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Students March for Human Rights

Published: December 09, 2010
 In a time when e-mail and texting has trumped traditional letter-writing, it might seem curious that Gwen Teutsch ’13 and Emily Lucero ’13 are asking the UT community to take out a pen and paper and stand up for human rights.

“We’ve been writing letters weekly since last year, and there have been a lot of success stories,” said Lucero, vice president of STAND, a student anti-genocide coalition. The coalition meets jointly with UT’s Amnesty International, which works to guarantee that everyone enjoys the living standards guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The groups write support letters to people on death row they feel are wrongly convicted. They write letters to governments in support of the freedom of speech and against unjust imprisonment. On Dec. 10, in an event sponsored by UT’s Diversity Fellowship, they will join thousands around the world in celebrating International Human Rights Day, established by the UN to mark the 62nd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“The whole day is to remind people that no matter who you are, you can make a difference,” said Teutsch, a nursing major and president of Amnesty International. “It starts with education. You learn a little something, give back to people in the world and, hopefully, save a life or give someone freedom.”

Participants will engage in a write-a thon where people from more than 50 countries write letters “to bring concentrated pressure to help human rights defenders, prisoners of conscience and other people at risk of human rights abuses," Lucero said.

At UT, she said they hope to write at least 100 letters and will be handing out free T-shirts to tie dye for each participant who writes a letter on Friday. Intervarsity Christian Fellowship will host an interactive event from noon-4 p.m. in Vaughn Courtyard on human rights and human trafficking.

From 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., also in the courtyard, student organizations like Circle K International, H.O.L.A. (Hispanic Organization for Latin Americans) and the Gay Lesbian Transgender Straight Organization will be discussing immigration and gay rights, genocide, conflict minerals and how to advocate for abused and neglected children in the state court system as Guardian ad Litem volunteers.

Delta Sigma Theta, a sorority founded with a commitment for public service, political awareness and involvement, had founders involved in the Women’s Suffrage March in 1913. Members of the UT chapter will discuss women’s rights during the Dec. 10 event and will lead a human rights march around campus at 6:30 p.m.

“We want to allow students the chance to join in our march for whatever they believe in, to stand up for and communicate rights they feel still need to be addressed, and to celebrate the freedoms and rights we are now able to exercise,” said Ashley Kearney ’12, chapter president. “We want students to represent themselves, their values, their beliefs and their organizations in our march.”

Several of the participating organizations will be collecting toiletries during the event to be given to the homeless or the children served by Guardian ad Litem.

“I hope students gain a greater appreciation for the rights we have here,” Teutsch said. “Hopefully it’ll be an eye-opening experience for people and get them involved in something they are passionate about.”

Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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