Sophomore Year Experience DC Trip Teaches About Genocide

Lunch in a diner overlooking the White House with the Vice President of the World Bank was one of the highlights that impressed more than 100 students on a trip to Washington, D.C., organized by the Sophomore Year Experience (YSE). The long-term benefits far outweighed the food and fine company. However, the participants also heard about genocide in the past century and learned from them how to prevent such atrocities from occurring in the future. Colgate’s program, started a year ago, takes sophomores to the Holocaust Museum in the Capital to foster discussion. A Colgate alumna, who wished to remain anonymous, funded the program. “The idea came from West Point where they started this program several years ago,” she said. “I thought it would be a really useful experience to Colgate students, and the administration also liked the idea.” This year the students arrived in a foggy Washington, D.C. After a nine-hour bus ride, the students were treated to a lunch at the top floor of the Washington Hotel with several prominent alumni and friends of Colgate. In her keynote address, Dr. Pamela Cox, Vice President of the World Bank responsible for the Latin American region, used the example of the Peruvian terrorist group Sendero Luminoso to explain how poverty and violence are interrelated. This ultra-leftist organization gets most of its support from the most desperately poor people of the country. Cox compared the situation in Peru to that in Europe after both World Wars. After World War I, the lack of real reconciliation and the poor economic conditions triggered another massacre. After World War II, the rebuilding projects and careful planning resulted in more than 50 years of peace and the formation of the European Union. Counsel of Trade Relations of the Afghan Embassy Mirjam Nawari expressed her enthusiasm about the present situation in Afghanistan. “The Afghan people have indeed learn the practice of democracy very quickly,” she stated. “However, change takes a lot of time.” “A survey among Afghan women showed that their foremost wish is to give their kids a good education,” Nawari said. “Only an educated country can make them feel safe about not wearing their burkas – what if now they take it off and the Taliban retaliates once the Americans leave?” It is possible that Afghan students will be soon be introduced to Western Traditions and the Challenge of Modernity. Colgate has recently started helping Afghan academic institutions with curriculum development. After lunch, the group visited the Holocaust Museum, where students found a thorough explanation of the causes and events of World War II, including the systematic killing of almost six million Jews by Hitler’s Nazis. “The most spine-chilling moment was seeing the table where the workers took the gold fillings out of the victims’ mouths,” sophomore Veronika Totos said. “In the middle of the table, I saw a drain designed to drive the blood away. It was then that I realized how cold-blooded and perfectly planned this whole killing machine was.” “I think it is very useful for most students to see history coming alive in front of their eyes,” Dean of the Sophomore Year Experience Raj Bellani said.”They learn about the responsibility of bystanders and social justice.” The students also learned about the genocide in Darfur. Millions of people are endangered by government-backed armed militias Sudan. Secretary of State Colin Powell has declared there is a genocide in the region, but so far, little has been done to help. Colgate students will have many opportunities to express their support for those being persecuted in the Darfur genocide, however. “On November 9th, we are hosting Salva Dut, one of the ‘Lost Boys of Sudan,'” sophomore Bethann Weick of Amnesty International said. “He will speak about his experiences of violence in his country since the 1990s. On the 20th, there will be a vigil and a fast to remind people of Darfur. We are also planning on putting up a refugee tent in the middle of the quad.” Amnesty International has already achieved some tangible results from its continuous protest campaign. Almost $300 has been raised by the Colgate group, to offer humanitarian aid for the refugees. In addition, the group ha collected more than 150 signatures to ask the leaders of Sudan and Chad to help stopping the killing of innocent people.