Campus group wants MSU to pledge scholarships to Syrian Refugees
In February 2016, physiology junior Tasneem Sannah started the MSU chapter of the nationwide organization Books not Bombs.
Sannah, who is the president of Students Organize for Syria at MSU and the founder of the MSU chapter of Books not Bombs, described the goal of the campaign as “to convince the MSU administration to join the Syria Consortium.”
The Institute of International Education, or IIE, Syria Consortium for Higher Education in Crisis is “a group of universities in the United States that have pledged to provide partial or full tuition scholarships for Syrian students displaced by the conflicts in Syria to come study here,” Sannah said.
According to the Syria Consortium’s website, more than 60 universities have joined the consortium as of July 2016.
“So far, a lot of universities here in the U.S. have given out scholarships to Syrian students, and basically at Books not Bombs at Michigan State University, this is exactly what we’re trying to achieve, to get Michigan State University to give scholarships to Syrian Students who have been displaced by the conflict," supply chain management senior Ahmad Abo Al-Borgol, the main campaign coordinator at Books not Bombs and ASMSU representative for the Arab Cultural Society, said
In order to achieve this, the campaign started a petition aimed to gain student support.
“What we have going on is a student petition," Abo Al-Borgol said. "Students can support our campaign and help us out by signing that petition, that’s on the student level. And then we do have support from multiple student organizations."
In addition to the campaign's petition, Abo Al-Borgol is working on making progress with the student government as well.
"We currently have a resolution that we passed a couple weeks ago through the undergraduate student government and we are in the process of drafting resolutions for the two remaining student governments," Abo Al-Borgol said.
Abo Al-Borgol said, at this time, the campaign is looking to harbor support from students.
“In order for us to be able to secure anything with the administration, to actually sit down and talk with them and be like, 'this is what we want,'” Abo Al-Borgol said.
In addition to this, biochemistry and neuroscience junior Sabeth Dalbo, who is a member of the campaign, is working on gaining support from faculty and administration.
“I work alongside the other people getting letters from faculty members and just talking with other students getting their support,” Dalbo said.
Sannah, Abo Al-Borgol and Dalbo all feel very passionately about this work.
“This is extremely important because in Syria right now we are facing a humanitarian disaster that has not only resulted in loss of life, but also in the creation of a lost generation of young people,” Sannah said
Sannah has a personal experience relating to this, as she has college aged family that lives in Syria.
“One day my cousin’s university was bombed, and I believe a lot of students were killed,” Sannah said. “She survived, but afterwards she was too afraid to go back to school. ... That’s the problem, is that you have students who are making a decision between life and death when they go to school, and a lot of them are going to want to choose life.”
For Abo Al-Borgol, this issue also hits close to home.
“I am Syrian, 100 percent Syrian, so just knowing about this, I had to do something,” Abo Al-Borgol said. “And knowing that there is something that is completely doable, if we just work a little bit hard to go out of our way and get that support and talk to the administration and get people aware about this, this is something very doable.”
Abo Al-Borgol explained why he cares so much about this issue.
“You’re not just giving scholarships, you’re continuing the education of a lost generation of Syria," Abo Al-Borgol said.
Because their work work is so important to them, the members of Books not Bombs take away a tremendous amount from it.
“I feel like I’m doing something, I’m helping," Abo Al-Borgol said. "I used to be the kind of person who would hear about this in the news ... but I was at that point where I couldn’t help. ... But now, me, as a student at Michigan State University, as the representative of the Arab student population in Michigan State, I believe that if I know how to do it, then I feel like it’s an obligation for me to do it.”
Similar to Abo Al-Borgol, Sannah is very passionate about this work and is committed to the cause.
"This work has made me feel amazing," Sannah said. "It makes me feel like I have a purpose and I’m making a difference for people that are really suffering. And I’m not going to give up, I’m not going to quit no matter what, because this cause is truly close to my heart.”
Dalbo is also very set on making a change for something as important as this cause.
“I feel like I’m really making a change in something that is really big, like education," Dalbo said.
Books not Bombs continues to look for support in the students of MSU in the form of their petition, which has nearly reached its goal of 1,110 signatures.