LSA junior Greg Cohen founded earlier this semester the Inter-Humanitarians Council, a student group aimed at bringing together activist and human-rights groups on campus.
The IHC is a growing organization comprised of the leaders of 13 human rights, anti-poverty and activist groups on campus.
With so many students traveling the world and studying abroad, the need for students to be competent and educated world citizens is critical, Cohen said.
“Students can reap more benefits from their abroad experience, they can have a better impact on the population that they’re visiting, and they can represent the University of Michigan with better professionalism,” he said.
By forming a single body to represent what he calls the general humanitarian cause, Cohen believes the networking between existing student groups will serve to increase the organizations’ presence and clout on campus.
“We feel like if we have this critical mass, we’ll have more leverage when we communicate,” he said.
The IHC plans to spend time promoting a different cause every other month in large awareness campaigns involving lectures and activities on the Diag. In December or January, the IHC will promote human rights groups.
The IHC also hopes to eventually establish some sort of international studies major for the University. Although an international studies minor already exists, Cohen said he believes that students should be able to concentrate their education on global issues.
Cohen said he’s talked with LSA Dean Terrence McDonald about developing a major that focuses on global issues. Cohen said McDonald was very receptive to the idea, but that establishing the new major will be a difficult feat in the upcoming years.
Members of existing student groups said they were enthusiastic about the networking opportunities that the IHC provides.
LSA junior Blase Kearney, a member of the IHC organization Students Organizing for Labor Equality, said that similar attempts to form such an organization have failed in the past, but that the IHC seems to be doing things right.
“People want to bring progressive groups together on campus but they have no idea how,” he said.
Kearney said the IHC is different.
“It’s good because we’ll know more about particular groups that are members of the IHC when they have their monthly lectures and I think it will be good for understanding each other’s issues,” Kearney said. “That’s what I’m kind of excited about.”
The IHC brings together activist groups with those that are politically inactive, like Habitat for Humanity.
SOLE – which has members who were arrested last year after a sit-in protest in University President Mary Sue Coleman’s office to demand the University adopt a new labor policy – is both activist and somewhat controversial.
That hasn’t given pause to leaders of less political campus groups.
Pharmacy graduate student Lisa Treumuth, the leader of RESULTS at UM, an activist group focused on fighting poverty, said that while she doesn’t disagree with SOLE in particular, she doesn’t think people will attack her group for SOLE’s actions just because they’re under the same umbrella organization.
“I think every group still represents their own group,” she said. “Whatever any sort of group does doesn’t necessarily trickle down to the IHC.”