February 16, 2016

Human Rights Sequence Will Be Added to Civ Core

The College will offer a new Core civilization studies sequence focused on human rights next fall quarter. The creation of the sequence was spearheaded by Mark Bradley, a professor of history and the faculty director at the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights (PFCHR), and was approved by the administration last fall.

Any student in the College may enroll in the two-quarter sequence, which is expected to have two sections of 19 students each.

The first quarter of the sequence will cover broad conceptual problems in human rights including universality and human dignity. The second quarter will use the broader themes studied in the first quarter to examine specific topics such as indigenous rights.

As in other Core courses, students will be expected to read primary texts in philosophy and literature, but will also critically examine films and paintings. Some major figures that could be studied in the courses include Hannah Arendt, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Thomas Aquinas.

According to Susan Gzesh, executive director of the PFCHR, the move was spurred by the introduction of the Gender and Sexuality in World Civilizations sequence in the fall of 2014.

Gzesh said that the study of human rights will aid the Center’s aim of incorporating the study of human rights into a liberal arts education. “If one of our overall goals is making sure that human rights is now seen as a respectable and established theme of a general liberal arts education, getting a human rights option into the Core further institutionalizes that goal—that human rights is an appropriate and important topic for global citizens to be studying,” Gzesh said.

Gzesh also said that the PFCHR is working on redesigning the University’s human rights minor in order to accommodate students who are pursuing a minor and wish to enroll in the civilization sequence.

Adam Etinson, a visiting assistant professor in philosophy and lecturer in human rights, hopes that studying human rights might force students to “expand [their] moral horizons.”

“I think it’s very probable that you’ll see some sensitization amongst students to the core values that get written into human rights like tolerance, inclusiveness, and respect,” Etinson said.

The PFCHR was founded as the Human Rights Program in 1997 as an interdisciplinary center for the study of human rights at the University. The program was renamed after a donation from Richard Pozen (A.B. ’69) and his wife Ann Pozen. It promotes the study of human rights through a liberal arts–oriented curriculum, support for research, and funding for human rights internships for students.

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