Human Rights Campaigns Hit WC Campus: Political Science Students Raise Awareness of Global Issues

By Andrea Clarke
Elm Staff Writer

Members of Dr. Christine Wade’s course, “Human Rights and Social Justice” (POL 373), have brought big international issues to tiny Chestertown. Dirty water bottles, face paint, and The Missing Women posters around campus are just a few of the attempts these students have made to raise public awareness for certain international issues.

“This course is designed to provide an introduction to the history, philosophy, and major debates on human rights and social justice,” said Wade. Students “will examine how considerations of gender and/or broaden traditional ways of looking at human rights.”

“I’m a strong proponent of the value of experiential and service learning, so I try to look for ways to incorporate them into my classes,” said Wade.

She assigned the Public Awareness Campaign to her students as a group project worth 30% of their grade. It is required that “Groups will write campaign funding proposals, create media spots, host a public event to publicize their issue, and write a written assessment of their campaign.”

This final written assignment is to be “an individual policy paper (15 pages) derived from their group project.”
So far Washington College has experienced two campaigns, 1 in 6 Campaign and Millions Missing, soon to be presented with Human Trafficking and Genocide in Darfur.

Junior Leah Sbriscia was a part of the 1 in 6 Campaign “which aimed to bring awareness about the lack of access to clean water, which affects 1.1 billion people…[we] highlighted the crisis through dirty water displays, a water pledge, and a fundraiser for Wells for Life International.”

Fellow campaign member and junior Alex Insel said, “as a group collectively, we thought that access to clean drinking water was a vital issue because water is such a basic life necessity. To be aware…and not doing anything about it, would make us somewhat responsible to the problem.”

Insel is very happy with their project’s results.

“People were very positive and supportive of the campaign. We had 45 people carry a jug of dirty water [on March 22 – World Water Day] and we had 234 people sign water pledges to remind them how they can reduce their water consumption.”

Millions Missing was also very successful in raising awareness.

Senior Latoya Gatewood-Young said, “Freshman participants actually surprised me with their willingness to participate.”

Even before enrolling in Wade’s class, Gatewood-Young was very familiar with her group’s topic.

“This time last year during my study abroad experience at Rhodes University in South Africa, I took part in the 1 in 9 campaign [against] sexual violence in the country. As a participant I fasted [and] took a vow of silence,” said Gatewood-Young.

Student participants in her campaign were asked to make similar sacrifices.

“Female participants wore black shirts that read “MIA: The Missing Women of WAC Campaign” and “Where did the 50 million women in India go?” They also received vow of silence cards and white face paint “to emphasize the concept of ‘missing.’”

Male participants wore placards with pictures of the WAC female participants that stated “Have You Seen Me?”
Gatewood-Young thinks her group was effective in “[making] students take time out of their day to think about atrocities plaguing the globe.”

Dr. Wade agrees with her students.

“I think the campaigns have generated a lot of interest and curiosity, which is terrific. Any time you can get people to think about something that they take for granted or shine a spotlight on an underreported issue, it’s a good thing,” she said.

The success of these campaigns have reinforced her view that “Group projects are wonderful pedagogical tools that allow students to achieve a quality of work usually impossible on an individual basis…students benefit from learning to work with other people and the sharing of knowledge.”

Look for upcoming events sponsored by the final two groups. For information on how to support Human Trafficking, contact Sean Stoerrle or Nicole Musho for Genocide in Darfur.

April 8, 2011
Volume LXXXI Issue 21

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