Professors Robert Cliver (left), Allison Holmes (center), and Noah Zerbe (right) at the 'Ukraine in Crisis' event in Siemen's Hall 108 on March 4, 2022.

Humboldt professors speak in ‘Ukraine in Crisis’ forum

During an open forum, Cal Poly Humboldt professors gave their take on the invasion of Ukraine and how it is affecting the rest of the world
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by Liam Gwynn

Professors addressed the complex and multifaceted nature of the Ukraine invasion during an event hosted by the political science department on Friday. They addressed the situation from three different angles with professors breaking down the topic relevant to their expertise.

Dr. Robert Cliver is a history professor at Cal Poly Humboldt. Cliver gave historical context for the war in Ukraine and explained how the situation is not black and white in his mind. Between the corrupt Ukrainian white nationalist oligarchs and Ukraine’s tentative alliance with the west, Cliver doesn’t think Ukraine is as innocent as they are being painted by the media at large.

Cliver drew criticism after claiming there were no heroes or villains in war. In his eyes, all of the world leaders are villains fighting over power and resources.

“I’m against war, period. I think if you’re resorting to violence to achieve your ends you’re not a hero,” said Cliver.

Cliver warned students against glamorizing and glorifying political figures like Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Cliver supports the Ukrainian people, but thinks people need to look into the historical context of situations and understand that their perspective may have been altered by nationalistic rhetoric they have been exposed to.

“It’s very difficult to find heroes and villains historically and when people do, it’s usually for nationalistic reasons and I’m very skeptical of that,” said Cliver.

After Cliver’s talk, Noah Zerbe from the political science department gave a thorough breakdown of the international relations situation currently unfolding between Russia and the rest of the world. In particular, he explained how the sanctions put in place by NATO would affect both Russia and the global economy.

“Russia and Ukraine account for about 20% of the world’s corn exports and about 30% of the world’s wheat exports,” said Zerbe, continuing. “So cutting that off from global markets is going to have a huge impact on food prices.”

Zerbe went on to explain how Russia also accounts for about 20% of the world’s fertilizer so not having that on the global market will impact many types of agriculture on top of the ones previously mentioned.

Allison Holmes from the international studies department took over after Zerbe. Holmes gave an urgent speech about the importance of fact-checking what you read online and the unreliability of news in the era of social media.

Holmes explained how social media has changed the way people digest information which has, in turn, made times of crisis like this even more disorientating.

“Everyone became their own spokesperson, nobody needed to wait for the official statement, nobody waited for a press officer to tell you what was happening out there, the feeds from Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, went straight to the news headlines,” said Holmes.

She explained how this massive change has resulted in a repetitive news cycle where the most TV-ready looking civilians are asked the same questions over and over and other important developments are pushed to the side.

“This has produced hours and hours of interviews with young women, most of whom happen to be lovely blondes who all speak perhaps halted but excellent English with at least one if not preferably two children sitting on a train platform going they know not where,” said Holmes.

Holmes did not want to downplay the situation in Russia, but she does think it is being overplayed by the media, especially in comparison to how other conflicts outside of Europe are covered.

“I’ve lost the number of times I’ve heard ‘we haven’t seen this since world war II’ which is simply not true,” Holmes said, continuing. “What about Yugoslavia, what about Syria’s impact on Europe and the estimated 13 million refugees or displaced people who are still not home?”637 words

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