Students Successfully Lead Human Rights Retreat
Inspired by last year’s Spring Term course “Leadership in War and Human Rights,” a group of Alma College students successfully organized a retreat that addressed how the United States can move forward with membership to the International Criminal Court.
The retreat, which was hosted by the Public Affairs Institute, was held on April 8 and 9 at the Cenacle Retreat and Conference Center in Chicago. The resulting feedback has been positive.
“From my perspective, the retreat went really well,” says Ed Lorenz, director of the Public Affairs Institute and political science professor. “A number of people who aren’t affiliated with the College have e-mailed me and asked how we’re planning to follow up. This shows the impact of the students’ work.”
Retreat participants, from left: Estonia senior Martin Kuustik, Vassar freshman Tyler Jenkins, Mount Pleasant senior Alex Montoye, speaker and Alma alum Will Allen, and Weidman junior Brian Wagner.
At minimum, Lorenz says the group plans to produce and publish documents based on the retreat to circulate among the participants, which included M. Cherif Bassiouni, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and United Nations war crimes expert.
Their bigger goal, however, is to push this human rights issue forward by pursuing a general national education campaign that would enhance Alma’s role in international politics. Another retreat isn’t out of the question, either.
“It’s my personal belief that justice is a human right for all,” says Coopersville junior Chelsea Clark, who was the key organizer. “The retreat gave me even more inspiration to continue working toward the hope that the U.S. will—if not join the ICC—at least make a conscious effort to help the ICC in whichever way it can.”
Macomb junior Kyla Wojtas says she thinks the people who attended got a lot of great information about the ICC, which prosecutes individuals for genocide and other crimes against humanity.
“I think the retreat was a good first step for people to become more involved with the issue,” she says. “There were a lot of colleges that wanted to participate but couldn’t. They’re all planning to be proactive by writing letters to senators.”
Retreat participants, from left: Gowen senior Taylor Gibson, Alma senior Hannah Ropp, Lake freshman Alaina Dague and Midland freshman Ashley Yuill.
It’s important to note that both participants and speakers at the retreat, which included David Scheffer and Major General William Nash, among others, are taking the group‘s work back to law schools, colleges and the military and sharing information about the ICC, says Lorenz.
Members of the Dr. Kiran C. Patel Center for Global Solutions and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture were also present at the retreat.
The group’s dedication to the issue seems to have made an impression on Bassiouni, who was the keynote speaker for the retreat, as well.
“Bassiouni had praise for them, especially being undergraduates, not only for having an interest in the issue but for being fully engaged and inventive,” says Lorenz, who taught the Spring Term course.
Posted: Mon, April 19th, 2010 at 11:21AM