South Asia earthquake—MSU rises to the challenge

10-12-2005

The earthquake Saturday in south Asia battered a region that is already struggling in the face of enormous challenges.

Pakistan was hit particularly hard.

At this writing, casualties are in the tens of thousands, and the final human toll may not be known for weeks.

This has been an extraordinarily difficult year in terms of the natural disasters around the world: the tsunami in South Asia last December; Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that devastated our Gulf coast; Hurricane Stan and the deadly mudslides it brought to Guatemala and Central America; and now this earthquake. For a lot of people it’s easy to begin feeling a kind of “disaster fatigue” and want to just tune out any more bad news.

And yet, once again the Michigan State community is rising to meet the challenge, to offer a helping hand. That’s the kind of people we have at MSU, those are the values that infuse what we do, that’s the land-grant spirit that really inspires us to keep moving ahead when it would be easier to become discouraged.

Advisors from the Office for International Students and Scholars have met with the leaders of the Pakistani Student Association (PSA) and fundraising efforts are already underway. There are many ways to contribute, and in the days and weeks ahead, the PSA will be setting up tables in the International Center to share information and accept donations. At this time, we don’t know of any students who have lost immediate family members in the quake, but given the fluid nature of the situation and the magnitude of the disaster we will continue assessing and seeking additional information.

These kinds of events remind us of just how fragile society’s safety net can be. And universities—not just Michigan State University—have shown tremendous generosity in responding to them. But beyond the immediate relief efforts, universities must also accept intellectual leadership for repairing and restructuring that safety net. It’s up to all of us to look for potential areas of vulnerability to future disasters, wherever they might strike. And when we identify those, we need to figure out how we apply the knowledge we generate in ways that will help prevent, or at least mitigate the painful damages and costs we’ve seen far too often.

As a land-grant university, that’s our mission. And as members of the global community, that’s our responsibility.

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