Student activism needed

Last Sunday, USC students, faculty and community members had the unique privilege of spending “An Evening with Luis Moreno-Ocampo.”

The event, hosted by the Gould School of Law and School of Cinematic Arts, featured a conversation between Ocampo, prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, and several notable individuals connected to USC who have been involved in campaigns to end genocide and other human rights abuses.

Ocampo and his fellow participants spoke of world issues of the highest caliber, of great horrors and great triumphs and of fascinating activist initiatives the average listener likely never considers.

One of the most prevalent topics is how media technology, combined with the best creative talent, could effect enormous change in how human rights advocacy is conducted and in resolution of the issues.

Implicit in this discussion was an appeal to the creative community at USC: Take notice of these problems, use your abilities and make a change. Our institution desperately needs to respond to that appeal.

Because USC boasts some of the world’s best programs in creative media, it has an obligation to live up to that standard. USC students and alumni tend to do pretty well in this arena. Sometimes, however, we fall short when it comes to extending compassion to a suffering global community.

This is not for lack of a role to play. Human rights campaigns and other non-profit efforts often desperately need creative people to back them up. A brilliant organizing mind can only go so far without an effective means of gaining support from the community.

There is a general lack of interest within the student body when it comes to human rights issues. Students are not necessarily quick to respond to statistics about rape, famine, poverty and child soldiers, no matter how staggering they might be, without an emotionally impacting message. They can’t simply be urged to action; they have to be driven to take it. And that’s where the USC community can come in.

USC recently added minors in both human rights and peace and conflict studies. Despite their limited following nationwide, these fields are both very legitimate and very relevant to the crises our nation and world face every day.

The university has taken appropriate action in these fields, but should expand minors to majors and work their themes into other programs of study to open doors for students and faculty alike. USC students can play a even more significant humanitarian role. They can respond to Ocampo’s petition by becoming active community members and reaching out to those who need help.

The student body should be more aware of the world’s most pressing issues. Students must also recognize how the resources and expertise we gain as students at USC can help us bring about positive global change.

Jedidiah Jenkins, a USC alumnus and  director of ideology for the Southern California-based activist organization Invisible Children, was among the guests at Sunday’s event. Invisible Children attempts to use film, creativity and social action to end the atrocities and use of child soldiers in the Ugandan conflict — a civil conflict where a rebel army is treating Ugandans just as poorly, if not moreso, than their government is.

USC students are more than capable of creating initiatives just like Jenkins’ now world-renowned organization. Our own busy and important lives can often get in the way. It doesn’t take much, however, to make a community like ours a little more globally conscious.

Consider making a documentary about genocide for your summer film project or investigate the growing media opportunities with non-profit organizations. With the talent and creative drive we have at USC, there is absolutely no reason for USC not to put itself at the forefront of a new generation of activist efforts.

Francesca Bessey is an undeclared freshman.