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STAND steps up to change ‘apathetic’ campus
Members of the organization QU STAND are rallying behind the upcoming lecture from renowned human rights activist John Prendergast, with hopes that the March event will reverse what they perceive to be sentiments of apathy on campus.
Author of eight books, Prendergast is a former staff member of the Clinton administration, working in both the White House and the State Department. He has been a potent voice on human rights issues in Africa, particularly the ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.
“It’s really exciting that John Prendergast is coming,” sophomore english major and President of QU STAND Louis D’Agostino said.
The organization formed during last spring semester, making headlines with a rally in which 20 students were involved. Although membership has dwindled to six since then, D’Agostino said that the group does not require large numbers to be effective.
D’Agostino said that although the group has made a number of efforts to draw attention to the issue, apathy has been a significant obstacle.
In addition to the spring protest, STAND members raised $500 from “dorm storming” and protested at the United Nations in New York City last year. They also sponsored September’s screening of the documentary “Invisible.”
“This campus, it’s too hard to change,” D’Agostino said. “We’re not really trying to change the attitudes on campus, but the principles. You have to start with principles and then move to attitude. It’s more or less going back to the drawing board.”
Raquel Barbieri, a sophomore STAND member, echoed this sentiment.
“Our goal at Quinnipiac is to get the students aware of major humanitarian issues around the world,” Barbieri said via e-mail. “Our executive board feels that Quinnipiac is one of the most politically apathetic universities in the country. We believe it’s time we started caring about the world outside of our QU bubble.”
“We want to unify this anti-genocide movement under one message by providing students with informational, educational and organizing resources, empowering them through an extensive network of impassioned student activists and advocating for a change in the world’s mentality towards genocide,” Barbieri said.
According to D’Agostino, the organization also had its own Web site last year, but it was discontinued due to a shortage of funds. Because STAND is not yet in its second year, it cannot get chartered by the Student Government Association.
“I was either considering discontinuing it or handing off to another member,” D’Agostino said.
D’Agostino blames himself for the organization’s slow start.
“Marketing just hasn’t been a key issue,” he said. “We’re certainly going to have to change things if things are going to go up instead of down.”
The upcoming Prendergast lecture, he said, gave him impetus to keep STAND going. The organization is partnering with the International Human Rights Law Society (IHRLS) to sponsor the screening of “Darfur Now,” a documentary on the Darfur genocide. The screening will take place on Thursday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. in Alumni Hall.
According to IHRLS Co-president Danielle Robinson, apathy has been a problem within the law school as well.
“It’s definitely something that we struggle with,” she said. “The student leaders just have to try harder to engage people.”
Other groups collaborating on the screening include the Black Law Student Association, (BLSA) the Women’s Law Society and the Albert Schweitzer Club. The organizations received an $800 grant from the university to pay for the film, which will not be released on DVD until late May, Robinson said.
“All I know is that it is 2008 and there is a genocide going on in Darfur,” BLSA Vice President Amy Markham said in an e-mail.
“We read about how people watched the Jews of Nazi Europe be exterminated by the car load and ask ‘how could that happen?’ Yet when we are faced with genocide in our own time, most of us are again silent and turn a blind eye as innocent men, women, and children are wiped off the face of this earth because of their religion, or their nationality, or the color of their skin,” she said.
Robinson said that she would be willing to collaborate with organizations on the undergrad campus, particularly STAND, in future activist endeavors.
“Considering how our membership is pretty small and their membership is pretty small, it would serve both of us,” she said.
Robinson said that she would also be willing to work with other universities or pursue a divestment campaign, which has been successful at other campuses. She hopes that the Prendergast lecture will motivate students to take a stand on Darfur.
“I think the fact that he’s coming is a great idea because he’s so involved in the activist movement,” she said. “I expect that he’s going to have a lot of personal experience with what’s going on over there. And I think that he can bring that back and convey it to us in a very real way.”
Robinson added, “At this point, there’s so much potential for mass killing, but at the same time, we have the potential to prevent that.”