A chapter of Amnesty International, a globally-known human rights organization, is sticking its flag pole in the ground on Main Campus.
It can be difficult to miss Main Campus clipboard-carriers asking students to spare a minute for this or that cause. Most come from PennEnvironment, the University of Pennsylvania’s student-environmentalist group, but recently, more are representing Amnesty International.
Until this semester, the PennEnvironment students were the sole on-campus representatives for Amnesty International, an international, human-rights watchdog group. This semester, Renée Amirault, a junior dance and political science major, is making strides to change that with the introduction of the first Temple chapter of Amnesty International.
Founded in the United Kingdom in 1961, Amnesty International sends investigators around the globe to look into alleged human rights abuses. After collecting information, the group calls on leaders to take action, publicly campaign for change and even organize protest actions to bring attention to the perpetrators of these crimes.
Founder and Chapter President Amirault, a Boston native, said she became interested in human rights issues while interning at Refugee Media Productions, a group that seeks to bring attention to human rights issues like torture.
After her internship, she started seeking ways to continue to be involved with human rights activism. She said she noticed that Amnesty International is truly on the front lines of the struggle to end human rights abuses and seems to be winning the fight.
The group was granted university approval, which required the names of 10 interested students, a constitution and a mission statement.
A couple weeks later, Amirault received a box of buttons, banners, T-shirts and other materials.
Amnesty is an international organization, but its regional offices oversee local college groups and provide them with raw materials and support the groups’ needs without becoming directly involved with the specific chapter’s administration or courses of action.
“The new group is looking to increase its membership and set a course for the future, which means selecting executive officers and deciding on an agenda.,” Amirault said.
Amnesty International is active in more than 150 countries, and even within the U.S., there are a bevy of issues for them to pursue. For now, Amirault said, the group is looking at various campaigns and trying to choose something that most members are interested in.
Those options being considered range from women’s rights to abolition of the death penalty. In the end, though, Amirault said the group’s goal is “to pick issues that the members are passionate about.”
The group is planning several events for the Spring and Fall 2010 semesters, which ought to appeal to a wide range of students, she added.
Students with serious interest in human rights issues might be interested in the guest speakers Amnesty is bringing to Main Campus, such as those from the Philly-based Human Rights Coalition, one of many Philadelphia human rights groups that Temple Amnesty will be working, Amirault said.
For those interested in music, she also mentioned something called a “Jamnesty,” a fundraising concert for the group that would likely be held on Main Campus but is still in its early planning stages.
While the group does take strong stances on its issues, Amirault said the membership is nonpartisan and all students are welcome.
Michael Polinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.