BLOOMINGTON — Illinois Wesleyan University will have a center dedicated to making human rights and social justice integral to students' liberal arts education.
The Center for Human Rights and Social Justice will be commemorated 4 p.m. Friday in the Hansen Student Center, 300 E. Beecher St., Bloomington.
Guest speaker Martha Nussbaum, author and human rights advocate, will deliver an address titled, “The New Religious Intolerance: Socratic Self-Examination and Sympathetic Imagination.” The event is free and open to the public.
"I thought this would be a way of bringing the campus together," said Irving Epstein, professor of educational studies, who serves as the center’s director. "While many universities have centers for civic engagement very few have a human rights and social justice focus that really ties the academic mission of the institution to practical engagement in these civic-related activities."
The new center, located in the Center for Liberal Arts, will bring the numerous human rights programs and initiatives on campus together, enhancing opportunities for collaboration and the exchange of ideas, Epstein said.
“We see the Center as being essential to understanding a liberal arts education — you can’t talk about liberal arts without knowing what it means to be a human. Rights and responsibilities we have to one another raise basic questions we ask ourselves all the time,” Epstein said.
Nussbaum is one of the most prolific authors in the United States on various aspects of human rights, and "because of her deep connection to the liberal arts, we thought it would be very fitting for her to inaugurate the center,” Epstein said.
She is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago Law School, where she serves on the board for the Human Rights Program.
To further celebrate the center, Illinois Wesleyan’s annual Undergraduate Student Research Workshop on Human Rights in the Liberal Arts, which bring students and faculty from different disciplines together to share in the study of core human rights issues, will be Friday and Saturday. Locations and a complete schedule of the workshop events are at http://www.iwu.edu/human-rights/workshop.html.
During the summer of 2013, the fledgling center sponsored two summer internships at national human rights organizations. Recently, Illinois Wesleyan’s Center for Human Rights and Social Justice joined the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights, a network of over 50 organizations, service providers and university centers that work to protect and promote human rights.