Student Union promotes Haiti relief

| Staff Columnist

After being devastated by an earthquake of magnitude 7.0 on Tuesday, January 12, Haiti remains in a state of chaotic destruction. Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, could be permanently crippled by this catastrophe without financial assistance as the infrastructure of the country’s capital city, Port-au-Prince, has been largely destroyed.

Student Union has opened the New Year with admirable compassion by collecting donations for disaster relief in Haiti. This initiative asks for just five dollars from each individual and aims to reach its $20,000 goal by Monday, January 25. SU will also contribute $500 from its own funds, as well as another dollar for every $40 raised. By trying to reduce the financial burdens on individuals, SU demonstrates that a collective approach can potentially provide a great deal of much-needed support.

The rapid response to the devastating earthquake mirrors that of the United States government as well as several prominent celebrities who have displayed a refreshing nationwide commitment to foreign aid.   This attitude has permeated the Wash. U. campus; several other student groups, including the Liggett/Koenig Residential College, the Black Senior Alliance, and WU-Slam have similarly committed themselves to fund-raising for Haiti disaster relief.

(Erin Mitchell | Student Life)

(Erin Mitchell | Student Life)

The most compelling part of the Student Union initiative, however, is the fact that it exists in the first place. Charities are among the first casualties of an economic downturn as people try to cut back on their personal spending. Even with the current dismal economic climate, SU refuses to condone the neglect of philanthropy in the face of the Haitian disaster. SU, always a significant presence on campus, has used its influence for a compassionate, compelling and morally obligatory purpose.

Displaying their commitment to the project, the members of Student Union have created a Web site devoted to fund-raising at http://su.wustl.edu/haiti.  Donations are easily made with credit or debit card, and SU will also be taking cash donations in DUC Commons on Monday. The Web site also contains useful information about the earthquake, calling it “a tragedy of catastrophic proportions.”

So, confronted with this tragedy of catastrophic proportions, the students of Washington University now face a decision. We can offer our aid and support, or we can turn our backs as the Haitian people continue to suffer. With the disproportionate amount of wealth concentrated in the Wash. U. campus, the latter action would constitute a tragedy of equally catastrophic proportions and send a message to less privileged people across the globe that we will not assist them in their times of need.

It is not only generous of us to contribute; it is essential.

Kate is a freshman in Arts & Sciences. She can be reached via e-mail at kemarcal@artsci.wustl.edu.