University Hosts 10th Annual Advocacy Week

Katie Tsai Staff Writer

Wednesday, March 27 through Friday, March 29, 2019 marked Villanova University’s 10th Annual Advocacy Week.   Organized by Villanova’s Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Advocacy Week gives clubs, sororities, teams, offices, outside organizations and even individuals the opportunity and platform to speak and act on important social and political issues. 

These organizations sponsored petitions, letter-writing campaigns, banners and other creative forms of advocacy for a specific cause relevant to their interests and work.  Students and visitors alike were invited to learn more about each cause and organization through educational materials and speaking with representatives.  

Amnesty International is a non-partisan human rights advocacy group that supports women’s issues to immigration to environmental issues to gun control.  At Villanova, they partner with No Last Generation to focus on refugee women and children.  For Women’s History Month, they focused on helping Syrian women, Israeli and Palestinian women, and Venezuelan women.  Students could sign letters to Human Health Services and pledges to raise awareness for these crises.  

At Special Olympics’ Spread the Word table, they could sign their names on a banner vowing to use language inclusive to those with disabilities.  Another group sought signatures for a petition for the PA Rules Committee to vote on Medicare for All legislation in Pennsylvania.   Other organizations included CSE Institute for sexual exploitation of women and human trafficking, with a symposium on April 11-12, SREHUP, Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and Alpha Gamma Delta for fighting hunger.  In total, 12 organizations participated in this year’s Advocacy Week.

These efforts come in the form of advocacy, as William Stehl, a crucial force behind Advocacy Week each year and a Associate Director of the Center for Peace for Justice and Campus Ministry, said.  There are two feet of love and action — a “need for works of charity and service” to be balanced with acts of “justice and advocacy.”  On one foot, you have the “immediate band-aid means – material, immediate, interpersonal, and generally viewed as lawful and good.”      On the other, “working for systemic change by addressing the root causes of these issues,” Stehl said.  The value is ultimately in systems and structures and institutions to lead to these outcomes, but they’re often broader, more intangible, and harder to understand.  Often, it is controversial, because change is something that is hard for a lot of people to buy into.”             He created Advocacy Week at Villanova “to shift broader culture [from just charity] to allow more advocacy.”  

The event is led by Sara Vaughan, a senior Psychology major from Oklahoma and current Advocacy Chair of CRS.  Catholic Relief Services, a humanitarian group formed in light of Catholic social thought and tradition.  Last year, CRS took over the chief efforts for organizing the event.  She worked at the CRS table, which was sponsoring letters to Congress calling for the U.S. foreign budget to emphasize climate change, as well as global hunger and poverty relief.   “Advocacy Week is all about getting the platform out there, through petitions, banners, and letters,” she said.She emphasizes her desire to adapt Advocacy Week more for the times, through online petitions and a new Instagram account (@vuadvocacyweek).  She praises Villanova for allowing the structure and platform for students to voice their concerns.  “Collaborating with organizations is crucial,” she said.

 “It’s cool to see people work together.”  In the future, she hopes CRS can reach out to more organizations.  

Overall, the event garnered 432 signatures, nearly 100 followers on Instagram, and even a visit from University President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A, Ph. D.