The Geneseo chapter of Students for a Free Tibet is taking the necessary strides to bring the despair in Tibet to the forefront of knowledge that the students here contain.
Members of Students for a Free Tibet: Geneseo chapter and Sophomores Sean Gunderman, Orsolina de Michiel and Nicholas Turecamo proudly hold Tibet's national flag in honor of the cause they feel passionately about. (Media Credit: Ben Jay/Photo editor)
The inception of the group came about this semester after junior Sean Gunderman told sophomore Orsolina de Michiel of the injustice currently taking place in Tibet.
"It's a pretty big inspiration to fight oppression anywhere in the world," de Michiel said.
Until the college officially recognizes them, the group is primarily focusing on fundraising and raising awareness for Tibet. Gunderman said the group's activities range from selling Tibetan crafts, prayer flags, T-shirts, tabling in the Union lobby, making poster boards and getting signatures to release Tibetan political figures that are held captive in China.
Once the club is officially recognized, the members said they would like to increase membership and take a trip to Ithaca where the Namgyal Monastery, the institute of Buddhist studies, is located.
"We would also like to hand out pamphlets and set up movie nights where we can watch informational and educational documentaries," Gunderman said.
According to the Students for a Free Tibet Web site, the group works in solidarity with the Tibetan people in their struggle for freedom and independence. Through education, grassroots organizing and non-violent direct action, the group campaigns for Tibetans' fundamental right to political freedom. Their role is to empower and train youth as leaders in the worldwide movement for social justice.
The situation in Tibet is unbeknownst to many students. According to Gunderman, Tibet was its own independent country in the '50s but was invaded by China, who took away the independence that Tibet had possessed since 1901. A peace treaty between England, Tibet and China ensued and China now claims that it is helping Tibet.
"China just built a railroad to take all of the resources and materials out of Tibet, to China," Gunderman said. "[The railroad] will increase Chinese migration to the [Tibetan] area. Tibetans are now the minority in Tibet."
"Education-wise, Tibetans are at a disadvantage," Gunderman continued. "Their literacy rate is less than 50 percent." He went on to add that "lots of political prisoners are being tortured," explaining, "When he was six, the 11th Panchen Lama was arrested and has been gone for 15 years. No one knows where he is."
Meetings for Students for a Free Tibet are held Thursdays at 6 p.m., upstairs in the College Union lounge by the student activities hall.
"[Oppression is] really everywhere," de Michiel said. "Everybody should be free, all living things, that's the main thing."