DM’s scope must extend worldwide (Pandell column)

Jerome C. Pandell

You too can help the victims of last month’s horrific tsunami in South and Southeast Asia — and all it takes is a trip to the grocery store.

Just two blocks away at Whole Foods Market, 1640 Chicago Ave., customers can add to their grocery bill a $2 or $5 donation to Mercy Corps.

The altruistic spirit even is alive and well on Northwestern’s Evanston Campus. The South Asian Student Alliance and Asian frat Lambda Phi Epsilon have teamed up to hold a candlelight vigil tonight at 10 p.m. at The Rock. At the vigil, group members will collect money donations to be split between the Red Cross and UNICEF.

Student efforts already netted $1,300: Niteskool Productions raised $300 at a Friday concert and SASA raised $1,000, group officials told me.

Two enterprising Shepard Residential College freshmen even built an igloo near The Arch. They will donate proceeds from entering the geodesic structure — $85 so far — to charities helping tsunami victims.

Though commendable, these efforts alone barely scratch the surface of what students can do for the victims of this tragedy that nature hath wrought.

SASA President Lakshmi Tummala invited representatives from all student groups to a meeting Sunday to plan a campuswide effort for tsunami relief.

Twelve people showed up, and about half were members of SASA. The only student leaders at the meeting who weren’t Asian themselves represented Naval ROTC and Catholic Undergrads — a paltry showing.

“This is not supposed to be exclusive,” Tummala lamented. “Everybody should be doing something.”

Tummala’s right. Unfortunately, mobilizing major giving is not these groups’ forte. Rather, the go-to-guys for fundraising on this campus is everyone’s favorite 800-pound gorilla, Dance Marathon. DM leaders have an army of 250 couples and dozens more volunteers, now mobilized to aid juvenile diabetes research.

DM can’t — and shouldn’t — be expected to break its commitment to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which is contractually entitled to a percentage of DM funds.

But the creative leaders of DM certainly could find some contractual wiggle-room and offer dancers the option of donating between $100 and $250 above the $750 required to dance. If each couple raised a bonus $100, then DM could give a whopping $25,000 toward tsunami relief.

A major contribution by DM toward this budding campuswide relief effort would be a major coup, demonstrating that DM leaders’ view of philanthropy isn’t so myopic.

Arguably, DM’s mission is to spotlight a cause that doesn’t receive much attention from college students. This mission rings hollow when DM participants’ contact with the beneficiary often is limited to large-scale events with little one-on-one interaction.

Putting their best foot forward for tsunami relief could teach DM members a more far-reaching and meaningful lesson about charity.

Dancers, start canning.

Jerome Curran Pandell is a Weinberg senior. He can be reached at [email protected]