We live in times that press upon us human rights concerns of many dimensions — internationally, nationally and locally. We are asked to make judgments, evaluate political and cultural contexts, weigh means against outcomes. The UICHR believes that the university community provides a setting in which thoughtful and constructive dialogue on pressing human rights issues is possible and that the results of such reflection and discussion can be a better informed community and individuals better prepared to articulate and act on their own beliefs. We believe that the UICHR itself can benefit and learn from widening the circle of human rights dialogue as well.
To assist this dialogue, the UICHR convenes the Human Rights Reading Group, a series of discussions on human rights issues and ideas of relevance to the University of Iowa community. All university students, staff and faculty are encouraged to participate. The only “prerequisite” is a willingness to engage the topics and readings for the sessions conscientiously and to enter into open and frank discussion that is tolerant of the views of others .
Readings for each of the session will be listed below with links to the electronic versions of those that are available in the public domain.
We encourage all members of the university community to attend and participate.
2007-08 Reading Group
IP Commons (Room 1117), University Capitol Centre
Tuesday, November 27
Inventing Human Rights: A History
Facilitator: Lisa Heineman, UI Dept. of History
The discussion will center on Lynn Hunt's book, Inventing Human Rights: A History (W.W. Norton, 2007).
Monday, February 25
Human Rights and the Environment
Facilitator: Sara Shreve, Ph.D. Candidate, UI Dept. of American Studies
Adeola, Francis "Cross-National Environmental Injustice and Human Rights Issues: A Review of Evidence in the Developing World" American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 43, No. 4 (2000), 686.
Agyeman, Julian "Alternatives for Community and Environment: Where Justice and Sustainability Meet" Environment, Vol. 47, No. 6 (July/Aug. 2005), 10.
Please e-mail Liz Crooks  for the readings.
Fall 2006 Reading Group
Wednesdays from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m.
IP Commons (Room 1117), University Capitol Centre (inside Old Capitol Mall)
Considering Ken Cmiel’s Human Rights Idea
Convener: Shelton Stromquist
The late Ken Cmiel, formerly Director of the UICHR and Professor in the Department of History, was working on a new book at the time of his tragic death in February 2006. He saw the debates surrounding the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations in 1948 and the intellectual traditions that fed those debates as an absolutely vital opportunity to understand the historical context of late twentieth century human rights concerns and the persisting points of contention and consensus in the global human rights community of our own time.
Although the book was not completed, Professor Cmiel had published several important essays that lit the intellectual paths he was following. We will read and discuss three of those essays:
"The Emergence of Human Rights Politics in the United States ." The Journal of American History, Vol. 86, No. 3 (1999), 1231-1250.
"Human Rights, Freedom of Information, and the Origins of Third-World Solidarity." In Mark Philip Bradley and Patrice Petro (eds.) Truth Claims: Representation and Human Rights. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2002.
"The Recent History of Human Rights ." The American Historical Review, Vol. 109, No. 1 (2004), 117.
Human Rights at UI: Reports & Recommendations of the task forces on Diversity, Gender Equity and Sexual Harrassment (2006)
Convener: Andrew Willard
Although the scope and domain of the human rights program is global, the ways in which nations, states, and local communities interpret, apply, and develop expectations about what is permissible conduct — i.e. conduct that is compatible with international human rights norms — vary greatly around the planet.The University of Iowa, as a distinctive community, has recently addressed human rights concerns fundamental to the life of this campus.In just the first four months of this year, three reports were issued that dealt with subjects that are not only important on campus, but of interest worldwide. These reports are Sexual Harassment and Unwelcomed Behavior  (issued January 23, 2006), the Diversity Action Committee Report  (issued March 2006), and the Gender Equity Task Force Report  (issued May 1, 2006).
In this session of the reading group, we will read and discuss these reports, with an emphasis on relating each report’s recommendations to the international human rights program.
The Hamdan v. Rumsfeld Case: the Death of Military Tribunals
Convener: Adrien Wing
In June 2006, the US Supreme Court issued a ruling that is considered globally to have been a great victory for internationalhuman rights and a seriousdefeat for Bush administration policy. The June ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld  invalidated the military commissions that the Bush Administrationhad createdto handle Guantanamo Bay and other detainees. The Supreme Court held that neither Congress nor the Geneva Conventions regulating armed conflict authorized the commissions. The session reading willinclude excerpts from the decision, scholarly commentaryand proposals possibly being considered by Congress in response to the decision.
The Reading Group also may discuss the ways a proposal might be drafted that would comply with the Supreme Court's decision.
There are numerous links available at the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld  Web site, and you may find it helpful to skim the site to get an overall sense of the case. Professor Wing recommends the following links in particular:
- The summary 8-page syllabus  at the front of the full text of the June 29 Supreme Court decision (if you'd like more in-depth reading, the syllabus indicates the parts written by various justices and you can jump to those parts in the full text)
- The June 29 NPR coverage  of the decision
- The July 11  and July 19  statements by Hamdan lawyer Neil Katyal
- The July 29 editorial  from the Washington Post on 'A Flawed Proposal"
- For a summary of the main issues of the case, see Katyal's commentary at The Pocket Part, a companion to The Yale Law Journal.