entering the atrium of the Murray-Aikins Dining Hall on the evening of Jan. 31.
He proceeded to direct male students to a "Selective Service" table and women into the dining hall.
Four volunteers with laptop computers took the male students' names and class years, then handed each student a "draft card" designating their "Selective Service Classification."
The classifications informed the male students that they were "1-A… IMMEDIATELY ELIGIBLE for the DRAFT and military deployment," "2-S… deferred [from the draft] because of college study," "1-A-O... a conscientious objector… assigned to noncombatant military service" or "4-F… not acceptable for military service under the established physical mental or moral standards."
After receiving the "Selective Service Classification," the volunteers directed the male students to a second station where a volunteer handed out another card, providing further information about the "military draft."
"This has been a mock military draft simulation. In the event of an actual draft, you would have been mandated to serve your country through military service," the card said.
Director of Religious and Spiritual Life Rick Chrisman planned the mock military draft as part of his year-long "Theater of War in a House of Peace" program.
The program attempts to foster campus-wide reflections on war through various art mediums.
Chrisman enlisted the help of Fisher to coordinate the staged military draft, as Fisher has experience in role-playing and live-acting.
A Campus Safety officer stepped into the atrium briefly to direct male students to the draft table, adding more reality to the event.
Student response to the theatrical event ranged from fear and alarm to laughter.
"I wouldn't support a military draft… it's a negative thing," Ross Croffi '12 said after receiving a "1-A-O" card, meaning he would have to serve noncombatant military service in the event of a real draft.
"I suppose if it was real I would be really pissed," Ross Waldron '14 said after receiving a "1-A" card, which would make him immediately eligible for military service. "This really made me think… the plausibility of a draft is real. I think this was a successful event."
"When I walked in the d-hall [Duke] said women should go right in. I'm doing this reading for a gender studies class, so it was sort of funny to watch this," Ariel Branden '14 said. "They just repealed the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, but no one's thinking about women."
According to Melissa Bennett '13, a volunteer in the simulation, several students received the first card, were alarmed that they were just "drafted," and left the atrium without receiving the second card.
Volunteers then had to chase down those students to tell them the draft was fake.
"It was more powerful than I expected it to be," Bennett said. "It was interesting to see the responses of the students… When some students received a card saying they weren't eligible for the draft, they would ask why. If they got a regular draft card, meaning they are eligible, no questions were asked."
"President Obama in the State of the Union address said campuses should be more open for drafters to come on campus and do these things," she said.
"[Chrisman] wanted to show on the Skidmore campus that we are a nation at war and not a lot of people recognize that… The possibility of a draft doesn't receive as much attention as some other social movements on campus," Bennett said.
Chrisman supports a Universal National Service that would require all citizens from the ages of 18 to 22 to serve in "violence prevention, hospital service, urban education, homeless shelters, Peace Corps, Vista, Teach for America, the military" and more.
He said he believes a Universal National Service would alleviate the burden of war that befalls a small portion of the population.
"This country is in a war right now," Chrisman said. "We're involved in a mortal endeavor, and not many people realize that… This is our country and we need to have a physical stake in it."