With actor Martin Sheen as the lure, about 300 California State University, Northridge, students were drawn to a “teach-in” Monday on U.S. policy in Central America.
Like its forebears during the Vietnam War, the Northridge teach-in was not a debate or an exchange of views. Instead, it was a barrage against U.S. policy.
For two hours, Sheen and several other speakers repeatedly denounced the Reagan Administration’s Central American policies as “obscene,” “immoral” and “based on official lies.”
The actor, who has worked for several liberal causes in recent years, was greeted by a stream of friendly questions from the audience in the Student Union auditorium.
Except for a lone dissenter, who was quickly neutralized by the actor, Sheen was not challenged--other than when a dozen students clamored for his autograph.
‘Blood on Our Hands’
Sheen used the friendly queries to expand on his views, saying that the United States has “blood on our hands” in backing rebels--commonly called Contras-- seeking to overthrow the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua.
He had nothing but praise for the Sandinista leaders, comparing them to the United States’ founding fathers and asserting that they preside over a government that is “humane, just and democratic.” On the other hand, he said, “We are the terrorists.”
The only dissent was registered by Ken Kenyon, vice president of the campus Republican Club, who briefly interrupted the presentation to declare: “What makes me angry is that there is no one here from the opposition.”
The Nicaraguan government, Kenyon said, is a dictatorship and is “guilty of massacring Indians and others.”
Sheen drew applause by offering to pay Kenyon’s way on an upcoming Sandinista-approved trip to Nicaragua being organized by the Office of the Americas.
The Santa Monica-based group, to which Sheen and fellow actor Ed Asner belong, lobbies against Administration policies on Nicaragua and El Salvador.
Michael Emery, acting chairman of the Journalism Department and one of the organizers of the teach-in, defended the absence of pro-Administration views, saying the “purpose of a teach-in is to give a different perspective. It wouldn’t do much good to have someone stand up and say what George Shultz says every night on TV.”
Although most of the applause was subdued, Kenneth Hokanson, a geology major who is a senior and leader of several campus groups supporting liberal causes, said he was encouraged “by the fact that so many came and listened, and because a majority seemed to applaud. I think we made progress here today.”
Laura Hansen of Burbank, a freshman and psychology major who said she had not yet formed a view on Central American policy, said she found the teach-in “one-sided but very convincing. I’m going to find out more now that I have some basic knowledge.”