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UA Students Organize March for Science NWA

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Two UA students organized a march Saturday advocating science research and education in the Northwest Arkansas region.

Seniors Brayley Gattis and Zachary Renfro organized the March for Science NWA  in Fayetteville, starting at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and ending on campus at Hillside Auditorium, Gattis said. The march began around 10 a.m. and ended around 11 a.m. with approximately 70 participants in attendance.

“We organized it because no one else has done something like this, and we want this to be something important to the community,” Gattis said. “If we don’t do it, then who knows, maybe know no one will.”

The March for Science is a national event with demonstrations organized in cities across the country such as Washington D.C., Los Angeles and New York City. The event is in its second year, and similarly, this is the second year Gattis and Renfro have organized the march at the local level. Although last year there were more than 600 people in attendance, this Saturday’s turnout was still something to be optimistic about, Renfro said.

“I feel like the march today was powerful just to keep the movement going but also to show people that we are standing up for science. This isn’t a one time thing,” Renfro said.

Renfro thinks more people typically show up when it is the first event of its kind, so that could explain a smaller turnout, he said.

Before last year no one else organized and executed a march that advocates for science like this Fayetteville before, so Gattis and Renfro took it upon themselves to make an impact in the community, Gattis said.

Northwest Arkansas is a progressive community and Gattis and Renfro thought that people in the area would be supportive of this march, Gattis said.

“If people in other communities in our state or elsewhere see members of Fayetteville and NWA pushing for science, my hope is that they’ll start pushing for that within their communities and toward their legislators as well,” Gattis said.

Some people learned about the march through the Facebook event page, like graduate student Bakhtiyar Nafis who felt the urge to participate in the march, he said.

“Science is under attack nationally. Unfortunately, it has been politicized and it shouldn’t be that way,” Nafis said. “All too often, financial interests in the government are favored over evidence. In this country, profit gets in the way of fixing climate change.”

After participants marched down Dickson Street, participants walked inside Hillside Auditorium to listen to short presentations focusing on the need for scientific thought in the country from speakers Clint Schnekloth, a pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, and Lance Miller, professor in the UA Department of Mathematical Sciences.

People assume that right-leaning people who are resistant to giving money to science research to be “dumb,” Schnekloth said during his presentation. In reality, they are smart individuals who are just using their intelligence to push their own agenda, which can be regressive.

“Our chant is, ‘We want evidence-based research, and we want it after peer review,’” Schnekloth said. “There is resistance to new ideas and policies, and if we want the scientific community progress, we need to create a culture of open-mindedness.”
The Trump Administration has taken action that could be seen as undermining science such as withdrawing the Paris Climate Agreement.

The truth exists whether people understand it or not, Miller said. If citizens are not aware and do not use scientific thinking, which is based on inquiry and experimentation, politicians and corporations can abuse people’s lack of skepticism and biases to achieve their own agenda.

Scientists work to help people, Gattis said. By supporting organizations such as the National Institutes of Health, people can help the public health of the country. Money would allow for work to be done on vaccines and maybe even a cure for cancer, Gattis said.

Science is a methodology of looking at problems, and it addresses the issues that face us everyday, such as climate change and public health, Renfro said.

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