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UConn Community Discussion on Responding to the Syrian Refugee Crisis

BY Johanna Debari


On October 22, 2015, students, faculty, and staff gathered in a seminar room in Oak Hall to discuss how the UConn community could respond to the refugee crisis in Syria. The goals set for the meeting were threefold: 1) information-sharing about the crisis; 2) creating an opportunity for coordination across campus, departments, and communities at UConn, and 3) brainstorming ideas on what should and/or could be done here at UConn to raise awareness of the crisis and how to take action.

A variety of voices were represented at the meeting. Several students from a communications course described a class project they are developing, involving a pro-social, persuasive information campaign to raise money and awareness of the Syrian refugee crisis. They have a Facebook page, are using #HuskiesforSyria on Instagram and Twitter and have a crowd funding page as well. Another student from a fraternity on campus, wanted to be more involved in efforts to raise awareness on campus about Syrian refugees. Faculty members from Political Science and the Human Rights Institute expressed concern about rising levels of xenophobia in Europe and the United States.

Two follow-up events have been organized, including a panel discussion on “The Syrian Refugee Emergency: Humanitarian and Human Rights Perspectives,” which will take place on November 12, 2015 at 7:00 pm in the Konover Auditorium. Panelists include Dr. Jeff Crisp, Refugee Studies Center, University of Oxford; Dr. Zaid Eyadat, Political Science and Human Rights Institute, University of Connecticut; and Dr. M. Anne Sa’adeh, Joel Parker Professor of Law and Political Science, Dartmouth College. This event is co-sponsored by Middle East Studies, HRI, the Office of Global Affairs, and Global House. For more information on this event, please follow the link to theflyer.

On Thursday, December 3 at 12:00 pm, Michael Knipper, MD, PhD, and an External Affiliate of the Research Program on Global Health and Human Rights, will speak about the health and human rights dimensions of the current refugee influx into Germany. The talk will take place in the Class of ‘47 Room, Babbidge Library. The event has been organized by the Research Program on Global Health and Human Rights at HRI and is co-sponsored by Global House and the German section of the Literature, Culture, and Languages Department. Knipper, a faculty member in the medical school at Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany, has been directly involved in local, national, and regional responses to the current crisis.

The community discussion signifies that a response to the Syrian refugee emergency is going to be on the minds of the UConn community. If you would like to get involved, please contact Professor Jeremy Pressman (jeremy.pressman@uconn.edu) for more information or to be added to the e-mail list of interested individuals.