USF students Reginald Eldridge and Rhone Fraser can’t just sit and watch as thousands of displaced victims from Hurricane Katrina suffer in wait of aid.
“People shouldn’t have guns pointed at them from the National Guard, when they can’t get the necessary things they need to survive,” Fraser said.
Therefore, Eldridge, who is president of the Africana Studies Club, and Fraser, a graduate student in the Department of Africana studies, have decided to open up doors for students wanting to volunteer in relief efforts.
On Friday, the two delivered letters to USF President Judy Genshaft, asking for student volunteers to be excused from their classes.
“Your cooperation in allowing USF students to help, by excusing their absence, would be greatly appreciated in these very dire, desperate times,” Fraser wrote. “Given the very slow and poor federal aid being given so far, we as American citizens hope you can allow these students who plan to deliver water, clothing and shelter to those victims who need it most.”
Over the weakend, Genshaft said USF would not endorse student volunteers traveling to New Orleans.
“I spoke with President Genshaft and we agreed that as much as we’d like to have students go to these areas, USF can’t support students who choose to go to New Orleans,” student body President Maxon Victor said. “We can’t approve students going down there, because as of right now, the National Guard is there trying to evacuate individuals. It wouldn’t be a good idea for students to go there until stability is restored.”
But despite current recommendations to stay out of New Orleans, Eldridge and Fraser are still pushing for action elsewhere.
Both have scheduled a meeting today with Multicultural Activities coordinator Nicole Glenn and other members of the Multicultural Activities Board in order to outline a trip to Louisiana within the next three to four weeks.
“I’ve spoken with Nicole Glenn, who has ties with a church,” Eldridge said. “She said they might need help setting up tents for evacuees.”
Volunteer USF is also participating in relief, but according to Volunteer USF Event Director Jeremy Bills, no one from the organization is heading to New Orleans.
Bills said the best thing students can do is to donate to relief funds since many emergency personnel have ordered people to vacate the area.
“We did some research and found out that the easiest thing to do was to collect funds for the American Red Cross,” said coordinator Amy Simon.
Last Thursday, Bills, Simon and other coordinators at Volunteer USF distributed donation canisters for the Red Cross. As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, Bills said Volunteer USF had received seven filled canisters from campus organizations. Six of these were counted, and according to Simon, tallied $618.26.
More than 40 USF organizations are participating in the collection, and the drives will end on Sept. 16, according to Volunteer USF member Rachel Head. Volunteer USF is making 40 to 50 more collection canisters, she said.
“So many USF organizations have expressed an interest in helping out in any way that they could, and since our drive is two weeks long we had to make more,” Head said.
Additionally, Volunteer USF and the Honors College are taking in donations for food, clothing and water. This Friday, Volunteer USF will deliver all donations to the St. Pete Times Forum, Head said.
“It’s going to be a quick drive, so were asking that people bring their stuff in by Thursday night with supplies,” Simon said.
In the meantime, another drive is being organized in conjunction with Eldridge’s plan. When implemented, the new drive should give concerned students more time to bring in money and supplies.
Lamar Robinson, a business major at USF, is spearheading the joint effort.
On Tuesday, representatives from the Black Student Union, the Africana Studies Club and Greek Life attended a preliminary meeting for the new drive titled “Students for Relief.” Victor was also in attendance.
“My goal is to bring in $10,000,” Robinson said. “I want to have an area at the SVC breezeway,
Leroy Collins Boulevard, the Library, MLK plaza and over by the engineering building – I want to have five or six locations.”
According to an associate at the Tampa branch of the American Red Cross, Robinson and the American Red Cross should have a working contract by tomorrow.
This will be Robinson’s second collection drive. His first took place after Hurricane Jeanne struck Haiti in Sept. 2004, which resulted in the death of nearly 3,000 people.
According to Robinson, he raised more than $1,000 for the American Red Cross.
Robinson is hoping to set up canisters for the Hurricane drive by Monday, which will last until the first week of October – but will hopefully reemerge periodically he said.
“I don’t want it to be like one of those songs that dies out,” Victor said. “The Red Cross may fizzle and die out – our challenge will be to always push the edge.”
At the end of the meeting, Victor stressed the need for a written proposal so that he could bring up the organization’s intentions at the Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday.
“I am going to be very persistent,” he said. “I’m going to be Mr. Questions until this thing is sound.”