On Monday, April 4, Contemporary Issues will host a conference on genocide. Contemporary Issues is a “student organization that is based on bringing programs and topics and movies to campus that students might not otherwise be exposed to,” said Colleen McHugh, president of Contemporary Issues. The organization helps bring forth information on social justice issues and on political issues onto campus. “It’s a wide variety of things,”saidMcHugh. Contemporary Issues hosts an academic conference every year during the spring semester. This year, Contemporary Issues chose genocide as their conference topic.
“The idea for the conference just really came from the fact that it had never been done before, at least at West Chester, and the fact that we knew we could get a whole range of topics involving genocide,” McHugh said.
The conference will include two segments on the Holocaust, a survivor segment and a segment on the lessons learned from the Holocaust.
“We also really wanted to broaden student body’s mind with things that are going on currently , such as Darfur and things that have happened in the past, such as Cambodia or Rwanda. The conference kind of came out of this idea to make students aware that there are things that have happened and atrocities that have been committed that some people may not be aware of,” McHugh said. McHugh hopes that the conference will promote awareness of these genocides and stop them before they continue.
“The U.N. is not willing to recognize Darfur as Genocide yet and this [conference] is an educational program to promote awareness so that it doesn’t have to be classified as genocide and it can be stopped,” said McHugh. The main co-sponsor of the conference is the Holocaust and Genocide Studies Center and graduate program. “Dr. Friedman, who is the director of the program, has been really crucial to our success. He’s been a wonderful supporter and he is actually one of our moderators for one of the segments,” said McHugh. McHugh says that Dr. Friedman has been a good connection to have for the conference.
“He has linked us up with a lot of the graduate students from the Holocaust and Genocide studies program,” said McHugh. McHugh also mentions how supportive the liberal arts departments have been towards the conference and how they have really reached out to students to attend the event. McHugh hopes that students will learn a lot from the first-hand accounts.
“It’s nice that people can talk about Genocide and talk about the issues of the world but unless you have a first hand account and you can really share that and share your experience, I don’t think that it gets through,” said McHugh. McHugh is happy that the conference will have people who have been through genocide first hand and can really talk about why it is bad and how, as people, we can stop it. So what impact does McHugh hope to have on the campus?
“I hope we don’t make people depressed,” said McHugh jokingly. “That’s why we are wrapping up the program with a segment called Genocide Activism. We are really hoping to encourage students to just be aware of their political surroundings. We’re not trying to make any statement one way or another. We’re not affiliated with any organization and we are not working with any other organization. We are just trying to stop any corruption that is allowing genocides to happen,” McHugh said.
McHugh really wants to thank her faculty advisor, Dr. Robert Kodosky and the rest of her club members for all of their support. The event will be held in the Sykes theatre and will start at 9 a.m. and end at 6 p.m. The conference will be broken up into segments. Students do not have to be present for the entire conference.They can pick from various segments depending on their schedule.
Angela Thomas is a fourth year student majoring in English and with a minor in web technology. She can be reached at AT683005@wcupa.edu.