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Today's student activists:; MARCHING TO A PRAGMATIC DRUMMER

By Katie LeishmanSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / July 23, 1981



On a Monday morning in San Francisco's financial district, 22-year-old Brian Dvorak looks like any other three- piece-suited researcher at the Federal Reserve Bank. It's not surprising to learn this serious-minded, bearded young man was an honors graduate in economics at the University of California at Berkeley and president of the Berkeley College Republicans, or that he comes from a family of businessmen.

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Unlike most young bankers, however, Brian considers his job a two-year layover en route to a lifetime career fighting world hunger.

"I underwent big changes in my junior year," he says. "I abandoned the Republicans, worried about my role in society, and read constantly. 'Food First ,' a book by Frances Lappe [and Joseph Collins], really impressed me. And once I was convinced that world starvation could be beaten, I switched from the 'Get Money' game to the 'Fight Hunger' game."

Brian became a volunteer researcher at Hunger Project's headquarters in San Francisco, where he was soon spending 40 hours a week. Now he puts in about 30 after-work hours."I may eventually get a job with Hunger Project or the World Bank," he says. "Either way, I'm determined to make a difference, to change things."

Fifteen years ago -- during the anti-Vietnam and pro-civil rights movements -- it was commonplace for 22-year-olds to talk this way. Today, a prevalent image of campus life suggests a herd of career-bent students tramping through the portals of law and business schools, flattening underfoot the idealistic values associated with the student movement of the '60s and early '70s. But according to many counselors, students, and spokesmen for social service agencies, that image may not be entirely accurate.

"We may not get as many calls as we did during the Vietnam era, but we get fewer naive do-gooders. And one person with skills is worth five equally well-intentioned people without them," says Margaret Bacon, assistant director of information for the American Friends Service Committee. "More kids today have a sophisticated long-term-goal perspective on international problems. It is different from the old attitude of 'we're in the struggle -- until the war is over,'" she adds.

No current domestic or overseas situation has enough impact to catapult undergraduates out of libraries and classrooms. Nevertheless, 4.5 percent of incoming freshmen in 1980 indicated that there was a "very good chance" they would participate in a demonstration during college -- the same percentage as among 1968 freshmen, according to "The American Freshman: National Norms for Fall," a lengthy questionaire distributed annually to freshmen at over 550 campuses by the Cooperative Institutional Research Center at the University of California at Los Angeles.

"The activist potential is always there. What's missing is an issue that will galvanize campuses," says Dr. Alexander Astin, a professor of education at UCLA, who began the surveys in 1966. In the absence of such an issue, students who tackle social problems are out of step with classmates, and often make their commitment only after a spell of introspection.

Each year Harvard University seniors complete a questionnaire indicating the professional fields they want to enter. From 1973 to 1979, interest in engineering and business climbed, but there was no corresponding decline in the quest for social-service jobs. Those people pursuing so-called alternative careers, like VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) or public-service work, remained a constant 2 percent of the class.