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ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON – The Bard Center for the Study of Hate is proud to award Danielle Riou, associate director of Bard College’s Human Rights Project, this year’s Beth Rickey Award. The award is given to a member of the Bard/OSUN Network community who has “taken sustained and effective action against hate [and whose] achievements can either be in scholarship, adding to our understanding of how hatred works, or actions, such as political organizing or media work, for example.”
Danielle Riou took a leadership role in Bard’s efforts to welcome and integrate newly arrived students from Afghanistan during the 2021–2022 academic year. Bard made dramatic efforts, which involved complex negotiations and logistical maneuvering such as on-the-spot decisions to charter planes, in order to evacuate hundreds of students and graduates safely out of the country as Kabul fell into Taliban rule. Afghans connected with the OSUN-affiliated American University of Afghanistan were under particularly great risk, as reported in multiple news stories.
Once their evacuation had been accomplished, a vast and nearly invisible labor of actual resettlement in Annandale-on-Hudson ensued. Riou’s canny, pragmatic, determined advocacy and diplomacy were at the center of that team effort. Having been actively involved in the hands-on details of immigrant/refugee policy in the Hudson Valley over the last decade through her work with the Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement, and Education, Riou has developed a body of legal expertise, political know-how, empathy, and organizing skills that served the College and its new students from Afghanistan well.
Always an anchor of sanity and idealism, always focused on putting students first, Danielle’s work took aim at the bureaucratic and legal details of resettlement that tend to baffle and dismay all but the most tenacious advocates. As she once quipped, “we’re just running the consular office of a small nation up here.” Along with a formidable array of Bard staff and administrators, she helped the College meet the challenge with resolve and compassion.
One colleague said, “Danielle has always been front and center. She actively pursues legal representation. She sorts clothes. She researches . . . and has quite a bit of contact with students seeking assistance. From my vantage point she is a person who walks the walk on human rights.”
The annual Beth Rickey Award is given in memory of Elizabeth “Beth” Rickey, who died on this day in 2009. Rickey was a Republican State Committeewoman in Louisiana. Politically conservative, Rickey was appalled when neo-Nazi and former Klansman David Duke won elected office and devastated that many of her fellow Republicans in state government welcomed Duke into their midst. She made it her mission to expose Duke, following him to meetings with other white supremacists, showing that he continued to sell Mein Kampf and Holocaust-denying material from his legislative office.
Kenneth S. Stern ’75, director of the Bard Center for the Study of Hate, a friend of Rickey’s, said that: “Beth would have found a kindred spirit in Danielle Riou—someone committed to opposing not only hate, but its effects on people. Bard has a tradition of helping students and faculty find a safe haven from hate. In the 1970s, I met Bard professors recruited after the Holocaust and after the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. More recently, Bard has taken in Syrian students, Afghan students, and students from Ukraine. Once people displaced by hate come to Bard’s New York campus, they have legal, emotional, communal, and other needs as, frequently alone, they adjust while family members are elsewhere, still at risk. Danielle’s work, out of the limelight, is critically important as they start their new lives.”