Human rights center rebounds


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It has been one year since officials decided to shift the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights to the College of Law — a transition that helped to save the center from being shutdown.

“It was in a life and death struggle for survival,” said Human Rights Center Director Adrien Wing. “We’re not worried anymore.”

The issues came to a head in late 2012, when a lack of funding caused the center to consider shutting down. However, after a transition to the law school, greater funding was available to the center, and the financial issues were solved.

“The center was based in International Programs, but it was not getting a full budget,” Wing said. “Kind of like an orphan, you know, not within a college. Now we have the backing of a whole college.”

UI law Dean Gail Agrawal said one of the main ways the law school helped provide funding for the center is through staff. Because several of the staff members are also law professors, their salaries come out of the college’s budget.

“The law school has provided human capital that we pay for,” Agrawal said. “It gives the law school an opportunity to engage with the center more directly.”

In addition to the staff, Agrawal said, the law school has started fundraising efforts for the center.

Before the transition, the center was associated mainly with UI International Programs. Though the center is now housed in the law program, it maintained an office in the University Capitol Center, which UI International Programs Dean Downing Thomas said gives the center more reach.

“The center has a foot on both sides of the river,” he said. “It has been very actively engaging the students and faculty around the campus.”

Before the change to the law school, Greg Hamot was the director of the rights center, and he now serves as an associate director. The change allows the center to have more influence and more programming than it did before, he said.

“It has the power of the law college behind it,” he said. “Because the staff size is bigger, it’s been able to take advantage of guest speakers the law college has brought in. The center has been able to expand its programming both locally and throughout the state.”

Wing agreed the center has seen a vast increase in programming, and said this can be mostly attributed to a more than twofold increase in staff.

“We went from having an office in the Old Capitol Center that had three staff people in it to now [having] a total of 10,” she said. “We sponsored or cosponsored more than 30 events in the fall.”

The positive changes aren’t coming to an end, Wing said, and the bounce back from nearly being closed is amazing.

“It’s been quite a remarkable process, and its gone very, very smoothly,” she said.

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