Thursday, May 14, 2020

URSP Student Arielle Rosenberg Creates a Uyghur Genocide and Human Rights Awareness Campaign

As an aspiring human rights attorney, I am always looking for ways to get involved in major social issues and attempt to make a difference. I constantly ponder the questions of “Why do atrocities keep happening?” “What drives people towards involvement in Human Rights issues?” and “How do we best approach this situation to ensure lasting and significant resolutions?” As a Jew, I have always been particularly troubled by the concept of Genocide, intending to focus my career around anti-Genocide and humanitarian efforts. Thus, when I first began hearing about the Uyghur Muslim situation occurring in the Xinjiang region of China today, I could not simply sit idly back and watch things unfold to mimic previous Genocides throughout history. Therefore, I decided to be both proactive in my advocacy and my research in order to understand what drives others to get involved in Human Rights causes and attempt to make a contribution to the human rights and conflict resolution fields. 

With the help of my amazing mentor, Dr. Douglas Irvin-Erickson, and research partner, Quinton Walsh, I was able to articulate the goals and methodology of our potentially groundbreaking research project and earn funding to carry out such research. The road that followed has not been an easy one; between balancing an 18-credit course-load and struggling to obtain IRB approval for my research, we were initially off to a slow start. Just before Spring Break though, we were able to obtain the approval we needed to conduct our research, and things had started looking up as we began coordinating with academic departments for their cooperation in the project. 

Our original plan was to utilize surveys of on-campus populations, whether they be students, faculty members, or workers, to understand what was previously known about the Uyghur situation prior to our campaigning efforts, then to enact what we call an “awareness campaign” in which we conduct on campus tabling, speaking events, film screenings, and a congressional letter-writing initiative to measure the change in participant knowledge about and attitude towards the Uyghur situation throughout the semester of activism. But then, COVID-19 struck, and we were unfortunately unable to return to campus to complete our research. Our project, in its fundamental methodology and planning, is dependent on in-person participation and does not have the capability of reaching the audience and results we desire without on-campus activities.

Despite the bleak fate of our project for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester on campus, I have remained steadfast in my efforts to raise awareness of the Uyghur situation; utilizing my personal social media to spread knowledge of the situation and educating friends and family myself on the situation. Additionally, my teammates and I were able to adapt to the current COVID-19 situation by taking proactive measures to utilize our funding and re-design our project for the Fall 2020 semester. Adapting our project and coming to the ultimate decision to put off our primary efforts until the Fall of 2020 was a difficult decision to make, as we realize our project has the capability to alter the lives of others, if successful. However, we had to realize that our efforts and findings would not be anywhere near as accurate and attainable as we had hoped in our original planning, and thus it was necessary to postpone our project for a semester. Although our hope is to be able to return to campus in the Fall to conduct our project the original way, we will at least know early enough this time around if we need to utilize a “plan b” for conducting our research entirely or partially virtually. We plan on effectively implementing our research and findings in the Fall of 2020 to continue our efforts, even if in a non-traditional way, to contribute to the Human Rights and Conflict Resolution fields and make a positive impact on the lives of others.