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Activists gather for STAND conference at Brandeis

By jasonwtemp

Section: News

March 7, 2008

Several months’ worth of preparation by the Brandeis chapter of STAND: A Student Anti-Genocide Coalition finally culminated into the final national STAND conference in the string of six held in February.

STAND, which uses advocacy, education, and action to help end genocide in Darfur and prevent it elsewhere, saw remarkable success in hosting the northeast conference, which extended from Friday night until Sunday afternoon.

“There was great attendance” said President of the Brandeis chapter of STAND and National Advocacy director of the Sudan Divestment Task Force, Daniel Millenson ’09. Around 250 students enrolled for this conference and about 200 attended from all over the northeast, making the largest STAND conference in the set.

“We had really interesting speakers, and people were really engaged in them,” said STAND Coordinator Shulamit Eisen ’08. “We had some pretty positive responses from those who attended.”

Some of the more intriguing portions of the conference were delivered by three main speakers who shared their thoughts and personal experiences on the issues surrounding genocide.

First up was Harvard Professor Jens Meierhenrich, who spoke of the implications of the United States’ insufficient action to stop or prevent genocide. He discussed how STAND activists can actually create a paradigm shift through their action to end genocide in Darfur and prevent future acts from occurring.

“[The speech] really challenged the student activists to question everything and make sure they know the facts behind what they advocate.” said attendee Trevor Bakker Harvard ’10.

Eisen found it to be “thought provoking and interesting” as it stirred healthy discussion among the activists.

Following Meierhenrich was Dr. Ashis Brahma, who provided an update on the current status in Sudan and similarly provoked many reflections.

“I actually think the first two speakers were trying to be a little controversial in talking about the movement’s successes and failures” said Millenson. “I think the sophistication of the questions, [and] how [the students] engaged with the speakers… reflected well on everyone who attended.”

Third to give her impression was Gayle Smith, who gave the keynote address on Saturday night. Having once worked under the Clinton National Security Council for Africa, she talked about her personal experiences working in Africa.

She also touched upon where STAND is now and what the Bush administration will need to do before the end of its term.

“It was really inspiring to listen and learn from all of them,” said Eisen.

The northeast STAND conference served numerous goals over the weekend in educating newer members and clarifying the current situations in Darfur and necessary future action. Also the conference featured numerous workshops to teach imperative skills for advocating, educating, and taking action against genocide. Most importantly, “it provided an opportunity for chapters to connect with each other so that they can work together…on larger scale projects” said Millenson.

Upcoming goals for STAND include the launching of their Executive Legacy campaign. In this, members of the STAND Leadership Team will demand that the Bush Administration act to end genocide in Sudan. STAND will also focus on prompting Chinese officials to meet with Sudanese officials to stop the violence in Darfur as Chinese oil companies currently act as a major source of Sudan’s revenue.

Eisen believes that for the future of STAND and ending genocide, “advocacy is a big part of what [STAND] does. I think this new campaign…will be really effective and the Brandeis chapter will do what it can.”

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