SGAC conference prime activism example

It’s a common complaint that Williams students are apathetic. Whether this is actually the case has been the subject of past, and in all likelihood, future editorials. We often take it for granted that as a whole, Williams students do not demonstrate significant interest in advocating civic causes.

The events and movements which do occur tend to come about as a result of the efforts of a few dedicated students. The recent Williams Voter Initiative (WVI) is a prime example of this: two students perceived a lack of interest in the upcoming election, and sought to rectify the situation by assisting in obtaining absentee ballots.

This past weekend saw yet another sterling example of Williams students bursting the Purple Bubble. The coordinators of the Williams chapter of the Student Global AIDS Campaign (SGAC) and their organization showed what a group of students dedicated to a cause are capable of accomplishing.

The problem itself is dire. According to the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, the past two decades have seen 65 million people infected with HIV, of whom approximately 25 million have already died. The next 25 years of the epidemic look even less encouraging. According to a recent article in Foreign Affairs, low estimates for China, India and Russia alone predict 66 million new HIV cases, in the case of a severe epidemic, those numbers could exceed 250 million.

The year and a half old group, headed by Healy Thompson ’03, Erica Dwyer ’03 and Shira Rosenberg ’04 organized the Northeast regional SGAC conference, which was attended by over 100 students from 21 schools. Many who attended regarded it as an inspiring and informative event. The speakers at the three public lectures were all experienced and respected members of the worldwide effort to combat AIDS. It is worth noting that these lecturers were obtained through connections made by the student organizers that resulted from involvement in the global AIDS-prevention community.

Furthermore, several of the key student organizers are prominent members of the SGAC National Organizing Team and have shown a commitment to their cause beyond the small Williams community. In fact, of the schools represented in the national leadership of the SGAC, Williams boasts the largest number of participants.

This situation can be contrasted with the difficulties encountered by the organizers of the WVI. We salute the initiative evidenced by organizers Hall O’Donnell ’03 and Saif Vagh ’03 in addressing an issue of concern, but the job itself proved to be greater than two students could handle alone. In the case of the SGAC conference, the coordinators were able to concentrate on guiding the effort, rather than handle each individual detail as it arose. The greater team of students was crucial in pulling the event together.

We find it heartening that the SGAC has provided us with an opportunity to highlight the resounding success of a particular student organization. We can only hope that the SGAC will be recognized by the student body as an excellent example of what a student organization on this campus can do through hard work and commitment to its cause.