Got an email from Jason Gray today; I’m sure you did too. Looks like the Student Union EBoard is trying to do its bit to help out the victims of Gustav.

What their effort boils down to is this: Tabling for donations, backing a student volunteer group, and persuading International Club to donate some funds from Pachanga.

Well, that’s good I guess. Way to use the bully pulpit for some good. I remember in High School, after the Southeast Asian Monsoons, a kid named Adam Sax raised 10,000 from students for charity. So this donation drive definitely has promise. I don’t know why, it just feels…underwhelming.

Maybe the students who join the National Collegiate Volunteers could do some video interviews with some residents and bring back their stories? How about we get the University to invest some of its endowment in no/low-interest micro-loan programs for hurricane survivors. Or maybe we as a student body could raise a ruckus about the failed conservative policies that got us into this mess…again?

I dunno. This isn’t meant to be a criticism of the Student Union. They’re just people on a busy schedule doing what they think is right. I just think there is a capacity at Brandeis for so much more. Those are just some quick ideas I had. This is a good first step, but imagine the possibilities of all else we could do.

You can read the email under the flip:

Hello –

In recent days, Hurricanes Gustav, Hannah, and Ike have caused large amounts of damage across the United States and abroad.

While we hope that any future destruction is minimal, we have all observed the damage and destruction that has already occurred. There is considerable rebuilding necessary to repair the lives, homes, and businesses of those impacted by the storms.

Many students have asked how they can help.

Here’s how:

– Please consider donating $5-10 to the Student Union’s Disaster Relief Initiative. We have set up a partnership with the American Red Cross Hurricane Relief Fund. You can either donate directly to the Red Cross by following this link: http://american.redcross.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ntld_main Or you can donate in person at tables that are set-up in Usdan and the Shapiro Campus Center from 11:00AM to 2:00 PM this Monday through Friday.

– If you are interested in physical volunteer relief work, please contact the National Collegiate Volunteers, a Brandeis student organization that sends students to do volunteer disaster relief work in needed areas. Contact nwkaplan@brandeis.edu for more information.

– Proceeds from the International Club’s Pachanga this Saturday will go to benefit international victims of these hurricanes as well.

Thank you,

Jason Gray
Student Union President

The American Red Cross name is used with its permission, which in no way constitutes an endorsement, express or implied, of any product, service, company, individual or political position.

For more information about the American Red Cross, please call 1-800 HELP NOW or email info@usa.redcross

6 comments on “Student Union vs Hurricane Gustav”

  1. Loki Says:

    I disagree – I think this is a really great effort planned on such short notice, especially considering that we are even trying to get some people physically down to the disaster area to help.

    I don’t think many other colleges are doing anything very significant as a response, and I am very happy that Brandeis is and has already gotten the ball rolling.
    As for video interviews, while a decent idea, they are cursory compared to the importance of real physical and monetary aid. And while another protest might be fun, it is of nowhere near the urgency of solid, real aid to the thousands of people in dire need of real help now. As for convincing the University to reinvest some of its funds into microfinance, that would take hell of a long time.

    So really, Sahar’s suggestions are the ones that seem underwhelming to me – perhaps they’re cooler and more fashionable forms of activism, but their real effect on helping people now is nowhere near the size of the old-fashioned donation and volunteer drive.

    But really, anything helps, and if Sahar disagrees or feels underwhelmed, then it’d be wonderful if he organized even more ways to get involved. But I’d be dissapointed if he is merely being an armchair critic of what is really an admirable and well-organized initiative.

    Also, I know Jamie Ansorge, who’s organizing this thing, is looking for more people to staff tables for donations during lunches this week – if anyone wants to help, send me or him an email at amelman@brandeis.edu or jansorge@brandeis.edu

  2. Jessica Says:

    I personally don’t feel underwhelmed by the Student Union’s actions, although I don’t have an arsenal of scathing comments brewing towards Sahar’s viewpoint either.

    I think both things are equally important… looking at “the here and now” as well as looking towards what prolonged activism can be planned for the future. Yes, right now there is a huge need for financial and volunteer aid. But disasters like this (especially with our current environmental issues) will continue to happen. It’s a fact of life. So, keeping that in mind, does it really matter if it would take a long time to set up a micro finance program through the university? It may not help the survivors now, but the survivors of the future would surely benefit… not to mention the potential to spread that umbrella to entrepreneurial projects in the developing world.

    You speak a lot of the “urgency” of real aid to these people, which is VERY true… but we must also keep in mind that any long term activism or projects on this topic are urgent as well. Not necessarily in the direct impact on the lives of the people involved in this specific disaster, but we also have to keep in mind how quickly the public turns to apathy. The tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, it’s a big deal in the media for maybe a month after it happens, and then it almost disappears from our collective consciousness (regardless of whether or not people’s needs have increased).

    So to me, Sahar’s suggestions seem just as fitting as the project to send volunteers and financial aid. I admire what the Student Union has put together so quickly, but I also admire Sahar for thinking outside the stereotypical “disaster=donations” equation.

  3. Jessica Says:

    Just to add on to my point of public apathy:

    It’s important to catch the public when they want to do something, when they feel active and want to be involved. One venue for this is monetary donations and donations of time… while another could be involvement in some of these more forward thinking proposals.

    Sorry if that wasn’t clearly stated in my previous stream of thought.

  4. Loki Says:

    Point taken. It took some gall, however, to criticize such a good project so off-handedly.

  5. Jessica Says:

    I’ll give you that.

  6. Sahar Says:

    If you think I was criticizing, Alex, maybe you should read the post again.

    Let me repeat – I think what the Student Union is doing is great. I also think that could be an opportunity rather than an end. Is this slate of action the whole of our commitment or the first step?

    Maybe you shouldn’t be so quick to criticize, and seek instead to understand.