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On Wednesday, student groups and faculty members at the University of Iowa will hold a protest on the Pentacrest to encourage university administration to allow the Center for Human Rights to remain open.

The UI has an obligation to support the center because it is a research hub that enriches faculty and students in addition to promoting human rights worldwide. Community members should join the protest, encourage the administration to find a way for the center to remain open, and consider participating in some of the center’s opportunities for research and outreach.

“If the university is true to its values, sustaining a center on campus is the only outcome,” said Amy Weismann, the deputy director of the Rights Center.

Weismann said the center serves as a hub for teaching and an access point for resources for students and faculty to learn about human-rights work around the world. The center offers mentoring, classes, and internships, and it allows students to have the resources they need to create a human-rights project.

During his freshman year, Zach Heffernen, the president of Students for human rights, joined a program offered by the center, which inspired him to study abroad.

“The center, through its functions, has invoked a lifelong passion for Human Rights,” he said.

More recently, Hefffernen launched a change.org petition to keep the Rights Center on campus, which has more than 2,000 signatures. He is also helping to organize the protest Wednesday, which may again highlight the number of students and community members who value the resources and the desire to fight for human rights.

“Should the center close, students will be the victims,” Heffernen said. “Our passion will suffer, and our pride for the university will diminish.”

There is a demand for the center, clearly evident by the amount of donations it receives. In fact, this year, the center is running from funding raised independently from the university, and while the university in the past has contributed to the budget, that was not the case this year, Weissman said.

“In order for the university to support itself in any way a human-rights education, it’s got to support this center,” Weissman said. “It’s not a realistic idea for an organization like ours to be supporting its entire operating cost.”

Furthermore, the very essence of the center is to promote itself as a centralized location for interdisciplinary resources. The program would be far less successful if its parts were separated and reorganized into other colleges and programs, as officials have previously discussed as an option.

“It’s not about relocating an activity here or there, it’s more than the sum of its parts,” Weismann said. “And if it were to be closed, all of those things would be lost.”

The university, as an international research organization, should show that it values the effect and importance of a center devoted to the study and research regarding human rights.

University funding has been an issue for the center over the years, but with the center’s small budget and large impact, the university should focus priorities to support it.

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