Letter from the Director
This has been a challenging year for human rights. In the United States and around the world, the very concept of human rights has faced growing resistance as political movements have demanded rollbacks of rights protections for people of color, workers, the disabled, women, and LGBTQ populations. New expressions of old hatreds have emerged, apparently empowered, in the public square, and university campuses like our own have found themselves roiled by tension and uncertainty stemming from the resultant struggles.
On the one hand, it’s important to resist the urge to get caught up in a never-ending cycle of crises, to insist instead on maintaining focus on what we know we do well. But early in the 2016-17 year, after hearing the raw urgency in my own students’ voices, it became clear to me that if we were to be a Center for Human Rights worthy of the name, we had to find a way to engage, now, with what was happening around us. In January, we committed to the creation of a new research initiative on Human Rights at Home, and I spent many sleepless nights trying to figure out how to bring it into being without draining the Center’s modest resources away from other efforts just as they were beginning to reap results.
Of course, building a new program is always a challenge; we’re still climbing the learning curve. But what we’ve learned so far has affirmed my confidence in our model of education for transformation. It turns out, thanks to the energy and commitment of our students, and the leadership and resourcefulness of our faculty, we have a lot to build on. Many of the research tools and methods we had developed to wrestle information on atrocities in El Salvador from U.S. government archives are also applicable to current questions. Indeed, many grassroots organizations in our state told us they lacked key information about the operations of federal agencies in our midst—for example, on immigration enforcement—and needed that knowledge to help communities protect their rights. So we fired up our FOIA machine, and as I write these words, we’re in the midst of training a new team of students to take this work further in 2017-18.
But we haven’t abandoned our longstanding partnerships. As you’ll read in this Annual Report, our work in support of Salvadoran human rights defenders has gained new momentum from a recent court decision, and in coordination with the Defenders Association, our project on Rethinking Punishment has expanded its work into restorative justice trainings. Our outstanding faculty continue to gain recognition; this past year, to name just two examples, Prof. Michael McCann received the Marsha Landolt Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award, and Prof. Anita Ramasastry was named president of the Uniform Law Commission. Others, like Gunnar Almgren, published new books on important human rights topics.
And above all, our students continue to challenge and inspire us. Last year the UWCHR provided $115,000 to support student human rights work, from undergraduate internships to graduate research assistantships, and research grants awarded to Ph.D. candidates probing new intellectual frontiers in human rights. In May, we also honored Attorney General Bob Ferguson with our Center’s first Justice Award, in recognition of his accomplishments defending the rights of all Washingtonians.
So as troubling as these times have been, they’ve also strengthened our resolve: not only to keep doing the work, but to dig deeper and do it more. After all, we are in some ways uniquely positioned to contribute. At the UWCHR, our model harnesses the intellectual talents and innovative energies of our faculty and students, placing them at the service of real-world social change. We provide our students with unparalleled learning opportunities, and offer our partners insights from top-notch research. This work is urgent, and important, and only possible thanks to your support. If you’d like to deepen your own commitment by supporting our new initiative on Human Rights at Home, we welcome contributions large and small at jsis.washington.edu/humanrights/donate/.
Inside this Issue
- Bob Ferguson, Washington’s Top Lawyer, Talks Travel Bans and Trump
- “I’m Betting My Life On It”: Prof. Gunnar Almgren on Health Care Reform
- Student Research Provides Access to Information through New Partnership with UW Libraries
- Human Rights at Home: Examining Law Enforcement Collaboration with CBP and ICE
- Rethinking Punishment: Holding Space for Restorative Justice
- El Mozote: A Renewed Push for Justice
- Celebrating Farmworker Victories, Organizing for Ongoing Struggles
- 2017 Student Award Recipients
- Financial Report