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Human rights group to unite University social awareness organizations

WAR AND PEACE: George Galloway, former member of the British Parliament speaks at  June 1st protest against Israeli flotilla raids. The protest was hosted by the ASU Coalition for Human Rights. (Photo courtesy of CODEPINK Arizona)
WAR AND PEACE: George Galloway, former member of the British Parliament speaks at June 1st protest against Israeli flotilla raids. The protest was hosted by the ASU Coalition for Human Rights. (Photo courtesy of CODEPINK Arizona)

A new student group is beginning to organize in Tempe, focusing on uniting the voices of the various social awareness groups at ASU.

The ASU Coalition for Human Rights is a fledgling organization that will register in August to be officially recognized by the University. The group aims to present a unified front that will allow the different human rights-focused student organizations to collaborate and share resources.

Oday Shahin, co-president of the Coalition for Human Rights, said the group would promote human rights issues in the local and global communities, as well as issues specific to its member organizations.

“[ASU] needed one voice in terms of our communication with the administration in regards to social responsible investing,” Shahin said. “It would only be wise for us to have a coalition like this, especially on a big university — on a university that cares about human rights.”

The coalition has already begun working to achieve its goal. It hosted an event called “SB 1070 and Its Implications” on May 15, which was attended by state representatives Ed Ableser, D-Tempe, and Ben Miranda, D-Phoenix, and also Soler Meetze, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona. A day after Israel raided nine convoy ships that were attempting to breach a blockade of the Gaza Strip on May 31, which resulted in the death of nine people, the coalition organized a protest near the Mill Avenue shopping district.

Christina Massey, the coalition’s spokeswoman, said the group hopes to raise awareness about human rights issues that students otherwise may not know about.

“Since ASU is so vast ... there is so much going on that it’s overwhelming and people don’t hear about things and they don’t learn about what they’re interested in,” Massey said. “What the [Coalition for Human Rights] will really do is it will fill that disconnect and make people more aware ... of what actually is going on in the world and what’s going on on campus.”

Though ASU does not yet have an officially recognized human rights coalition, there are many registered organizations that focus on specific human rights issues.

ASU Assistant Director of Student Engagement Jennifer Stults said in an e-mail that it is “important to note that it is quite common for student organizations to work together to program, educate and affect change, despite the absence of a formal relationship by way of a coalition.”

Some other universities have commissions or committees that address human rights issues, Shahin said, and the Coalition for Human Rights will attempt to create a similar structure within ASU.

USG President Jacob Goulding said he was not familiar with the group’s efforts, but that such a coalition would allow the student groups to come together and engage students under a central organization.

“I haven’t heard anything about their intentions ... but, I definitely promote students who want to get involved with programs and start new organizations on campus,” Goulding said. “That’s never a bad thing.”

Goulding said he looks forward to meeting and working with the members of the coalition.

Reach the reporter at joseph.schmidt@asu.edu


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