On Thursday afternoon, members from a number of student organizations got together on the Rock for a common cause-to call their peers’ attention to the many social injustices and unjustified deaths that take place in the world. The minimally publicized event, called “Death on the Rock”, is the brainchild of Amnesty International. The demonstration included the participation of 11 student organizations and more than 200 students.
The event was held at 12:15 and 1:45, with each shift lasting a total of 15 minutes. At the direction of the event leaders, the student participants simultaneously lied down on the Rock and “died”. Each student sported a red T-shirt with the words “I Died Today” on the front while the back of each shirt identified the student as the victim of a particular social injustice. The social issues ranged from genocide in the Sudan and species extinction to hate crimes and poverty, among many others.
A steady rain began to fall shortly after the beginning of the 1:45 shift. Half of the participants chose to lie on the Rock in spite of the rain, while the other half opted to make their statement on the floor of the Breezeway. Regardless of their location, the participants caused those passing by to stop and take notice.
Some students were confused and didn’t understand why the event was being held.
“I didn’t know what was going on [when I saw the event],” Akilah Moore, a sophomore, said. “I think [social injustice] is a great cause, but I don’t think [the event] was well publicized at all.”
The extent of the event’s publicity went only as far as several cryptic signs placed around campus announcing that “Death on the Rock” would take place on Thursday at the scheduled times of 12:15 and 1:45. No explanation was provided concerning the nature of the event, what cause it represented, or who was to host it.
Trishul Siddharthan, president of the UM chapter of Amnesty International, explained that the limited amount of exposure given prior to the event was done intentionally.
“None of the people who starved to death today planned to die, it just happened,” Siddharthan said. “We wanted [the event] to be as powerful and as random as death.”
Aside from drawing the student body’s attention to issues of social injustice, the Death on the Rock event was meant to promote social consciousness and activism on campus.
“Everyone says that the students are apathetic and the students don’t care [about issues] but I don’t think that’s true,” Siddharthan said. “They just aren’t given an opportunity [to voice their opinions].”
As the Death on the Rock progressed, student leaders from various organizations took the podium and spoke about the issues that were important to them. A majority of the student speakers were moved by the students’ willingness to participate in the demonstration.
“I find hope for the future because there are 100 of your fellow students ‘dead’ on the Rock today, in the rain, so that you will notice, so that you will listen, and so that you will care,” said Chris Fisher, president of OUTspoken and columnist for The Hurricane.
Shortly after 2 p.m. the “dead” students rose from their positions on the ground and slowly dispersed. Many of those who had taken the time to watch the entire event unfold appreciated the message that the participants and student organizations attempted to convey.
“I thought it was very liberating watching these people stand up and speak out for something they believe in because you never really see that anymore,” Alexandra Nunn, a senior, said. “I’m very proud of my generation and my college.”
Marina Nazir can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.