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Bertz: Concerns about UI priorities

BY GUEST COLUMN | DECEMBER 03, 2012 6:30 AM

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I am greatly concerned about the University of Iowa administration’s deliberations to effectively shut down the UI Center for Human Rights. This backward-looking move would negatively affect the university, its students and faculty, and the campus and local communities.

At a time when other institutions are seeking to offer students more ways to apply their education to real-world issues and to engage substantially with people and problems outside the classroom, the UI should advance its long-standing mission to promote social justice and protect human rights through vigorous support of the Rughts Center.

My own academic and personal trajectories were deeply affected by the Rights Center. I was the first graduate student member of the center’s executive council, and I am truly amazed at the significant accomplishments that have been achieved in subsequent years.

As a Ph.D. student in the History Department, I also worked closely with then-center Director and Professor Ken Cmiel, including as a graduate assistant assigned to his course on the history of human rights. Thanks to this training at the UI, I now seek to weave human rights issues into my classes as well as engagements with students and the community in my capacity as a professor at the University of Hawai’i, which I joined in 2006.

I am disappointed that the administration would turn its back on the efforts of everyone who has participated in the development of the center and its many effective programs, as it has brought the university widespread praise and recognition from human-rights leaders and educators across the world.

The small financial costs of investing in the Rights Center are insignificant compared to the gains that will result in terms of the reputation of the university, the benefit to the campus community in the form of practical learning opportunities, and the advancement of social justice in societies in Iowa and around the world.

I urge the UI administration not to dismantle the center and its programs, and instead support it as a signal reminder of why the University of Iowa is an exceptional institution of higher education.

Professor Ned Bertz
UI alumnus


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