Student club, R.A.P.S., aims to lift ignorance

Within the last year news programs have reported the ravages of war, the devastation of suicide bombing, political scandals, high-level business fraud, and many other issues that should concern people.

Despite the pervasive reporting, there are many people who are uneducated about the politics and public issues that affect everyday life. Statistics show that in the 2000 presidential election only 36 percent of those 18-24 years of age voted. Are those in this age bracket not voting because they are uninformed about issues, do not understand how politics work, or do they just not care?

Most Florida Atlantic University students fall within the age brackets where voter turnout is low. To lift the veil of ignorance many students might have concerning political issues, a group of FAU students has joined together to make a difference. The group is called R.A.P.S (Raising Awareness Politically and Socially).

R.A.P.S is about “providing social and political education for individuals on topics that are a vital concern to citizens,” says Dr. Patricia Darlington, its advisor and a professor in the Communication Department.

Shane Sassoon, president and a founding member of R.A.P.S, believes that the “goal is to educate, on a non-biased level, to students who are ultimately in charge of the future and the politics that affect them greatly.”

Helena Zacharis, secretary and another founding member, believes that R.A.P.S is important because students “have little knowledge of global issues and must become more aware of our own surroundings, our history, and what is happening in our country and in other countries. If [students] become more educated, the possibilities are endless to ways in which they can help all of humanity.”

Members know there are many on campus who want to be educated about the topics on which R.A.P.S will focus. Eventually R.A.P.S hopes to reach all members of society, not just students.

Leah Jones, a senior, is convinced that “an organization like R.A.P.S is needed. Not only on this campus, but everywhere. I watch the news and think I know what is going on, but half the time truth is not what I am being told.

“I can hear 20 different versions of one story and the more I hear it the more the topic becomes confusing and distorted. I want to be informed about the truth, the issues, with no biases,” Jones says.

The idea for the group arose last semester in Darlington’s International Communication class. Heated discussions and debates occurred every time the class was held.

“Initially, the lack of knowledge about the government and political issues was concerning, but ultimately learning more about the issues turned into an incredible enthusiasm from the students,” Darlington reports.

Sassoon explains, “Eventually we decided we could take the information we were learning and teach others, so they too could be making informed decisions about their country. In class we talk of issues and ideas that few of us have educated ourselves about or researched.

“With the information that Dr. Darlington is teaching and what we teach each other, we thought that we could help other students by expanding our discussions and knowledge outside this classroom.”

Adds Darlington, “Initially I plan to teach the members the information that they will be sharing with the community. However, eventually I want the group to go beyond me and teach themselves through outside sources.”

R.A.P.S started meeting in mid-September and has continued to hold meetings every Monday and Wednesday at 4:15 p.m., in GCS 252. The founders consisted of 12 students and one adviser. In compliance with FAU regulations, the students elected each member into one of the eight necessary positions. The members agreed that some positions would require more than one student. After the positions were filled, the members had to complete required paperwork so that R.A.P.S will be recognized by FAU as an official group and receive annual funding.

FAU requires students who seek to start an organization to fill out a Statement of Intent to Organize form, a Petition for Official Registration form, and to create a constitution that follows FAU guidelines. After a group has filled out the paperwork, it must submit it to the Office of Student Development & Activities in Room 204 at the University Center.

Elesha Aflalo, program assistant in Student Development & Activities, reports that after the paperwork is submitted, “it is reviewed by this office, Student Development & Activities, by the Interclub Council, and finally by Dean [of Student Affairs Leslie K.] Bates.”

Although some R.A.P.S members were worried that the paperwork might not be correct, Bates says that he “has never denied a club or organization.”

Student Development & Activities reports that presently there are over 100 official organizations on the FAU campus. Of those, only four are politically oriented, two of which are affiliated with political parties, the office notes.

Sassoon reassures that “R.A.P.S is an informative club. We do not want to be affiliated with any political party, just want to inform students about what is going on in the world in an unbiased manner.”

R.A.P.S current members are sure the group will succeed. Zacharis believes that “Dr. Darlington is the reason for all of this. She has such a great background knowledge and awareness of world issues and her love for educating has created a group of students, R.A.P.S, to want more and not stop. She is the reason this club exists and with her this club will succeed in staying at FAU.”

Sassoon, R.A.P.S president, encourages “everyone to join because being a citizen of the United States, or resident, requires you to know all aspects and information that concerns your country. You should vote and know what you are voting for.”