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USF Hosts Teach-In on Haiti


USF's Teach-In on Haiti is April 19, featuring first-hand accounts of the devastation and expert discussion on the recovery.

As the media spotlight fades from Haiti following a devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake there January 12, the University of San Francisco has moved to rekindle attention to the recovery and rebuilding taking place by holding a half-day teach-in of first-hand accounts and expert discussion.

The April 19 event  featured national speakers on the humanitarian response, and legal and medical systems, along with historical perspectives on Haiti’s culture, religion, and politics.

The goal of USF’s Teach-In on Haiti was to explore what has been learned and share what has worked and what hasn’t worked in the earthquake response, said USF President Stephen A. Privett, S.J.

“Many people see the recent earthquake as a ‘natural disaster’ but there is nothing ‘natural’ about the disastrous level of poverty and appalling lack of infrastructure of every kind in Haiti before the earthquake,” Fr. Privett said. “These products of human decisions are largely responsible for the extent of the tragedy in Haiti.”

While nearly everyone knows there was an earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people in Haiti, few people know the framework in which the disaster occurred, said USF School of Law Dean Jeff Brand, who spearheaded the symposium.

“It’s a catastrophic event that killed tens of thousands of people and happened in a context of impossible national debt loads, widespread poverty, a complicated U.S. engagement policy, and dysfunctional humanitarian aid distribution,” Brand said. “There are a whole host of issues that we must examine if we are to respond effectively.”

He sees the teach-in as an opportunity for attendees to discover areas where their expertise and passion for action overlap, as well as a venue for meeting people and learning of organizations working in Haiti, Brand said.

The event featured speakers Walter Riley, civil rights attorney and chair of the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund, Brian Concannon, director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and chair of the Lawyer’s Earthquake Response Network, and Enna Trevathan, USF adjunct nursing professor and VA Palo Alto Health Care System nurse manager, among many others.

Written by Edward Carpenter »usfnews@usfca.edu