The Humanities Institute has been collaborating with the UC Davis Human Rights Initiative since 2011 when it received critical seed funding from the Academic Senate’s Committee on Research to launch a program devoted to the issue of human rights and humanitarianism. That seed funding has paid off and resulted in external funding from the UC Humanities Network for a multicampus research group titled the UC Human Rights Collaboration in addition to grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Institute of International Education, the Scholar Rescue Fund, and University Outreach and International Programs. Directed by Keith Watenpaugh, a historian of the Middle East and associate professor of religious studies, the UC Human Rights Collaboration, hosted the 4th annual Human Rights Symposium at UC Davis, cosponsored by the UC Davis Humanities Institute and UC Humanities Research Institute based at UC Irvine.
A two-day symposium at the International House in May 2014, the Human Rights Symposium gave Watenpaugh and his colleagues at other UCs and beyond a chance to discuss their research as well as the recent findings of a survey into conditions facing Syrian refugee university students in Lebanon, a project supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Institute of International Education, the Scholar Rescue Fund, University Outreach and International Programs and the Davis Sunrise Rotary Club. Lebanon is now home to over a million refugees from the war in Syria, including tens of thousands of displaced university students and young people unable to attend school because of the war. “This is the humanitarian disaster of our time,” said Watenpaugh, who worries about the consequences of a generation of students who don’t have access to university education but will be tasked with rebuilding their war-torn country following the conflict.
Watenpaugh and his research team recently visited several refugee neighborhoods in Lebanon, where educators and university students who oppose the Assad regime are trying their best to educate younger members of the Syrian refugee population. Often using Lebanese classrooms after hours, refugee children at “second shift” schools receive perhaps the only education available to them. “Working with Carnegie and the Institute of International Education is playing the leading international role in understanding the problem of refugee students and identifying ways to help them,” said Watenpaugh. The symposium also featured papers by faculty and graduate students from across the UC system. Four panels presented on issues relating to Humanitarianism, Law and Citizenship, Indigeneity, and Memory, Identity, and Culture.
For additional information please visit the Human Rights Initiative website.