The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Ethics center interns share stories

From hazings to missing students, SMU has had its fair share of negative stories about students in the past. But SMU students Lydia Butts, Stephanie Fox and Debra McKnight tell different stories of spreading tolerance and saving the lives of children this past summer.

Three of this year’s Maguire and Irby Family Public Service Interns shared their amazing summer experiences last Friday with faculty, students and founder Cary M. Maguire. In this internship program, students create a plan to reverse problems within a community of their choice. Students are each granted up $2,000 to carry out their services to the community.

“This is one of the crowning achievements of our year,” said Tom Mayo, the new director of the Maguire Center. “It’s having students come back after a summer in their public service intern position to share their experiences and what they’ve learned in that capacity,” he said.

In New Delhi, India, Senior Lydia Butts spent her summer helping women and children through multiple projects. In addition to working with STOP (Stop Trafficking Oppression and Prostitution of Children and Women), she worked at a women’s shelter.

“Women and children issues are overlooked. There’s a lot of other things that India is more concerned with right now,” Butts said.

When 40,000 people had to be relocated after the government demolished their houses, Butts helped establish vocational training for beauty salons and candle-making for the newly-unemployed women.

In another community where most girls dropped out of school in the 3rd or 4th grade, Butts helped provide medical care and occupied their time with embroidery classes and teaching them English.

Butts also did weeks of research collecting and condensing reading material for a new human rights course offered at one of the branches of the Delhi University.

In her last week, Butts helped return a group of children the Indian government rescued from brothels to their families in Bangladesh.

“All of my interactions were amazing,” Butts concluded. “I met women from all kinds of backgrounds and girls from all different communities. I loved it.”

This semester, Butts received a scholarship from the Department of State to study abroad in Egypt in the American University in Cairo. She hopes to continue her nonprofit work there.

Stephanie Fox, a third year law student, worked at the Child Abuse and Family Violence Division at the Dallas District Attorney’s office. She worked closely with prosecutors doing case preparations, going to trial, and jury selection.

“Everyone has that Law-and-Order impression of district attorneys office, but it’s not like that,” said Fox. “I never grasped how terrible these cases were. We hear about cases on the news, but just working and reading these CPS files and amazing what these children go through.”

Fox said that the office was greatly under-funded and understaffed, the eight or nine child abuse prosecutors had over 100 cases each. “They treated me just like a prosecutor,” said Fox. “So I was doing work that they would be doing themselves. I allowed them the opportunity to work on other cases.”

After graduating from law school, Fox plans to continue her work as a prosecutor in the child abuse area. Debra McKnight, a second year graduate of the Perkins Theology School, worked with SMU’s Women’s Center designing an interactive multimedia program to educate secondary school teachers about sexual orientation issues.

“I hope that it draws them to understand some of the difficulties and lifelong struggles some of their students will face,” McKnight said. “Hopefully this reaches out to creating tolerance and respect for everybody.”

She began by presenting the group with one of the exercises, which demonstrates the loss homosexuals experience when they come out. In addition to this loss, McKnight says many gay men and lesbian women face verbal and even physical abuse at schools.

“As a former teacher, you can’t go 3 minutes without hearing it unless you enforce a rule that it will not be tolerated,” said McKnight. She believes that the only way to enforce the rule is to establish district wide policies. “If there are no real consequences to the rules, then it becomes meaningless,” she continued.

She is also working on establishing the “Gay? Fine by me.” It is a program originally started at Duke University. She hopes that by October, many SMU students will walk around with the T-shirts. “We want to make a visible presence on campus that says hatred and intolerance is unacceptable,” McKnight said.

The Maguire Center aims to have a bigger circle of people learn from their interns’ experiences. Mayo said, “We want to multiply the effect for the university to leverage what the interns have done into something even more effective for everyone else.”

More to Discover