Several speakers called for increased sensitivity to all students' needs yesterday as over 50 people gathered to remember three students who were murdered while attending the University. In a memorial service for former students Meera Ananthakrishnan, Cyril Leung and Tyrone Robertson, University administrators and the students' friends and families said the University must work to create a more compassionate environment where the needs of students from diverse backgrounds are recognized and met. But while they called for more action, they also recognized efforts that some groups and individuals have already made. The University Council Safety and Security Committee gave its first annual Meera Ananthakrishnan/Cyril Leung Award to Students Together Against Acquaintance Rape. The award was started this year to recognize a group or individual that has improved safety at the University. Committee Co-chairperson Jeffery Jacobson said STAAR's efforts to promote awareness of and to prevent acquaintance rape and its recent push for security changes made the group a unanimous choice. "Together we have the power," he said. "Together, every member of this community has the power." In accepting the award, STAAR representatives said they were disturbed that it takes a memorial service to bring people together to work on the crime problem but added they are glad students are becoming concerned. Penn Women's Center Director Elena DiLapi praised the choice, saying STAAR has "made an incredible impact" on acquaintance rape. "They've really made the issue one of great public concern," she said. The rest of the 90-minute ceremony in the Houston Hall Bowl Room was dominated by speakers telling of the sadness and sense of loss the murders have created and of the hope they have for the future. Ananthakrishnan was stabbed to death in her Graduate Towers apartment during the 1985 Thanksgiving break. Leung was beaten to death in October 1988 by a group of local youths in nearby Clark Park. Robertson died last December when he was shot in his hometown of Chester. Several speakers, including Foreign Students Advisor Margaret Gilligan and Anu Rao, from the Association of Indians in America said crime-prevention efforts must first start by creating a compassionate community. Anthropology Professor Peggy Sanday summed up the service, saying at an emotional moment that the University should stop concentrating on "money, status and entrenched privilege" and work towards social justice. Rao said she was encouraged by the response of the community to Ananthakrishnan's death five years ago and by continuing efforts to help international students adjust to life at the University. "It's a sad thing we're talking about," she said. "But for me it represents a lot of hope." Ada Robertson, mother of victim Tyrone Robertson, said the service has helped her family heal. She said the response from the University, including the administration and her son's friends, has made a difference. "It's becoming a more glad occasion," she said. "The burden's being lifted slightly each time we come here to see it."Comments powered by Disqus
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