Weekly Vigil for Peace

By John Grennan
Photography by Gabrielle Diaz '11

English professor Brenda Hillman began a weekly peace vigil in fall 2007 to spread the message around campus that the United States should withdraw from Iraq.

“The use of violence to solve problems is the root of many of our problems,” says Hillman, a longtime peace activist.

Although the anti-war placards sometimes outnumber the protesters during the noon vigils, a stalwart group gathers on Tuesdays at noon next to the De La Salle statue. The regulars include Hillman, chief technology officer Ed Biglin, Father Tom McElligott and professor Joan Peterson. Meanwhile, undergraduate students walk by on the path between Dante and Galileo halls with few stopping to join.

“I have felt 25 years of frustration that this campus is not more politicized,” Hillman says. “But I have found the secret to happiness is lowering my expectations.”

The students who show up are primarily Hillman’s from the Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program. Among them are Nima Nagafi-Kianfar, Bret Shepard and Valyntina Grenier.

During Jan Term, members of a class studying “Pockets of Resistance: Social Protest in the Bay Area” came by and were “all very excited about our vision for this vigil,” says Hillman — but they didn’t return when spring semester started.

“The embarrassment factor of holding up a sign is the reason people don’t want to protest the war in general,” she says.