Georgetown University students Friday night rushed around town looking for an all-night printer for leaflets urging student protests against seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Iran. "We As Students Have a Responsibility," the leafelt began.
Placards went up at Catholic University yesterday announcing "pro-U.S." rallies. And at George Washington University on Thursday a conversation between an American and an Iranian student erupted into angry debate, involving more than 20 people, about U.S.-Iranian relations.
A larger demonstration is planned for this afternoon at the same site. Student groups from American, catholic, Georgetown, George Washington and the University of Maryland and Mount Vernon College are scheduled to assemble at the embassy at 2 p.m. according to Jordan Fox student body president at the University of Maryland.
Robert W. Klotx, Deputy Chief of the D.C. police department, said the group will be allowed to demonstrate. Since they will not be marching through Washington streets, they do not need a permit, he said.
Events in Iran seem to have galvanized Washington area campuses in a way that no other issue has -- from the dangers of nuclear power to the legalization of marijuana.
"we've been trying for years to get students upset about anything" said Jeff Levey, editor of the George Washington student paper, the Hatchet. "They don't seem to care about the university's building policy, they didn't care when we tried to get a student on the board of trustees. "but this is different. Everybody is getting upset."
Just five years ago college students were calling America "imperialist" and "fascist" in the thicket of controversy over the Vietnam War. Students yesterday were talking about their worries over a "scared" and "sick" America whose position as the supreme world power slipping away.
Underneath it all, the students seem restless to shed what one Georgetown student called their reputations as "the 'me' generations of students," concerned only with finding a secure niche in the business or professional world.
The Iranian debate has provoked both liberal and conservative students alike.
"this issue has a more human element -- it's not ambiguous like some policy question," said Hatchet staffer Caroline Hemenway. "People here come in contact with Iranians every day."
There are 500 or more Iranians among the 18,000 students now enrolled at GW, making them by far the largest and most visible group of foreign students there. This same visibility, coupled with their tendency to keep to themselves had bred small, unspoken antagonisms long before last week.
For instance, an area of tables near the vending machines in the Marvin Center basement has been jokingly referred to as "little Iran." Workers at the information desk complained among themselves about the Iranians. "some of them throw their money at you and speak rudely," said Lisa Zarowin, a 21-year-old-undergraduate.
Now the same tangle of anger and frustration that drew students to the streets to jeer Friday has pushed some of this antagonism to the surface.
"a lot of it comes out in joking," said John Fogarty, 21, a junior. "People are saying we don't need to use part of South Carolina as a nuclear waste dump, we should send the stuff to Iran," Fogarty said.
The antagonism still is expressed largely in jokes or an occasional muttered epithet like "camel jockeys," but one Iranian engineering student at GW said he had seen more.
"yesterday i was driving by the international students' office and a man, an American spoke to me in fluent Persian and asked if i was Persian.
"i said yes, and he spat on me and kicked my car," said the 32-year-old student, who asked that his name not be used.
Friday night as he watched the television news with other students in his dorm, they started to talk about the embassy takeover, Kamyab said.
"every time they make a point, they look over at me," he said. "once they say, "These Goddam people,' and they look at me."
Many of the American students upset about Iran stressed yesterday that they were not advocating a "my country right or wrong" philosophy, but are merely "standing up for Americans."Many even said they would have demonstrated against the Veitnam War had they been in college in that era.
"this is like when Pearl Harbor was bombed, said Georgetown foreign service student Nick Lamb. "No matter what your feelings were then about isolationism, the fact remained that Americans were killed."
"these people have violated basic tenets of human justice and international law, then they march march through our streets with a police escort every step of the way. Who's not going to get angry?" said GW student Fogarty.
For the foreign service students -- the men and women who will someday man the American posts abroad -- the frustration came through in warring emotions. They said they wanted somehow to vent their anger against the Iranian students who demonstrated in favor of the Khomeini government.
They also say, they know the Iranian, as legitimat exchange students, are entitled to the same rights as Americans.
Still there is frustration. "They teach you all this international law and policy in school . . . But how can you deal with these people when they have no conception of the law of order among nation?" Lamb asked.