Have a problem with our agenda?
Run for office or start your own group
December 1, 2006
In response to Rana Rabei's "Support WHAT exactly!?":
Although a part of the perceived "problem," raising money by attending a 'trendy lounge in the US capital,' is a great endeavor put together by the Iranian Students' Foundation (ISF) of the University of Maryland. The bottom line is, all student organizations need funding to operate and the more money the group has in its treasury, the more effective it will be at accomplishing its goals on behalf of the members of the group. Getting a $500 check from a trendy lounge is NOT the problem here; in fact, it's part of the solution....
And, by solution I mean this:
Student organizations, by nature, exist because they provide activities for their members. When members attend these activities, the group's agenda is fulfilled and in turn, hopefully the members' 'semi-unified agenda' is also fulfilled. It's a symbiotic relationship where the students benefit (in fulfilling the agenda of the group and meeting like-minded people; friendships are eventually formed and ideas inevitably exchanged) along with the group (its name becomes well known in whatever niche community it serves and as membership and activities increase, so does the group's ability to promote the cause and attract other members).
It is apparent that you (like many many others) have a problem with the Iranian Students' Foundation's AGENDA (and not so much its fundraising ... although, the fundraising does promote an image that you may not associate with a student/cultural organization, it still raises much needed capital). As ISF's Vice President of Finance for the '05-'06 school year, I too had qualms with our agenda -- as did some of the other officers and members. **However, even with the perceived agenda problem, the group is still very important for many Iranians and the Iranian community in the DC area!** You should have at least acknowledged this in your article.
One cannot overlook the many friendships and cultural exchanges that are created because of ISF. In addition, as far as I have seen, very few entities have been able to fortify the Iranian community in the DC area as ISF does. For Chahar Shanbeh Souri last year, we were able to bring over 5000 Iranians together!!!! In fact, all events sponsored by ISF are typically sold out, with attendance in the 200-500 range for each event. This is no small feat. And I agree, while the group does not sponsor enough cultural, political, and weighty Iran-related events, it still fulfills a niche that the community needs -- bringing people together. For this reason, this group is successful and a huge plus for our community.
Of course, I agree that ISF can and should do more to foster cultural development and educate the public about Iran's historical and current achievements; however, you are overlooking how tough it is to bring everyone on board -- both parents and student-members -- for more cultural based events. Even with Dr. Karimi's Persian Studies Center on campus, raising interest for more cultural events is very difficult. The proof being that many more students attended celebrations than Dr. Yarshataur's lecture on the Encyclopedia Iranica or the traditional Sufi concerts sponsored by the Center.
You have two options here, Rana. Run for office in ISF and once an officer, promote the agenda you seem to want for the group, and most importantly, help others in ISF and UMD's campus realize your vision for the group ...
Or secondly, if you want my honest, yet somewhat disappointed opinion, create another Iranian student group at the university. The ISF is a HUGE success in bringing Iranians together -- but, unfortunately, it brings Iranians together for parties and celebrations, not for cultural events. To bring a larger crowd to more cultural based events, create another Iranian group on campus. Create a group that follows Dr. Karimi's Center with joy; one that flocks to political rallies involving Iranian issues; one that invests time in cultural events.
I am sad to be making this ironic statement, but: it is not a part of ISF's culture to promote Iranian culture as you are demanding -- further, I don't think it's something that students can promote so willingly. It's only within a group that such a will to sponsor cultural events can be fostered ... it's something that needs to be worked for by many people ... eventually, others will join and they too will have the vigor that you have.
"If you build it, they will come." Comment