Rivals on the Court, Teammates in the Fight Against Hunger

By: Aamir Hussain

February 1, 2012

In two weeks, Georgetown students will be unified in our passion to “Juice ‘Cuse” in our annual basketball game. However, Georgetown and Syracuse are rivals in more than one way; both universities are candidates for White House recognition for exemplary interfaith service campaigns as part of President Obama’s nationwide Interfaith Campus and Community Service Challenge.

Despite these rivalries, this year’s game is an opportunity for something unthinkable: an unprecedented partnership between Georgetown and Syracuse that emphasizes working together for a common cause. Throughout the week of February 1-8, 2012, inter-religious student organizations at both colleges are holding a canned food drive through partnerships with athletic teams, The Corp, and various other campus groups. This drive will culminate at the Georgetown vs. Syracuse Basketball Game on February 8; all donations from Syracuse will be sent to the Food Bank of Central New York, and all Georgetown donations will be sent to Capital Area Food Bank. The goal of this partnership is to increase awareness and mobilize support for the fight against hunger by harnessing each university’s enthusiasm for basketball and interfaith community service.

This revolutionary idea started almost a year ago. In 2010, the Interfaith Youth Core launched the Better Together Campaign. The Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) is a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that aims to make interfaith cooperation a social norm. Their Better Together campaign seeks to mobilize college students to pursue social justice on a wide range of issues through interfaith dialogue and community service. Both Georgetown and Syracuse chose to run Better Together campaigns throughout 2011 in response to the nationwide White House Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, an initiative sponsored by President Obama that calls for American institutions of higher education to become leading advocates of interfaith community service. Campuses with the best campaigns will be recognized by the White House in June 2012.

Georgetown’s premier Better Together interfaith campaign involves a wide variety of campus groups including Campus Ministry, The Corp, DC Reads, DC Schools Project, and many other faith and non-faith-based organizations that are committed to social justice. Ironically, as a Jesuit institution, our school is among the best choices for an inter-religious campaign because many religious and interfaith groups on campus are very prominent and active. President Obama’s Interfaith Challenge is a unique opportunity for us Hoyas to strengthen partnerships among seemingly disparate campus groups, and to show our community service commitment to the rest of the nation.

This December, a student from Syracuse’s interfaith organization contacted me. He outlined the amazing potential of both of our colleges to help our local communities, if we cooperated with each other. Then, Georgetown and Syracuse students, faculty, and staff met at an Interfaith Leadership Institute this January sponsored by IFYC and decided to become partners due to their similar Better Together issues: Georgetown is addressing poverty and education in DC, while Syracuse focuses on hunger in their region of upstate New York.

By combining their passions for social justice in preparation for their much-anticipated basketball game on February 8, 2012, members of both universities want to show the nation that they are truly “better together”. Georgetown and Syracuse, while remaining starkly different universities in many respects, can be united by their commitment to interfaith cooperation and improving their local communities. By taking the first step, Syracuse has demonstrated that they were willing to put petty rivalries aside and join forces in a fight that truly matters: a fight against hunger and poverty.

Obviously, we need to cheer for our Hoyas on the court, but we can also translate our commitment to excellence into donating a few cans for a good cause. As Georgetown students, we have the responsibility to follow suit and stay true to our Jesuit ideals of “Men and Women for Others” and “Inter-religious Understanding.” Basketball and religion are often the most divisive issues among universities, but this year, we can change that narrative and integrate both of them into an exemplary, unprecedented, inter-collegiate partnership by simply donating canned food. Syracuse has already begun the process; as Hoyas, how can we do any less?
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Rivals on the Court, Teammates in the Fight Against Hunger