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University of Iowa News Release


Feb. 27, 2009

Provost's forum examines immigration exploitation and human rights March 5-6

Immigrant exploitation and human rights will be the focus of the third annual UI Provost's Forum for International Affairs. This year's theme is "Transnational Flows of Labor: Exploitation and Opportunity in the Global Economy."

The forum will primarily be held in Room 2520D in the University Capitol Centre from Thursday, March 5, through Friday, March 6. A public forum will be held Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St. All events are free and open to the public.

This year's forum is an international symposium that explores labor rights, human trafficking, slavery, civil rights of trafficked workers and migrant farm workers, among other topics. Locations highlighted include the United States, the European Union, Asia and the Middle East.

"People can learn a lot about how workers move from a part of the world to another looking for work opportunities," said Kevin Leicht, (photo, left) forum organizer and UI professor of sociology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "You learn how vulnerable people are to exploitation and being used. It's quite a serious human rights issue."

Each year, the provost sponsors a forum for international affairs, which provides an opportunity to debate, discuss and reflect upon urgent international issues of significant importance for our time by melding scholarly expertise, public intellectuals and community engagement in high impact ways. In addition to serving the UI community broadly, the forum is an annual event that positions the UI as a national focal point for discussions of international affairs.

"This year's forum topic is especially timely given recent immigration-related issues that have touched our state, as well as the rest of our country and world," said UI Executive Vice President and Provost Wallace Loh. "I hope this forum will inspire greater awareness of immigration and human rights issues around the world."

The forum will begin at 9 a.m. Thursday, March 5 with a speech by Frank D. Bean, a social science professor and director for Research on Immigration, Population, and Public Policy at the University of California-Irvine. Bean will present "U.S. Trends and Policies: The Intersection of Demography and Workforce Issues Going Forward."

Other speakers throughout the forum include Gay Seidman, a sociology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Shivali Shah, an immigration attorney, journalist, and immigrants' rights activist; and Kathleen C. Kim, an associate professor of law at Loyola Law School.

Short film screenings will also take place throughout the forum. Films shown include "European Union: At the Crossroads"; "Immokalee"; "Slavery: A Global Investigation"; and "Maid in America." Leicht; Rex Honey, UI professor of geography in CLAS; and Mary Campbell, (photo, right) UI assistant professor of sociology in CLAS will comment on the films shown during the event.

For more information and a complete forum schedule visit

Leicht said the event is open to anyone, but he added it is very educational for students and community members if they haven't traveled much. He said the forum gives UI and Iowa City community members a chance to interact with "internationally visible scholars."

"The forum draws attention to the fact that we have a very interactive international program system here," Leicht said.

The organizers and topic of the annual forum are selected by the provost upon the recommendation of a committee selected by the dean of International Programs. In announcing the competition, the provost may from time to time give priority to a specific issue in, or approach to, international affairs.

"Public forums like this are vital for the university to promote informed debate about our changing world," said Downing Thomas, interim associate provost and dean of UI International Programs. "This allows members of our campus and community to come together to discuss the urgent international issue of immigration and human rights, especially in light of recent local events."

The 2009 Provost's Forum on International Affairs is sponsored by the UI Office of the Provost and UI International Programs and has received additional support from the UI Departments of Sociology and Geography in CLAS, the UI College of Law, and the UI Institute for Inequality Studies. The forum topic was developed and prepared by an Obermann Center for Advance Studies Cmiel Collaborative Research Seminar.

The Office of the Provost provides academic leadership to the university. Its fundamental mission is to champion innovation and excellence in teaching, research, creative production and service.

UI International Programs enables UI students, faculty, staff and the public to learn from and about the world. Its offices, degree programs and events provide life-changing opportunities on campus and abroad, heighten intellectual and cultural diversity, and give all university constituents access to vital international knowledge. For more information visit or call 319-353-2700. International Programs is part of the UI Office of the Provost.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Kevin Leicht, 319-335-2502,; Mary Campbell, 319-335-2495,; Kelli Andresen, 319-335-2026,; Writer: Ashton Shurson