Amnesty International Returns to Ripon College

After disbanding in 2016, two new students are reviving the club
Connor Renshaw

“The idea came into my mind like, ‘OK, let’s get it done,’” said Ali Hamza, class of 2021, describing the moment he decided to start an Amnesty International club. He got the idea at the Student Activities Fair when, after researching Amnesty International on his own, he said he was surprised there wasn’t a group for it here in Ripon. Hamza’s decision has led to the creation of a new club on campus affiliated with the international human rights group.

Hamza approached Michael Cohoon, also class of 2021, asking him to help start the club. “I gladly told him that I’d help him out,” Cohoon said. “Along the way I got more of a passion for it than just helping him out starting the club and then being out of the picture, I kind of wanted to be more involved than that.”

One thing that drew Cohoon to the organization was that it is non-partisan. “The beauty about Amnesty International,” he said, “is that they provide a range of issues that can hit various spots on the political spectrum.”

Eventually, Hamza and Cohoon decided that Cohoon would help lead the club. “It was a team effort between me and Ali in order to get the club where it is now,” Cohoon said.

According to Cohoon, the process started by reading through and adapting the constitution of the old Amnesty International club, which operated until the 2015-2016 school year but collapsed due to lack of interest.

To get the club started again, Hamza and Cohoon had to find other interested students.“First I started talking to people, a lot of people” Hamza said, and after finding three or four interested students, the group started tabling in the Commons. According to Hamza and Cohoon, they now have about 40 students interested in the club.

Amnesty International is a global organization with its headquarters in London, England, and an American office in New York City. The group’s work focuses on international human rights, a mission that Amnesty International’s website,, describes as “campaigning for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all.”

“The central focus would be in cases with people who are prisoners of conscious,” said the new club’s advisor, Professor of Chemistry Dean Katahira. “What that means is maybe they were expressing some sort of opinion or stating something they felt, and then they were imprisoned for that.”

Cohoon said the club will keep in contact with the larger organization through emails. “They send us a plethora of different options of what is going on and what we can do to help out.”

On campus, the club’s activities might include raising money for Amnesty International’s larger campaigns, however, “I’m also planning on doing a lot of things here, like public speakers and documentaries,” Hamza said.

On Wednesday, Feb. 7, the Student Senate voted to officially recognize the Amnesty International club. In a second vote Feb. 14, Student Senate came to the same decision, officially bringing the club into existence.