Saturday, October 08, 2005

Darfur petition offered online

Joy Karugu
Princetonian Contributor

The Princeton Humanity Project launched an online version of its ongoing petition protesting the Darfur genocide Wednesday, with the support of the USG.

The Humanity Project expects to send copies of both the electronic and the earlier paper petition to the White House by the end of next week.

The Humanity Project started planning a nonpartisan Darfur petition after comments made last week by Nobel Peace Prize Winner Elie Wiesel in a speech they sponsored with the Princeton Public Lecture Series. In response to a question from the audience about how Princeton students can best effect change in the world, Wiesel said that a petition signed by University students would have the greatest influence on the problems in Darfur.

Even before the speech ended, Julie Grenet GS, a student in the French and Italian languages department, had already written a petition protesting the genocide in Darfur and calling for American relief aid. Following the speech, she collected signatures from people leaving the lecture hall.

A week later, the officers of the Humanity Project decided to create a second petition because they disagreed with how Grenet's was conducted. "Although Julie Grenet had wonderful intentions with her petition, and we didn't want to cancel out her petition, we decided to make a new petition, hoping it would be more successful," Joe Falit '07, chair of the Princeton Humanity Project, said in a telephone interview.

The Humanity Project initiated their paper petition early last week. They have not yet totalled the number of signat\ures collected. The members of the Project have been going to upperclass dorm rooms and collecting signatures outside the residential college dining halls.

Sanjeev Arora, computer science professor and chair of the Public Lectures Series which cosponsored Wiesel's speech, said he was surprised by the effect Wiesel's talk had on the students.

"His ability to attract and inspire students towards a higher cause was like nothing I have seen in my 11 years on campus," he said in an email. "Though signing a mere petition may seem an insignificant thing and takes only a second, it is nevertheless very important."

The Humanity Project launched the electronic petition after a suggestion by USG President Leslie Bernard-Joseph '06. The Humanity Project anticipates that with the new electronic petition, they may be able to reach their goal of having 80 percent of the University community sign.

They also expect they will more easily be able to verify names and identify potential duplicate signatures. "We think it's very important to be able to check these electronic signatures," Falit said. "We don't want fraud."

The USG supported the effort by sending out an "Action Email" Wednesday with the link to the Darfur petition, encouraging students to "read up on the petition and how Elie Wiesel inspired Princeton students to start it."

Douglas Massey, a Wilson School professor on the Public Lectures Series committee, said he was impressed by the effect of Wiesel's speech.

"Energizing students to understand and take action on important social issues is one of my goals in serving on the Public Lectures committee," he said in an email. "I'm gratified to see that Elie Wiesel's recent lecture has galvanized student opinion to weigh in on the unfolding tragedy in Darfur."

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