Hawks for Japan?
By: Benjamin Mumma
Over the last 18 months, two earthquakes have struck island nations, wrecking Haiti last year and Japan just over a month ago. As a community, Lehigh is tied to both through students and alumni. However, there has been a distinct difference in the reaction of Lehigh’s administration to the two tragedies.
Looking back over a year ago, the 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. Within two days, the entire campus had received an e-mail from the desk of President Gast, and a day later CSO Director Carolina Hernandez sent out information about a meeting to discuss what Lehigh could do, and provided links to the charitable organizations that students could give to. Ms. Hernandez sent out two other campus-wide e-mails over the next couple of months, and Lehigh’s daily University Announcement e-mails were filled for months with Haiti-related programming and opportunities. A goal of donating $50,000 was set, events such as “Hawks for Haiti” were held, and t-shirts and other items were available to promote donations.
Fast forward to March 12th of this year, when a 9.0 quake struck off the coast of Japan. What has Lehigh’s correspondence been? For almost two weeks after the earthquake, literally nothing was sent to the student population at large. I just assumed Alice and the rest of the administration had given up television for Lent. Finally, in the CSO’s “A Pathway To Serve” newletter on March 25th, Dan Coviello, a Lehigh undergraduate, casually mentioned that we now have an opportunity to come together and support Japan and to “expect a campus-wide meeting” apparently sometime in the future. As of the writing of this article on April 5th, nothing has been advertised.
While it is ultimately the responsibility of us as individuals to provide aid to those in need, Lehigh can facilitate that process as we saw with the events following Haiti. How far the administration should go in facilitating this process is a debate for another time. But what is not open to debate is that the administration should be consistent in how it approaches situations. Clearly both the earthquake in Haiti and the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan were horrific and are worthy cases to aid. So why was Lehigh so vigorous about relief in one case, and clearly lackadaisical in the most recent case of human suffering abroad?
Without speculating, it is not possible to determine exactly why such a tremendous discrepancy exists. Regardless, let’s hope that our administrators are a little more cognizant of their unequal treatment to catastrophes next time.