Finding ways to educate

Student leaders said it?s important to talk. It?s the only way to understand the aftermath of Sept. 11?s terrorist attacks, they said.

For senior Lavieria Nottage, the invitation to speak is part of what attracted her to meet with Student Government leaders Monday. It was the first of what?s proposed to be ongoing meetings to plan how USF students can educate and support during a time when Muslim students are being subjected to religious and racial profiling and the country is preparing for war.

“What we?re trying to do will be very beneficial,” said Nottage, vice president for the Black Student Union. “Coming from a group of students who was discriminated against for so long, we know that you can?t judge people by what somebody else does.”

Rose Munoz agreed.

She?s the president for USF?s Muslim Student Association and said that earlier this week, as she and her parents walked through the mall, security guards seemed to follow them and give them dirty looks.

“We need to educate the cops,” Munoz said.

Student body president Mike Griffin said that on a campus where there are more than 30,000 students, “we will have some stupid and uneducated students.”

But Griffin said the focus of his administration will be to inform. He wants the committee to host a town hall meeting where students, faculty and staff will have an opportunity to share their thoughts about Sept. 11.

Senior Braulio Colon said it was a good idea.

“People want to speak,” said Colon, president for USF?s African Studies Club. “They want to be heard, and they want to hear themselves speak.”

Sammy Kalmowicz, president for SG senate, said at one point, the university had a designated “speakers? square.” Kalmowicz said the area on campus was a free speech zone. He didn?t know why it no longer existed but said he?d find out how to get it reinstated.

“We need to have a podium ? if a student gets on the podium, they have the right to speak,” he said.

Kalmowicz said what the committee is doing goes beyond raising money.

“It doesn?t take much thought to write a check,” he said. “If you can create dialogue, you?ve done what you?ve set out to do.”

The 11 students at Monday?s meeting spent almost an hour brainstorming ways to get involved. They plan to meet again on Oct. 8 at 6 p.m. Anyone interested in more details about Monday?s meeting can e-mail Griffin at or call him at 974-2402.

Ideas from Monday?s meeting included hosting a conference at the university, going to area schools to speak about the terrorist attacks and asking Hillsborough District teachers how they?ve handled the situation in their classrooms, with the intent of suggesting that as much time as needed be given to talk about the nation?s tragedy.

Nottage said it won?t be an easy task.

“It takes something to reach students ? more than knowledge,” she said. “We can sit and listen to professors all day.”

Creating dialogue requires more than explaining things, she said ? it requires listening.

Contact Kevin Grahamat