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Violence in Darfur Inspires Surge In Student Activism

Students and professors say such activism is a valuable extension of the classroom. Being involved in the Darfur issue helps students bridge the gap between the theories they learn in class and the real world, said Martha Heinemann, 21, a Georgetown senior and a coordinator of its STAND group.

Heinemann said students who learn about international policy and law in classes see that policy "doesn't happen in a vacuum." She also said that student-led initiatives have, in the past, been successful in changing conditions throughout the world.


George Washington University student Sara Weisman, center, leads members of her school's Students Taking Action Now: Darfur group at a vigil on campus Saturday to raise awareness of genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. (Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)

_____Photo Gallery_____
The Continuing Crisis in Darfur
_____Crisis in Sudan_____
Q&A: Darfur A brief explanation of the issues and current humanitarian situation in Western Sudan.
Photos: Sudan's Rebels
For a Small Girl in Darfur, A Year of Fear and Flight (The Washington Post, Nov 26, 2004)
New Pilgrims, Familiar Dreams (The Washington Post, Nov 25, 2004)
Violence Fractures Cease-Fire In Sudan (The Washington Post, Nov 24, 2004)
Rebel Attacks Raise Tensions in Darfur (The Washington Post, Nov 21, 2004)
In Sudan, a Sense of Abandonment (The Washington Post, Nov 16, 2004)

In the late 1990s, student protests demanding that universities stop buying products made in sweatshops were successful in winning new codes of business practice.

"The Darfur people are having a brilliant educational experience as they come to understand what is taking place in the Sudan," Gitlin said. "And they feel a kind of urgency and a need to know that is far more compelling than the normal sort of casual interest, than most of their educational choices."

Ellen Ritchie, a Hackworth Fellow last year at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University in California, did a research paper on student activism.

She found that student activists were nearly twice as likely as non-activists to be involved in community service and pursue independent studies.

"I feel a major part of the education I got from being at Santa Clara was outside the classroom, being involved in other issues," said Ritchie, 22, who works for a nonprofit group in San Francisco.

Rogoff now works full time at the Holocaust museum as university outreach coordinator for the Committee on Conscience, a standing group of the museum's trustees.

The Holocaust museum, which opened in 1993, is becoming more involved in efforts to stop the genocide in Darfur, according to Jerry Fowler, staff director of the Committee on Conscience.

The museum issued its first "genocide alert" about Darfur during the summer and has established a Web site -- www.ushmm.org/conscience/sudan/darfur -- to help further education efforts.

"Rwanda happened with the knowledge of the Holocaust, and this is happening with the knowledge of Rwanda," Rogoff said. "It keeps happening, and until it stops, we have to keep fighting it."


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