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Release: Dec 28, 1999

Vilsack, Harkin, Leach and Clark named to Human Rights Center exec council

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Gov. Tom Vilsack, U.S. Sens. Tom Harkin (D) and Jim Leach (R) and former state Sen. Dick Clark have accepted invitations to serve as Executive Council members of the newly established University of Iowa Center for Human Rights. The council advises and assists the center's directors regarding various activities and programs crafted to meet the center's core objective: to address human rights issues locally and abroad through direct action and other means.

The center is planning a number of scholarly, educational, artistic and other activities to critically debate and find solutions to human rights problems, says Burns Weston, the center's director and College of Law professor emeritus. The center is located at the Center for International & Comparative Studies, Room 236.

"We will use a number of methods to highlight human rights issues, including university curriculum development, inviting distinguished speakers and activists, and providing a sanctuary in exile for intellectuals and activists victimized by war and other human rights abuse," Weston says.

The center is also preparing to invite people from the local area, across the state and elsewhere to serve in a Society of Center Fellows. Center Fellows will be invited to give advice and otherwise lend their expertise and talents in ways that will help the center become a respected place where human rights ideas are debated and fulfilled, Weston says.

"Our dream is to cause the center to win respect and recognition in a manner equivalent to that enjoyed by the Iowa Writers' Workshop. We want the center to be known across the country and the world for its insight, energy and activism in the struggle for human rights worldwide," Weston says.

Weston, who recently retired as associate dean for International and Comparative Legal Studies in the College of Law, is a founder of the UI's World Order Studies program. With the help of various UI faculty and students, Weston organized last year's Global Focus Human Rights '98, a multi-discipline program that brought Nobel Peace Prize winners, human rights activists and others to the UI to discuss human rights issues.

Weston says HR '98 was a success and a great beginning for the UI and the local community to recognize that human rights issues are not only global issues, but local ones. The center will solicit participation from students, local citizens and citizens groups not officially associated with the UI to facilitate its stated mission.

Among the UI faculty and administration who have assisted with the center's creation are Willard Boyd, professor of law and president emeritus; Rex Honey, professor, geography and global studies; Mike McNulty, associate provost and dean of International Programs; and Paul Retish, director, International Education.

The Center's staff can be reached at (319) 335-3900 or via e-mail at A Web site describing the Center's mission and related activities will soon go on-line and will be accessible at