Lecture by Harry Wu
On Tuesday, April 22, political activist Harry Wu gave a lecture sponsored by the Asian Students Alliance (ASA) and Amnesty International.
“This lecture came about because ASA has yet to bring a lecturer to Vassar this year, and it’s important to us to hold an event that would inform the community about current issues in Asia,” said Jessica Au ’16, a member of the ASA.
The Chinese Communist Party imprisoned Wu in 1960 when he was 23 years old. The Party monitored Wu when he criticized the Soviet Invasion of Hungary in 1956, resulting in his arrest four years later. Wu was charged with being a “counterrevolutionary rightist” and spent the next nineteen years in China’s labor prison camps.
In an interview with PBS, Wu said, “The communist government treated me as enemy of the country because I came from a bourgeoisie family and was Catholic. Three years later, when I graduated from school, the police right away came to the college and, without any paperwork, without any trial, took me to the labor camps.”
When Wu was released from the camps in 1979, he decided to dedicate his life to raising awareness of China’s human rights abuses. Shortly after his release, he could not find a job in China. “Fortunately, in 1985, I got an invitation from UC Berkeley, so I came to the United States,” he told PBS. “And I realized I had suddenly become a free man. I worked in Berkeley as a visiting professor, and my major was geology. Now I want to tell the people about my experience, my story. I just want to look forward to enjoying the rest of my life–just like everyone else.”
“As a well-known activist in regards to human rights issues in China, it seemed appropriate to bring Wu as our next speaker,” said Au.
At the lecture, Wu discussed what happened prior to his persecution and his experiences in the labor camps, as well as the labor camp system in China as a whole. He also discussed his work in the Laogai Research Foundation.
Au said of the lecture, “What I found most revealing were the photos that he secretly took of the various Chinese labor camps to uncover the Laogai’s working conditions.”
This is not the first time Wu has come to Vassar’s campus. In 1995, he delivered a speech entitled, “Behind Prison Walls The Red China.” At that lecture, Wu told Vassar students of the Chinese Communist Party, “They’re afraid of me, but I’m not afraid of them…I have the truth on my side.”
Interpersonal Violence Panel
On Wednesday, April 23, CARES and SART representatives hosted an event called, “A Forum on the Title IX Process and Interpersonal Violence Panels at Vassar” in the Jade Parlor. Director of Counseling Services Wendy Graham helped facilitate the panel discussion. According to the event’s Facebook page, “This forum intends to start a critical and constructive conversation about how Title IX and the Interpersonal Violence Panel processes address sexual assault, harassment and gender based violence on this campus.”
It continued, “The overall goal of this forum is to start a dialogue on how Vassar’s campus can be a safer, more supportive environment for people experiencing these issues in the future.”
The panel presented issues of sexual assault and interpersonal violence as experiences that people across college campuses experienced. As the event page explained, “These issues are not unique to Vassar and Vassar is no exception to the fact that these crimes are perpetrated on our campus.”
This week marked “Earth Week,” an initiative hosted by Sustainability at Vassar, the Vassar Greens, Slow Food Vassar, Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC), VEG and others for a week long celebration of Earth.
The week features a variety of events including “Earth Day Dinner,” “SARC Veg Pledge,” and a “Community Food Security Workshop by Poughkeepsie Plenty Food Coalition and the Foodie Group Council” that are meant to celebrate environmentalism and eco-friendly initiatives.
One event, the “Community Food Security Workshop by Poughkeepsie Plenty Food Coalition and Foodie Group Council,” held Tuesday, April 22, focused on environmental issues relating to food and took a specific Poughkeepsie scope. According to the event page, “Susan Grove, coordinator of Poughkeepsie Plenty Food Coalition, will be leading us in an engaging workshop and discussion about food security and access issues right here in Poughkeepsie and what is being done/can be done.”
Another event, the VARC Veg Pledge, also took place on Tuesday. As the event page reads, “Going meat-free is one of the most important and effective actions individuals can take to ease the strain on our Earth’s limited resources, protect the planet from pollution, prevent global warming and save countless species from extinction.”