BURLINGTON, VT—University of Vermont junior Becca Davis failed to do anything for the people of Tibet during her summer vacation, disgruntled fellow activists reported Tuesday.
"With class out for the summer, Becca had a valuable window during which she could have pressured the Chinese government to end its tyrannical reign over the Tibetan people," campus activist Sally Coe said. "Instead, she sunbathed in the park and worked part-time at a local bookstore. As a result, the Tibetan freedom cause has been set back months."
Conquered by the People's Republic Of China in 1949, Tibet has suffered decades of political and religious oppression, and its leader, the Dalai Lama, has been exiled for 45 years. Tibetans who oppose the Chinese occupation have implored the world to intervene, but Davis has evidently decided to ignore their pleas.
Although Davis is a member of the Campus Outreach Network for Tibetan Autonomy, as well as the Campus Anti-War Initiative Coalition and the Campus Crusade Against Rape, her political awareness seems to have dissipated during the summer. According to sources close to Davis, the political science and women's studies double major has neither volunteered for the local chapter of the Free Tibet campaign nor organized a Tibetan-freedom rally in her hometown of Lyme, CT. Davis has not passed out one pamphlet, and she has neglected to sign an online petition that has been sitting in her e-mail inbox for weeks.
"Someone should tell Becca that the needs of the disadvantaged do not take a scuba holiday off the coast of Curacao," Coe said, referring to a one-week vacation Davis took with her family in June. "Activism takes time, hard work, and commitment. Posters don't nail themselves to sticks."
Davis said she was puzzled by Coe's statements, pointing out that she spent her past two summer breaks helping the disadvantaged.
"When I was a freshman, I spent the summer collecting donations for an organization that helps exiled Tibetans in Dharamsala," Davis said. "And last summer, I did this rainforest reforestation volunteer program for four weeks. But this last semester was really a killer, and I seriously needed some time off."
Added Davis: "I mean, it feels like I just got back from West Virginia [where Davis built Habitat For Humanity houses with the Alternative Spring Break program]."
In spite of her failure to lift a finger for Tibet in recent weeks, Davis said her feelings about the country have not changed.
"I really do think it's important to promote support for the exiled Tibetan government and convince the global community that the nation of Tibet should be free from unwanted foreign rule," Davis said. "But next year, I'll be a senior and, you know, I don't have many summers left where I can just take it easy."
In this week's issue of The Nation, author and San Francisco-area activist Jay Minty wrote about the tendency of student idealists to shed their political awareness during the summer months, "like so many Peruvian wool sweaters."
"Between the months of May and September, only 4 percent of campus activists attempt to end social injustice," Minty wrote. "Why, for example, are 'Take Back The Night'-style anti-sexual-assault rallies only scheduled during the school year? During the summer of 2003, only the night of Aug. 18 came anywhere close to being taken back, at a small vigil in Farmington, ME attended by only six activists."
Continued Minty: "When did summer jobs, TV shows, and awkward visits to extended family members become more important than human rights and economic inequality?"
Thupten Lobsang, a Tibetan seeking an American host family, did not appear insulted by Davis' indifference to his people's cause.
"I hope Becca isn't being worked too hard at the bookstore," Lobsang said from Lhasa, Tibet in a phone interview. "I was amused by her choice of summer beach reading: the kitschy Jacqueline Susann classic The Love Machine. Summer does have a way of slipping by you, I agree. And I also hope that Becca had fun in Curacao, even if her annoying younger brother was there. I had an annoying younger brother once, too. He was imprisoned and later shot by the Chinese secret police."