The UICHR solicits proposals from UI faculty for funded scholarly projects or initiatives related to human rights concerns. Since 2012, the UICHR has sought to increase its presence on campus and to become a resource for UI faculty. The funding program for faculty working groups aimed to provide resources and support for scholars interested in undertaking interdisciplinary, cutting-edge research and creative production. Examples of funded working groups include:
- Human Rights Education, led by Jason Harshman (Education) and Andrea Cohen (Iowa United Nations Association) and includes educators through the community and the National Czech and Slovak Museum and others. This working group will develop curriculum to integrate human rights education across multiple content areas for K-12 education. Digital materials that highlight how human rights education can be used to teach about connections and responsibilities between Iowa, Iowans, and the world will be developed during the first year of this working group. The group intends to submit an application to create a Mobile Museum exhibit that can travel to schools across Iowa.
- Transitional (In)justice: The Power Politics of New Human Rights Institutions in Post-Conflict Contexts, led by Sara Mitchell (Political Science). This group continues its work discussing the intersection of human rights and transitional justice mechanisms and international justice institutions, examining whether and how these new approaches to rebuilding society after war’s end actually improve human rights. This Spring, the group hosted a visit by University of Texas’ Jim Meerink who conferred with the group and also gave a public lecture on recent research, titled “Echoes of Testimonies—A Pilot Study into the long term Impact of bearing Witness before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia”
- Prison Education Project, led by Kathrina Litchfield (Education and UICHR), Greg Hamot (Education and UICHR) and includes Mary Cohen, Mary Trachsel, and others. This group is moving forward a plan to introduce liberal arts college coursework into the IMCC Oakdale Facility in Coralville, Iowa. A pilot program titled the UI Speaker Series at Oakdale premieres in the fall of 2017. Volunteer educators from the UI campus will provide a short introductory course in their given discipline, offering incarcerated men an opportunity to see what higher education might look like. The working group is also coordinating a research study to document the program and a Fall 2017 conference, “Transformative Education & Successful Reentry.” Long-term goals for the project are to eventually offer accredited coursework at the Oakdale facility, with a possibility to offer distance learning across all nine facilities in Iowa.
- Analyzing Iowa Workplace Laws through an International Human Rights Lens, led by Jennifer Sherer (UI Labor Center) and the UI Labor Center, the group examines why public debate has so far paid virtually no attention to how long-standing international human rights frameworks might inform contemporary questions about state and federal labor and employment policy. Drawing attention to long-standing human rights instruments in this context can, we hope, provide highly relevant and timely international perspective to local discourse, while introducing new analytic lenses and advocacy tools to workers’ rights scholars and activists. Consciously bringing international human rights discourse into direct contact with ongoing Iowa policy controversies may also serve to highlight—for campus and community members—the applicability of human rights frameworks to a range of prominent contemporary issues. Activities proposed include: Convene interested faculty, staff, and community members in Fall, 2017, for brief readings and discussion to serve as an introduction to the International Labour Organization and its origins, history, and contemporary role in developing a human rights framework for promoting specific workplace standards internationally. This small group will be convened via open invitation to UICHR Advisory Board members, Labor Center Advisory Committee members, faculty in the College of Law, and faculty in departments of History, Political Science, Sociology, and other relevant departments. The group will also analyze existing Iowa laws in relation to the eight “fundamental conventions” of the International Labour Organization and, as appropriate, articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments, and then convene a fall reading group to draft report summarizing analysis.
Creating Conversation: Conceiving Connections and Discussions Across Divides, led by Maureen McCue (College of Public Health/International Programs) and includes Theodore Powers (Anthropology), poses the following questions: In our dangerously divided society how can we move beyond the echo chamber of the University and partisan politics; how can discussion and support for human rights and a livable healthy future be started, then advanced? Could modeling a respectful listening, conversational interaction bring about an interest in pursuing or supporting a broader more affirmative perspective on human rights, a healthy and humane future? Would people more readily share their thoughts and ideas if we respected their time with a small financial incentive? The group proposes to engage in an activity titled “Your Time/Our Dime”: $5 for your thoughts and time. Set up in 4-5 or more neutral “people friendly” places where members of the general public gather and relax: food courts, malls, sporting events. Those aged 16 and over would be asked to complete a short anonymous questionnaire.