‘It’s better to regret what you’ve done, not what you didn’t do.’ Anonymous

A few weeks ago I was told by a staff member that I was the spokesperson for vegetarians at AUC (American University of the Caribbean).  I can guarantee you that I did not arrive at this exalted position because I am well spoken.  Rather, I am the only one speaking up.

I think a large part of this stems from the fact that my colleagues and I are medical students.  Medical students across the world have a lot on their plates.   However, where do we as medical students, or in fact as human beings, draw the line?  At which point in our careers do we turn a blind eye to suffering and disparities?

At AUC we talk a big game about ‘Diversity’ and about being innovative or just as good as anyone else.  My problem, and the problem many of my colleagues share, is that AUC doesn’t walk the walk.  Everyone is so scared of losing their position or ‘not making it’ in their second chance at medical school, that conflicts and different perspectives on medicine/classes/whatever are stifled. They are swept underneath a rug.  AUC has all these reports claiming there are no hate crimes and no discrimination at AUC.  But, then there is an event like the recent hate crime incident and no one speaks out and not enough people know the victims story.  It’s the silence on the conflicts at this school which makes everything so frustrating. No one speaks up unless it involves money.  Even when it does, people still do little.

Not too long ago I was fighting against a magical new rule (aka Double standard) regarding the DC (Diversity Council, note irony) when the school forced all its students to buy from one insurance company, Nagico.   At the time I was more worried about the double standard but members of my organization had asked me to look into it so I did.  This is what I found: when the Nagico issue arose, only two second semesters choose to do anything.  No one offered to help them in their efforts when they wrote a letter to Miami or when they convinced SGA to send the letter to the Miami office.  When the ‘Miami office’, aka the greatest share holder at AUC inc., said too bad – the issue dropped.  No one did anything afterwards.    Students and families have accepted that they are being charged 3-4x more for a worse insurance policy.  It doesn’t seem to matter that the person who organized the deal has a husband previously employed by the insurance provider, Nagico (see here and here)It doesn’t matter that the SXM immigration office, AUC’s cited reason for the change, is selectively enforcing a mandatory domestic insurance rule only on AUC and not the St. Maarten University down the street (see link here, American students and international students may still waive the insurance policy like AUC students used to do).

So why again doesn’t this all matter??

If you ask about this and the other issues brought up, I guarantee you will hear a variation of the following from AUC students, “Oh, that is awful but you know how things are here” or “just forget about it and study, there’s nothing you can do anyways”.  The best response I usually hear is the more cautious, “well, we can’t just make wild allegations, we have to be sure and do this the right way – we don’t want to harm our schools reputation or possibly get kicked out.”  I have listened to these responses during my first two semesters as well as now, and back then (like now) I hoped then I wasn’t alone in my complaints.

In January of 2009 I went to all the student organizations and definitively found that I wasn’t alone.  Those that worked with me helped me create an organization to end the pervasive silence at AUC, but now I am the only person left out of those founders and the DC has changed.  With the handling of the recent hate crime incident by the administration, I am asking people to do something and stick with it. Make a petition.  Sign my proposal.  Support BGLAM by signing up or becoming active.  Write your congressman on this issue or any issue.  DO something, anything, please.  You are not powerless and it should go without saying,  “live without regrets”.

(courtesy of http://www.cartoonstock.com)

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