LSU Shows Its Heart During International Crises

By Concetta Ingrassia | LSU Student

The Pentassard Community, a residential living group at Louisiana State University, is collecting money through the "Lend a hand to Japan" project to help after the dramatic earthquake and tsunami at hit the island nation last month.

The goal is to raise $300, said Lejuene resident assistant Mallory Thomas. "So far, we had a good response from the students." The money will be funneled through the American Red Cross, which is accepting donations nationally to assist relief efforts in Japan.

"With $300, the American Red Cross can buy blankets, clothes and books." said the LSU Sociology Professor Yoshinori Kamo. "Economic donations are never too little."

That is but one example of often low-key efforts on campus to raise money for worthy causes.

Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, for instance, scheduled "KAT-fish for CASA" last Friday. With music and catfish, the sorority raised funds CASA, whose mission is to help abused and neglected children.

Why do people flock to help in times of tragedies?

Kamo says it is because philanthropic acts give donors "credit" from other people. "You never know when you'll need help. If you're in the position to help other people, why not do that?"

LSU Sociology Professor Susan Dumais maintains people help in times of tragedy because they picture themselves in that situation. Helping other people also gives the person the feeling of being part of a community, she said

"Religion has also an influence in why people do philanthropy" said the LSU sociology research assistant Brett Lehman. "Many religions . . . teach that charity is important."

Dumais notes that in times of tragedy people feel helpless and giving money makes them feel better.

"Society also influence people's behavior," says Lehman, who adds there is always something that reminds people of the tragedy. He says mass media also play a role in this process. Through them philanthropy is accessible. Lehman gives as an example when people want to donate they need only respond to a number that appears on television.

"Philanthropy is not a trend, just a norm."

"Through philanthropy people try to express their connection with the society" says LSU sociology Professor Frederick Weil. For example, he says, when LSU students organize philanthropy events, the primary consumption of this party is to have fun. But it's also a way for express their seriousness to society."

Why do LSU students raise money when they know it will not be a significant, sufficient to make a noticeable difference?

"LSU students (and people, in general) guess that other people are doing the same" says Dumais.

"Anyway, as a sociologist, I know that also a little amount of money can be multiplied in terms of utility," argues Weill, noting that when Hurricane Katrina happened, people could not donate enough money necessary for reconstruction of the city.

Weill, through his religious congregation, established a café in Baton Rouge where displaced people could gather. "That community feeling gave them the strength to go on with their lives."