UI Center for Human Rights looks forward to vibrant future

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UICHR will move to new administrative home in the College of Law, maintaining existing facility

By Kris Yows for Iowa Now

The University of Iowa College of Law will be the new administrative home for the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR), with Adrien Wing, Bessie Dutton Murray Professor of Law, becoming its new director.

The center, which faced an uncertain future in recent years because of funding constraints, will move from International Programs in the Office of the Provost to the law school effective July 1. The center will retain its central campus office as a hub for interdisciplinary programs.

Executive Vice President and Provost P. Barry Butler says the new reporting structure will give the center a strong administrative support system, anchored in a college with a long history of scholarly work in human rights.

“I am delighted with this outcome,” says Butler. “A lot of people have worked very hard over the past few months to make this happen. We received a lot of constructive input from supporters of the center, and the College of Law has been a willing and productive collaborator in working through the details. I believe in the end we’ve arrived at an excellent model that will ensure a strong future for the center.”

An advisory board will be appointed to ensure the coordination of UICHR activities across the entire university, including the continuation of current initiatives such as the undergraduate Certificate in Human Rights, speaker series, student internships, and more.

Gail Agrawal, dean of the College of Law, says the college is an excellent fit for the center.

“Teaching, research, and service in the area of human rights have long been an important part of the college’s mission. For decades, many of the leaders of human rights initiatives on campus have been members of the law school faculty,” says Agrawal. “We are very excited about working with our campus and community partners to build upon the center’s many past successes and expand its reach and impact in the future.”

The UICHR executive board welcomes the new administrative arrangement and the financial support from the Office of the Provost, which they say ensures the continuation of a strong multidisciplinary program with an institutional presence on both sides of the river that will continue to serve the entire university community.

“It is especially important that the UICHR is finally on stable footing,” says current UICHR director Greg Hamot. “The UICHR staff worked remarkably hard during a long period of uncertainty to maintain a nationally recognized program. To see that work acknowledged with this commitment of support is heartening, and will allow us to expand and thrive as we move ahead.”

The board credits the UICHR’s many campus and community supporters with keeping momentum behind the effort to find a sustainable model for the center. In recent months, UI students and alumni initiated petitions, letter-writing campaigns, and public demonstrations asking UI administrators to keep the center going strong.

According to executive board chair Shel Stromquist, “Outpourings of support from the community and university reflect how many lives and issues the center has touched. We're grateful to all the constituencies that came forward—especially students, along with staff, faculty, alumni, and the wider community.”

Since its launch in 1999 under founding director Burns Weston (currently Bessie Dutton Murray Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus and UICHR senior scholar), the UICHR has fostered interdisciplinary human rights research, educational innovation, artistic expression, and public engagement.

The UICHR serves students and involves faculty from every college on campus, and has sponsored numerous projects that combine scholarship, teaching, and community outreach on human rights issues such as child labor, civil rights, immigration, climate change, and many others.

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