UT Students Take a STAND Against Genocide

Published: Nov 18, 2009
While walking with hundreds of students and activists on Capitol Hill, their hearts raced as they pulled out their signs proclaiming an end to genocide and asking Congress to do something about it.

As part of the Pledge2Protect national conference Nov. 6-9, six University of Tampa students went to Washington, D.C. to educate themselves on genocide, learn new ways of engaging others and get fired up about the potential impact they can make.

“It was empowering to see so many people,” said Samantha Hopkins '12, who is majoring in government and world affairs, of the 1,000 participants.

Hosted by Genocide Intervention Network’s student-led division, STAND, and partners Save Darfur Coalition and The Enough Project, the conference included lobbying efforts with participants meeting with their local politicians. UT’s group, joined by students from Eckerd College, the University of South Florida and two activists from Miami, met with one of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s aides.

“We were taught how to present our argument, and it was all very professional,” said Colleen Itani '12, an international and cultural studies major. “It was really cool.”

The conference was just one of the recent activities by UT STAND. Formed in the spring of 2009 by a handful of students, their numbers have grown each week. About 30 meet every Friday at 2 p.m. in Riverside Center 107.

Assistant English professor Dr. Arthur Hollist’s sister is an aide worker in Darfur who sends regular updates to the students on what is happening on the ground level. The students host documentaries, encourage students to political action with informational tables in Vaughn Center and keep spreading the word.

“When I started, I didn’t know much about STAND as an organization or about genocide,” said Itani, who is now versed in the atrocities happening in the Darfur region of Sudan, Burma and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “Once I learned, I thought more people needed to learn about these events. The only way genocide will ever end is for us to get involved.”

For Tanner White '10, an international and cultural studies major with a Spanish minor, the mass killings going on in the world now remind him of the world’s post-Holocaust’s mission of “never again.”

“There is something that can be done. We can speak for people who don’t have a voice, connect with politicians who can make a change,” White said. “We’re trying to make sure that promise of “never again” isn’t broken. We just have to.”

To see a video of the students’ march on Capitol Hill, click here.