Thirty Days of Global Awareness at Midd

By Middlebury Campus

Author: Ian Schmertzler

Students may have noticed a slew of events on campus geared toward issues of humanitarian and environmental concern since the month of April began. For those who haven’t, the posters, banners, sculptures and flyers represent a coordinated publicity campaign called “30 days of Global Awareness” launched by Midd8, a new organization on campus. Organizers say the campaign’s objective is to help students take the step from education and awareness to actual activism on issues.

Based on the worldwide series of Live8 events, Midd8 emphasizes the United Nations’ eight millennium goals as those dealing with environmental stability, extreme poverty and hunger, child mortality, maternal health, universal primary education, gender equality, HIV/AIDS and malaria and creating a global partnership for development. Over the course of the month, a series of events at Middlebury sponsored by student organizations have addressed these issues.

Midd8’s two student directors, Divya Khosla ’06 and Courtney Matson ’06, said that the diversity of issues raised by the campaign ought to attract a wider following than a single issue would by itself. “The beauty of the UN millennium goals is that people can probably attach themselves at least to one issue raised,” said Matson. While turnout at events during the first week proved low, subsequent events have attracted crowds numbering in the hundreds.

The idea for the project had modest beginnings: “It all grew out of us being frustrated with going to clubs and feeling like they were just talking and not doing anything,” said Khosla. “Originally we hoped for a two day conference, a concert, a panel discussion and a keynote speaker,” or a small-scale version the Live8 campaign last July. But thanks to support from Old Chapel and student organizations on campus, the idea grew into a month-long program. “Over J-Term, the number of students coming regularly to meetings grew from five to 60,” said Khosla, “so several of us involved thought, ‘Why not have a whole month of these issues being raised and really draw people under one common goal: action.'” The goal now is to see an equivalent to Midd8 on campus each year.

Khosla and Matson said that, in addition to the events at Middlebury, Midd8 hoped to garner the attention of student activists at colleges across the country. “We’ve been getting e-mails and calls from students, East coast West coast, saying ‘We want to do something like this, what did you do?'” said Khosla. Organizers hope these other schools will pick up on the idea and host events similar to “30 Days of Global Awareness” next year. “Hopefully we will have a nationwide grassroots effort going before the 2008 presidential elections,” Matson said. “It won’t stop there, but it’s a reasonable objective for us to set.” To further this goal, Midd8’s organizers have been actively promoting all of their events online.

Numerous organizations and administrators have been involved in making the month’s events happen: significant sponsoring organizations have included the Inter-Commons Council, the Rohatyn Center for International Affairs, the Alliance for Civic Engagement and the Roosevelt Institution’s international policy branch.

The last two weeks of the month promise to be the biggest for Midd8, with the issues of global warming, the effects of the Southeast Asian tsunami on Sri Lanka, AIDS and student activism taking center stage. “30 Days of Global Awareness” will close with discussions on China’s and Russia’s places in the world, the AIDS epidemic and the spread of democracy. A complete schedule of Midd8 events is available at www.middlebury.edu/~skirk.