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The Richwell Building Council calls for donations for relief in Japan (photo by Elaina Clarke/Towson student)

Thousands of miles from the debris and devastation of Japan’s 9.0 earthquake and tsunami, students at Towson University take action to raise money for relief efforts.

Handmade paper versions of the Japanese flag are taped to the floor and stairwell walls of Richmond Hall, each one detailing a different part of the devastation. One reads “Over 16,000 missing,” while another says, “Over 2700 injured.” Beside them, signs sponsored by the Richwell Building Council entreat students to donate to the relief effort. The fundraiser ended April 12, but the signs have not been taken down.

Whether through student organizations such as the Building Council or a collection of friends, there is no doubt Towson students have made an effort to raise money for relief efforts in Japan. Despite the obvious fundraising efforts of students in support of Japan, however, some echo the national sentiment that there has been a discrepancy between the fervor for Haitian support and that for Japan.

Alena Kangas, a junior accounting major and RA at Towson, believes that TU students gave considerably more effort towards raising funds for Haitian relief than for Japan.

“The difference [between fundraising for Haiti and Japan] is the extent of student interest, and basically who’s being affected,” she said. “It sounds wrong to say, but people are more willing to help out people in Haiti than people in Japan.”

Last semester, students were extremely active in raising money and items for victims of the January earthquake and tsunami that shook Haiti, including organizing clothing drives, bake sales, and a benefit concert.

Kangas is not alone in her belief. Jessica Cooke, a sophomore and International Business major, agrees that the effort for Japan has not been as great as that for Haiti, but also believes the issue goes beyond Towson students.

“Nationally, and even globally, there’s a difference between the fundraising for Japan and the fundraising for Haiti,” she said. “I don’t hear anything about Japan here [on campus].”

While Towson students organized small programs sponsored by specific groups, the general interest in bringing aid to Japan appears to be less than that mustered for Haiti. Freshman Geography major Jeremy Hurdus echoes Cooke’s sentiment.

“I’ve heard people joking about how there’s no money in the little [jars],” he said.

While Kangas believes students genuinely want to give back, she also says there are limits to their generosity.

“There is a part of Towson that wants to help…but I honestly don’t think Towson cares enough to do something impressive for Japan or any other country.”

She blames the lack of support for Japan partially on the disunity of Asian students on campus.

“The Black Student Union and Caribbean Student Organization are really unified in their efforts [to raise money for Haitian relief],” while the Asian community “don’t really unite together,” hindering the fundraising efforts, she said.

According to Sasha Maggio of the Examiner, over a month since the natural disasters shook Japan, the number of dead and missing citizens now totals over 27,000.



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