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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 26, 2009

Update: Former Iowa Gov. Robert D. Ray will not be able to participate in the inaugural Nov. 13 "Worldways" program due to personal circumstances. To view the full slate of guests for the debut radio and television program, visit

Large photos: (top) Julian Bond, executive director of the NAACP, gives remarks to a packed auditorium at the UI College of Law, as part of the UICHR's voting rights celebrations in 2005; (bottom) Katie Jo Sloter, UI alumna who received a Bachelor of Arts in international studies, takes the blood pressure of a patient at a health clinic in India when she was a student and was a awarded Kenneth J. Cmiel Human Rights Internship through the UICHR.

Center for Human Rights celebrates 10th anniversary with series of activities

bondWhat started out as a campus-wide commemoration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has evolved into a center that shapes curriculum, facilitates scholarship and teaching, provides student scholarships for experiential learning, and promotes and protects a myriad of human rights domestically and internationally.

The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR), part of UI International Programs, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this November with lectures, a film series, panel discussions and performances, all of which are free and open to the public.

weston"The center has given the campus a world view that is inclusive of all people, and it takes seriously the suffering of people around the world as well as at home," said Burns H. Weston (left), the Bessie Dutton Murray Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus, Senior Scholar, and UI Center for Human Rights founding director.

The anniversary also marks the premier of "Worldways" from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13, in the Old Capitol Senate Chamber. The new UI International Programs' radio and television program focuses on topics that are international in scope and blends discussion of culture, history, literature, language, politics and art. The program will regularly air on UITV and KRUI radio.

"Worldways" will be produced in partnership with the UI Pentacrest Museums one Friday a month, from 5 to 7 p.m., in the Senate Chamber of the Old Capitol Building, and members of the public can participate as members of the live audience. This program is free and open to the public.

kjaerThe debut program will be dedicated to human rights topics and feature former Iowa Gov. Robert D. Ray; Weston; Michael Ratner, civil rights attorney, president of the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights Board of Directors and author of "Guantanamo: What the World Should Know," among other guests. Joan Kjaer (right), formerly of "Know the Score" on Iowa Public Radio and currently senior communications advisor for International Programs, will host the show each month.

A human rights film series -- a collaboration between UICHR and the Landlocked Film Festival -- will be held Tuesday, Nov. 3, through Friday, Nov. 6. Film screenings will be held at various locations, but all showings will begin at 7 p.m. Films ranging from "Milk," a biopic about the life of Harvey Milk and starring Sean Penn, to "Pray the Devil Back to Hell," a documentary about the women's peace movement in Liberia that helped end its decades-long civil war, will be featured. Panel discussions will follow several of the screenings.

Some of the other celebration highlights include a lecture by Cathy Mansfield, composer/librettist and Drake University Law School professor, speaking on "The Sparks Fly Upward: Learning About the Holocaust, Defying Genocide." There will be an accompanying performance from her libretto "The Sparks Fly Upward" by UI School of Music students and faculty from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10, in the UI Music Recital Hall in Room 1670 of University Capitol Centre as part of the Marvin & Rose Lee Pomerantz Lecture Series and the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. At 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12, the UICHR will commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) with a panel discussion moderated by Weston in Room 40 of Schaeffer Hall.

On Nov. 14, the UICHR will host a symposium exploring current issues in human rights activism and scholarship with visiting scholars and activists from around the country. Ratner will give the keynote at 9 a.m. in the Old Capitol Senate Chamber.

The Center for Human Rights was founded in 1999 by Weston, UI geography professor Rex Honey in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Dorothy M. Paul, the associate director for community affairs for the center. It grew out of the 50th anniversary celebration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UI's Global Focus: Human Rights programming efforts in 1998 led by Weston.

The UICHR originally focused on child labor research and curriculum development. A child labor law database developed at the UICHR became a world-class and world-recognized resource, Weston said. Lately, through its Climate Legacy Initiative, it has sought to bridge the gap between human rights and the environment, particularly in the context of climate change. A major path-breaking outcome is a recently published policy paper titled "Recalibrating the Law of Humans with the Laws of Nature: Climate Change, Human Rights, and Intergenerational Justice."

The UICHR also participates on a continuing basis in research and outreach on such specific human rights concerns as immigration and sexual violence in conflict zones.

uichr-internIn recent years, the UICHR has shifted some of its focus away from thematic issues to the teaching mission at the UI, becoming a significant resource for students and faculty on human rights educational opportunities.  But it does so always with the wider community within which it lives firmly in mind, Weston said.

The "One Community, One Book" initiative, which also grew out of the center in 2001, remains a central part of the UICHR's programmatic work. The annual community-wide reading project invites the public to discuss one human rights-related text each year.  The UICHR also prepares and publishes a Human Rights Index, in collaboration with The Iowa Review.

While UICHR has made an impact around the world, it also has affected the students on campus. The UICHR has funded more than 40 students to pursue summer internships with human rights organizations since 2005 and roughly seven to 15 students intern directly with the center on campus each year. Every year, hundreds of students also participate in Careers for Change, student discussion forums, workshops, film series and other activities through the UICHR's diverse offerings.

weissmannUICHR Deputy Director Amy Weismann (left) said that there isn't a day that passes without a news story or event that brings a human rights issue to people's attention ranging from issues as diverse as child labor to intergenerational justice and climate change, making the study and understanding of human rights vital to the university's role in creating civically engaged and aware citizens.

hamotGregory Hamot (right), the current UICHR director and a professor in the UI College of Education, said he hopes the anniversary celebration raises both awareness of the center's critical role in the state, nation and world, as well as funds to keep the center running in the future.

"The impact of the center has been directly related to the university and the community," Hamot said. "It has really touched a lot of lives in different ways."

For more information on the UI Center for Human Rights' 10th anniversary celebration events, visit or contact Liz Crooks, 319-335-3900,, or Amy Weismann, 319-335-0483,

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

MEDIA CONTACTS: Amy Weismann, UICHR, 319-335-0483,; Joan Kjaer, UI International Programs, 319-335-2026,; or Lois J. Gray, 319-384-0077,; Writer, Ashton Shurson