Cut the cameras, Bucknell

Amanda Kalaydjian, Contributing Writer

More than 51,100 lives lost, and that’s just the official death toll. 1,900,000 people are now refugees, and Greece is choosing to fortify its borders. “Hükümet istifa!”* is chanted at football games, and President Erdoğan issued a bandaid apology for his government’s inept response.

The earthquakes that have devastated southern Türkiye and Syria have caused irreparable damage. Yet you’ve probably swiped past Instagram stories pleading for donations and aid for the humanitarian crisis that has ensued. My guess is that you sympathized with the victims of this tragedy for a brief three seconds, thinking “Oh, how sad”, and then turned to your calculus homework. 

It’s not my place to shame you for making such a choice. I cannot force anyone to become personally invested in a tragedy that took place in a different continent. Even I see no point in destroying your sanctuary of ignorance by writing an entire article about the devastation caused by these earthquakes. But no, let’s ‘spread awareness and stay informed!’…would you like a sticker that says “I was informed”? Or is a t-shirt more to your liking? 

Just staying informed and spreading awareness without taking concrete action will not fix the destruction caused by these earthquakes. Nothing can be done to replace the lives lost; cities throughout Turkey and Syria are now piles of rubble. Thousands of people are in urgent need of shelter, food and medical aid. Bucknell University is located on an entirely different continent than where this tragedy took place. It’s not as if the entire university can realistically pack their bags and join the volunteer effort to deliver humanitarian aid. But there is one unique talent that Bucknell University has: raising money.

Last May, $105,000 was raised during Sigma Chi’s annual Derby Days event (a competition-based fundraiser for the impactful cause of cutting-edge cancer research) for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation in collaboration with Bucknell’s sororities. The success of this event is entirely based on students coming together in support of a good cause. Just imagine what can be done with the administration’s help and plentiful resources.

Thus far, Bucknell has gathered in support of the victims at a candlelight vigil on Feb. 16 on the Science Quad, hosted by the Global Student Council and Bucknell Chaplains Office. Speeches were given, donations collected, and a moment of silence was shared as students held candles for the lives lost. 

Salma Kassem, a foreign language Teaching Assistant, detailed in part of her speech that “it’s so heartbreaking to see the image of that loving father holding his dead daughter’s hand in Turkey! Witnessing all her childhood buried under collapsed buildings. My hometown of Akkar in Northern Lebanon is a mere 264 kilometers from the areas affected in Syria. I cannot help but feel for our brethren neighbors only three hours across the border”. Later on in her speech, Kassem encouraged students to donate if possible, or if not, to pray. 

Yet most students did not even know this event was taking place. While the organizers had reached out to Bucknell’s official Instagram account (@bucknellu) in advance and requested they share posters of the vigil to reach a wider audience of students, no action was taken. Consequently, students organizing the event had to share its details through word of mouth. 

 The only communication the student body received was through an email sent out by Kurt Nelson, Director of Religious and Spiritual Life, with the event flyer and links to donate. However, students who are not religious likely would not have opened that email. In fact, organizers of the event received feedback from some students mentioning they were not informed it was taking place. 

Yet @bucknellu shared photos taken at the event, while the administration itself had no hand in organizing the vigil. The caption of this post mentions how “donations were collected to contribute to ongoing relief efforts”. More donations could have been collected if a greater portion of the student body was in attendance. But the Instagram account which touts these donations did not even help to broadcast the event. 

Omid Mohammadi ’25, an organizer of the vigil who spoke at the event, feels that “we had great support from Bucknell students, campus, and DE&I leaders. However, the institution itself barely acknowledged the earthquake relief efforts until the event was held and they could post some pretty pictures about it”. While Mohammadi doesn’t “want to undermine the collaboration of such offices”, his feelings are shared by many students at Bucknell, including myself.

Mohammadi further states, “It’s important to remember that even small acts of kindness and support can make a significant impact, especially when you’re going through challenging times. I do believe that Bucknell could do more to be responsive to global events and show solidarity with students, even though it is located in a somewhat remote area. By doing so, Bucknell can become more connected to the wider world and be a source of support for its students.”

Bucknell administration is already aware of this desire, as reflected through the “Engaged Bucknell Initiative” which can be found on the University’s website “Community Engagement” section ( It states:

“Bucknell is engaged. Engaged in community. Engaged in justice. Engaged in global citizenship. Engaged in fostering leaders that are sensitive to the moral and ethical dimensions of life. Education at Bucknell is about doing. Programs across the University get students out of the classroom and engaged with non-profits, government agencies, farms, volunteer efforts and more–both in our local Susquehanna River Valley and around the world.”

If Bucknell University wants to pride itself on having a student body that actively participates in efforts around the world, the administration needs to organize an effort for donations and aid. The impetus should not be on the Global Student Council or Chaplain’s office. There shouldn’t have to be students tabling for donations in the ELC. The university administration has more than enough power, connections, and resources to make it happen. It’s time to cut the cameras and actually get to work.

*In Turkish, “Hükümet istifa!” translates to “government resign”

(Visited 197 times, 1 visits today)