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  April 30, 2001

Chancellor's Column
A series of activities in the fall will underscore the University's commitment to human rights.

Upon my arrival as your new Chancellor in the summer of 2000, I was impressed by the University's commitment to human rights and to human rights programs. It has been an important part of my academic agenda to continue and strengthen that commitment. From the exciting partnership with the African National Congress and the linkage with the University of Fort Hare in South Africa, to the establishment of a visiting chair in human rights and the development of a human rights minor, the University has made a significant commitment to human rights teaching and public programming.

As an academic community, we have a responsibility to discuss issues that affect those of us on campus, as well as those living in our state, our nation, and our world. 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. Having just returned from South Africa, where the issue of human rights is a topic of enormous ongoing significance, we at UConn need to widen the discussion to include this in as many forums as possible. I was enormously impressed by how the issue of human rights affects both internal and external public policy in South Africa and this reinforced my desire to strengthen the human rights program at UConn.

In order to emphasize and underscore the primacy of this issue at the University of Connecticut, I am establishing a Human Rights Semester for the fall. This semester will follow a similar model to the human rights programs that occurred after the opening of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center in 1995. During the Dodd Year, the University encouraged a wide variety of student organizations , academic programs and departments to focus existing symposia on the topic of human rights, to bring in special speakers, or to organize their own events with a special focus on human rights.

During the Human Rights Semester I hope we will see several human rights talks, lectures, or programs each week. We will make every effort to publicize these through printed programs, the Advance, the University website, and other media efforts.

A number of significant human rights programs are already scheduled for the fall. These include:

  • a Comparative Human Rights Conference under the auspices of the UConn-ANC Partnership on Education for Human Rights;
  • a joint exhibit by the William Benton Museum of Art and the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center on Rescuers of the Holocaust;
  • a human rights sculpture exhibit at the William Benton Museum of Art by Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz and a photographic exhibit on the Cambodian Killing Fields;
  • the Gladstein Distinguished Lecture by Visiting Professor Rhoda Howard Hassman, an outstanding human rights scholar from McMaster University.

I hope that University departments, programs and student organizations will also plan, carry out, and attend events. In order to assist them, I have established a Human Rights Semester Committee chaired by Thomas Wilsted, director of the Dodd Center, to help coordinate and publicize events and both President Austin and I will provide it with additional funding to support major events. In addition, the deans have agreed to make this a priority for funding within their own schools or colleges.

The University of Connecticut has already established its presence in the human rights community among colleges and universities. Its partnership with the African National Congress has already brought some exciting results, including public academic programs and oral histories of ANC members. The Gladstein Lecture brings a distinguished human rights scholar to campus annually. Wiktor Osiatynski, the Gladstein Visiting Professor who was with us last fall, assisted the University to focus its human rights efforts and direct its teaching programs.

There are several new programs already on the horizon. A group of faculty members has been meeting to develop an academic minor in human rights, and their efforts will be reviewed by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences' Courses & Curriculum Committee later this spring. The Dodd Center is mounting a new human rights website that will support human rights teaching and research and will be available to publicize Human Rights Semester events.

Finally, a recent gift by John Kluge, president and chairman of the board of Metromedia Inc., will enable the University to establish a Thomas J. Dodd Prize in Human Rights. This prize will honor an individual in the legal profession who has made a significant contribution to establishing or maintaining human rights in the United States or abroad. We are now in the process of establishing criteria for this award and setting up a review committee, with the first award to be presented in early 2002.

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, and staff. I hope you will join me in planning and attending events that will illuminate these issues and bring us a clearer understanding of what we need to do to make this a society that reflects and practices justice and humanity.

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