USF Responds to Haiti's Earthquake

By Barbara Melendez

Tampa, Fla. (Jan. 25, 2010) – The University of South Florida’s students, faculty and staff immediately sprang into action to do what they could to help bring relief to Haitians affected by last week’s devastating earthquake. Responses are growing in sophistication and complexity in relation to what is clearly an enduring situation without simple solutions. 

Concerning urgent needs, USF President Judy Genshaft initially sent word out on behalf of the university community expressing the desire to “reach out to students who have suffered loss, or simply are unable to contact their families and friends in Haiti,” and recommended that any student directly or indirectly affected contact the Student Counseling Center to seek support, available at or by calling (813) 974-2831. Additionally, physicians and nurses who want to deliver care in Haiti should contact  


And regarding the near and distant future, Roger Brindley, interim associate director of USF World, is coordinating USF’s relief efforts related to Haiti. He is heading an ad hoc work group representing USF faculty, staff and students, which will meet once a week over the next several weeks to establish what initiatives are presently being planned and to develop a coordinated effort that will take into account Haiti’s mid-term and long-term needs. 


“In the immediate future an extraordinary number of organizations are trying to assist Haiti.  At USF we are committed to planning for coordinated and effective disaster relief efforts six months and six years from now,” Brindley said. “Sadly it will take a generation for the Haitian people to recover and we’re reaching out to our Haitian community to discuss the long-term needs of Haiti and how best the university can respond to them.” 


In addition, there will be a concerted effort at USF to identify all faculty who are already doing work in and around Haiti, with the view to synthesizing efforts and making the best use of everyone’s expertise and resources. Brindley can be contacted at and all are requested to direct relief effort information to him.


This week, the Caribbean Cultural Exchange, a USF student organization, in conjunction with its new offshoot, Caribbean Students Incorporated, has invited USF Professor Melvin James to be part of a special program whose topic is, “Why, Haiti?: Past, Present and the Way Forward,” Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 5 p.m. in Room 2709 of the Marshall Student Center. This event, which is free and open to the public, is presenting James’ analysis of the internal and external factors related to religious, political, economic and military issues in Haiti, including the history of the nation, both past and current.  He will be followed by a panel made up of former USF student body president and alumnus Maxon Victor, current students Genevieve Guillaume (a member of Fanm Kreyol) and Ruth Georges (former vice president of Club Creole), and another alumnus, Otis Coliny, all of Haitian decent, and Ron Bobb-Semple, from Guyana. They will share their insights about current events in Haiti. For more information on this event, contact USF graduate student Kofi Dalrymple at .



For more information on other relief efforts, contact Club Creole's Community Service Chair Beverly Joseph at or Ginelle Saint Jean (954) 701-5108 as well as the USF Office of Civic Engagement, at Civic Engagement’s Web site contains Haiti-related information at A new initiative, Bull-Aid is in the works.


So far, since last week:

·         USF Africana Studies graduate student Robin Baldwin has moderated a live discussion with area Haitian community leaders which included information on opportunities to contribute to relief efforts as well as communications local residents were receiving from family and friends in Haiti.


·         USF’s Club Creole held a candlelight vigil at the amphitheater at the Marshall Center and collected donations.


·         Leaders and members of the Tampa-area Haitian community met at the Marshall Center to discuss how to combine resources and created a list of volunteer opportunities for those eager to assist.

·         Club Creole started a collection drive on that continues through Jan. 28 for non-perishable food items, clothing for all ages, toiletries, and first aid supplies.  Boxes are set up in the Office of Student Organizations, Office of Multicultural Affairs, and Center of Leadership Engagement to collect all donated materials.


·         Week of Welcome’s, Kompa Latina, Jan. 15, included time out to raise awareness of the situation in Haiti and they collected donations of all kinds with the assistance of the American Red Cross. Clothing, bedding and non-perishable food items are in most demand, the group said.


·         Jan. 19, USF’s Office of Civic Engagement held a collective action planning to plan and carry out campus-based relief efforts.


The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of only 25 public research universities nationwide with very high research activity that is designated as community engaged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The university offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The USF System has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.