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Fall Semester Dedicated to Human Rights Issues
(Released: 08/08/01)

By Allison Thompson, Office of University Communications

Human Rights Semester Website.

STORRS, Conn. -- More than three dozen human rights related activities will take place on the University of Connecticut's campuses this fall as part of a Human Rights Semester.

Designated by Chancellor John D. Petersen, the semester's activities are intended to underscore the importance of human rights and to inform and engage members of the University community and interested members of the public about this critical topic. During a series of lectures, programs and conferences, faculty, staff, students and members of the community will have the opportunity to learn about and discuss human rights throughout the world.

"As an academic community, we have a responsibility to discuss issues that affect not only those of us on campus, but those fundamental issues that impact people living in our state, our nation, and our world," Petersen says. "Human rights is one of those issues that must be discussed in an open forum, whether the topic is racial discrimination, voting rights, or wartime torture and rape."

The Human Rights Semester kicks off Sept. 20 with a lecture on human rights and the culture wars by Rhoda Howard-Hassmann, Gladstein Visiting Professor of Human Rights and a sociology professor at McMaster University in Canada. Dozens of lectures, exhibits and symposia will take place on all UConn's campuses this fall, beginning later this month when incoming freshman arrive. The events include an all-day conference on education for human rights sponsored by the UConn-ANC Partnership; a lecture by Lani Guinier, whose nomination for assistant attorney general was withdrawn by President Bill Clinton after critics branded her a "quota queen"; a talk by Randall Robinson, author of the book, The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks; a UConn Law School symposium titled Global Aids Crisis: The Intersection of Human Rights, International Markets, and Intellectual Property; and

museum exhibits on rescuers of the Holocaust, Cambodia's killing fields and sculptures by Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz.

With television and the Internet bringing foreign and domestic conflicts and abuses into people's homes and the nation's collective consciousness, the issue of human rights is becoming increasingly important and noteworthy. Human rights abuses on this and virtually every other continent now dominate conversations and spur calls to action.

While many institutions of higher learning have demonstrated an interest in human rights, UConn has been garnering international attention for its extensive global partnerships. Through a variety of programs, such as partnerships with the African National Congress (ANC) and the University of Fort Hare in South Africa, the University has made a significant commitment to studying and advancing human rights, and obtained significant financial resources to support the activities.

As part of it partnership with the ANC, the University is assisting in efforts to catalogue ANC archival material, helping South Africa reclaim and retell its history. The Gladstein Lecture, established last year, brings a distinguished human rights scholar to campus each year. In addition, a human rights minor -- an interdepartmental, interdisciplinary plan of study requiring 12 classroom credits and a three-credit internship -- has been established.

"The University has clearly made enormous strides in establishing human rights as an important part of both our public and our academic programs. The Human Rights Semester will offer us another opportunity to discuss and share these important issues with students, faculty, staff and interested citizens," says Petersen. "I hope everyone in the University community will join me in attending events that will illuminate these issues and give us a better understanding of what we must do to make this a society that reflects and practices justice and humanity."

A calendar of Human Rights Semester events is available on the Internet.

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