Fall 2014:

Under the leadership of seniors Grace DeNoon’15 and Divya Bisht ’15, the Student Committee grew dramatically to encompass 32 members. In the fall, Oak students organized a number of events to introduce the Oak Fellow, Clare Byarugaba, to the Colby community. Likewise, a smaller subset of students traveled with the Fellow to Boston for Amnesty International’s Annual Northeast Regional Conference. Faculty, staff and students associated with the Institute worked tirelessly in 14-15 to raise and explore important issues about human rights violations against women and sexual minorities – in Uganda, in the United States, and all places in between. The Oak Student Committee collaborated closely with other groups on campus, including The Bridge, the Pugh Community Board, and the Arts and Humanities Center to host a wonderful mix of events. These included an introductory lecture, conducted by the Fellow, introducing Uganda’s anti-gay law, institutionalized violence and homophobia, and the ongoing activist efforts of the LGBT community. The Oak Institute welcomed Oscar-winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams for a screening of his latest documentary film, “God Loves Uganda,” about the export of homophobia from the U.S. by conservative evangelical Christians. The Student Committee invited the Colby community to the slam poetry performance by “Sister Outsider,” a feminist duo consisting of Denice Frohman and Dominique Christina, the two leading female spoken word artists in America, and facilitated an interactive workshop prior to the performance.

Spring 2014:Oak Student Committee Voluntourism Event

In the spring, the OSC, led by co-chairs Leah Breen ’15 and Katie Allan ’15, hosted a series of formal and informal events that covered a wide range of topics. Events included a lunchtime discussion with Professor Gail Carlson on activism at Colby; a screening of the documentary Wham! Bam! Islam!; a lunchtime discussion with Professor Laura Seay on Rwanda 20 years post-genocide; a Skype conversation with activist John Currelly on development in Haiti; an event entitled Stories Across Borders that provided a space for Colby students to share their stories of immigration; an immigrant support panel with representatives from Hope Acts and the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project as well as two recent immigrants; a dinner discussion on the World Cup in Brazil and its effects on human rights in the country; a discussion on Voluntourism; a human rights Open Mic Night; and several dinner discussions on human rights in current affairs in conjunction with Colby’s Amnesty International chapter.

Fall 2013:

In the fall, the Student Committee, led by co-chairs Grace DeNoon ’15 and Leah Breen ’15, organized events to introduce the 2013 Oak Fellows and their young daughter to Maine and to Colby. The Oak Student Committee and the Oak Fellows went apple picking at a local orchard, hosted an evening of cooking apple pie, visited the Common Ground Country Fair, held an Oak Fellow Meet & Greet for the student body, cooked Burmese food, and celebrate Halloween. The OSC partnered with Colby’s Amnesty International chapter to organize an event in which the Oak Fellows shared their personal stories. The OSC and Colby Amnesty organized a trip to Amnesty International’s Northeast Regional Conference, at which the Oak Fellows led a workshop that was facilitated by a Student Committee member. The OSC and GS111 campaigned at Colby to raise awareness about issues faced by the Rohingya as well as issues of democracy in Myanmar. Together they created an online petition to release one of the Oak Fellows’ fathers from prison in Myanmar, where he is a prisoner of conscience. They also personally delivered a letter and signed petition to Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski to increase US pressure on the government of Myanmar to release prisoners of conscience and grant legal rights to Rohingya people. Malinowski promised that the State Department is working to pressure the Burmese government to release the prisoners.

Spring 2012:

Throughout this semester, the Student Committee organized a variety of events as part of a month-long Immigrant Rights campaign, including three lunchtime talks with professors from a wide array of disciplines to facilitate discussion on immigration, as well as a forum for students who have experience with immigration at which they told their stories.

To conclude a month of meaningful discussion and story-telling, the OSC organized a panel of three Maine immigration rights activists.

The Student Committee also organized a week focused on internal displacement. Throughout this week, the Committee hosted a screening of Colby Alum’s Tarini Manchanda ’09 ten minute documentary titled “Game On,” a film about displacement during the 2011 Common Wealth Games in India. The Committee also organized a workshop on internal displacement in conjunction with Dumela, an organization founded by Colby Alum, Escar Kusema. The Student Committee also helped organize an official Invisible Children screening of Kony 2012 Part 1 and Part 2, which included a space for open discussion of the film and this type of media-fueled activism. At the end of the semester, the OSC created an exhibit introducing the 2012 Oak Fellow, Zandile Nhlengetwa of South Africa, to the Colby community.

Fall 2011:

In September, the OSC helped the 2011 Oak Fellow, Fatima Burnad, plan her initial address to the college as a part of the event entitled: “Untouchability” and Human Rights: Fighting Poverty and the Caste System in India.” Four Student Committee members attended a conference at Harvard concerning poverty and the Millenium Development Goals. Throughout the semester, the Student Committee helped organize a dinner and lecture featuring Anirudh Krishna for the event titled: “One Illness Away: Global Poverty and Human Rights”, hosted a screening of “Living Broke in Boom Times” to raise awareness about poverty in the United States, planned a dinner and lecture featuring Jesse Leah Vear from Maine-based POWER entitled “Poverty in America: An Economic Human Rights Perspective”, and hosted a dinner honoring Fatima and her work at Colby.