For many college students, conflicts in the Middle East and tragedies in Africa are something they might click by in their news feeds. But for a group of University of Oregon students, rules that govern conflicts such as the Geneva Conventions aren’t just an abstract theory.
For the third year in a row the UO is sending a small group of law students, masters students in Conflict and Dispute Resolution and undergraduates in the Honors College to the University of Oxford for a weeklong seminar and workshop on global justice and human rights. Before the students depart, Oxford human rights expert Hugo Slim is coming to the UO to give a talk on “Human Rights in an Age of Terrorism” Jan. 27.
The students prep for the spring break trip weeks in advance with readings on human rights and theories of social justice. The program “transforms ideas into personal responsibility,” says Carmalita Aufderheide, a masters student in conflict resolution with a background in nursing.
The students “hit the ground running” the moment they arrive at Oxford, according to Shashank Chauhan, who is getting joint degrees in law and conflict resolution. Through daylong lectures and meetings as well as group projects, they will learn about the limitations and challenges of the theories they have read from those who have been there firsthand. In the previous year and in 2015 the program focuses on Syria.
UO professor Cheyney Ryan, who spends half his year at the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, says one of his goals for the program is to ensure everyone accepted can attend and it is 100 percent paid for. Graduate students receive a fellowship via UO alumnus Steve Raymund, and undergrads are funded through a fellowship created by a gift from David Stern, he says.
After her experiences at Oxford, Alison Walt, a senior in geography and Arabic, says she traveled to Jordan and saw how the conflict in Syria is playing out there. She says she found herself “better prepared” for how things actually function as aid workers and others trying to help deal with the conflicts and the intricacies of other cultures.
Slim, one of the leaders of the program with Ryan, has worked on the frontlines as a humanitarian worker for Save the Children UK and the United Nations in Morocco, Sudan, Ethiopia, the Palestinian territories and Bangladesh. He researches humanitarian ethics, civilian protection and business and human rights and has served as a consultant for the Red Cross and been on the board of the charity Oxfam UK. Oxfam recently released a study showing the richest 1 percent of people will likely control more wealth than the remaining 99 percent by next year.
Hugo Slim speaks on “Human Rights in an Age of Terrorism” 7 pm Tuesday, Jan. 27, at the UO School of Law Room 175. Slim will also meet with classes and participate in an Oregon-Oxford Roundtable on Israel-Palestine during his visit.