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To the Editor


Berkeley Spotlight Focuses on International Human Rights

By Kathleen Maclay, Public Affairs
Posted January 19, 2000

Students and faculty members are traveling to Tibet, Sri Lanka, Bosnia and elsewhere to help stem human rights abuses as the campus assumes leadership in this field.

"Berkeley is viewed as the place to be," for those dedicated to human rights, said David Caron, a professor at the School of Law. "The law school and university are now important actors in the field, and students come here directly because of the Human Rights Center."

The campus's Human Rights Center was established in 1994 and, at Boalt Hall, the International Human Rights Law Clinic was set up in 1997. The two, said Caron, "totally transformed human rights at Berkeley, in my view."

Berkeley's orientation is less traditional than most and emphatically embraces a wide range of academic disciplines, said Eric Stover, director of the human rights center and an adjunct professor at the School of Public Health. His own experience ranges from surveying mass graves in Rwanda to researching social and medical consequences of land mines in Cambodia to testifying for the prosecution in the trial of Argentine junta leaders.

Examples of the campus's broad leadership in field of human rights include:

  • A new Organs Watch center at Berkeley that investigates the growing international traffic in human body parts and further defines ethical transplant surgery;

  • "Communities in Crisis," a program to promote reconstruction in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia with cooperation from staff and research centers in Rwanda, Bosnia and at Berkeley;

  • An effort to establish an endowed chair to teach human rights reporting at the Graduate School of Journalism. Funds also are being sought for a student internship at the Human Rights Watch organization and to help pay student expenses for human rights reporting;

  • Students in an education minor class teaching a middle school class how to trace the production sources of their clothes and shoes, and to evaluate working conditions of workers producing the goods;

  • Opportunities to study the health status of and health care access for refugees from Bosnia and Russia who now live in Santa Clara County;

  • Plans for an immigrant rights education center in Los Angeles to help Mexican immigrants learn English, and work more cooperatively with authorities in fields such as health, safety and teaching;

  • Filming a lesbian conference in Sri Lanka as part of a human rights education course in the Graduate School of Education;

  • Teaching elementary school students about child abuse and domestic violence;

  • Research to help pregnant women and new mothers in Zimbabwe who have the HIV virus, focusing not only on the women's health, but also their social and economic rights.

Human rights classes at Berkeley are popular, according to administrators. Students also are flocking to do volunteer work related to human rights, and a large number of students are pursuing degrees in fields related to human rights, said David Leonard, dean of International & Area Studies, home of the Human Rights Center.

"If you look back 25 to 30 years, we had a very limited interest in human rights, actually," he said. "And we've just seen a whole land shift, a dramatic change in the amount of interest in this subject."


January 19 - 25, 2000 (Volume 28, Number 18)
Copyright 2000, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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