'Aching need' for Human Rights concentration met

By Anna Waugh

-After two years of collaboration between multiple departments, a Human Rights and Humanitarianism concentration is set to become part of Macalester’s curriculum. The faculty’s Educational Policy and Governance committee signed off on the concentration at a meeting Nov. 5.While the concentration was first approved by EPAG on Oct. 23, the committee delayed officially adding it to the curriculum until faculty reviewed it.

English professor Jim Dawes will be the coordinator of the concentration and has played a key role in its creation.

“There is an aching need for this,” he said.

The concentration will be the fifth offered at Macalester and will be open to students of all majors.

Though approved in October, there has been hesitation among some on the faculty to continue to create new concentrations at Macalester when the structure is slated for reevaluation this academic year. EPAG chair and Psychology professor Kendrick Brown announced Wednesday that EPAG would consider no more concentration proposals until the reevaluation is complete.

“The general structure of concentrations at Macalester needs attention, and the college should pause at this point to re-think concentrations in general,” International Studies department chair David Moore said.

One of the main concerns is to find a way to offer enough programs to cover student interests at Macalester without offering so many as to jeopardize what is already offered, Brown said.

“[Concentrations] have been good for satisfying student interest, but you have to make sure they provide for sustainability and make sure that they accomplish the goals [they were designed for],” Brown said.

For a concentration to be viable, Brown said, multiple faculty members must have interest in contributing to the concentration.

The human rights concentration has gained support from faculty in 10 departments, Dawes said, and student interest has been high as well.

Dawes said he has received e-mails from high school students interested in coming to Macalester who had heard about the possible new concentration and were excited about its potential.

The new concentration has also gained recognition from other universities that offer academic programs in human rights, such as the University of Chicago and the University of Minnesota.

“This [concentration] seems appropriate and important for an institution like Macalester, which prides itself on its international student body and global focus,” Barbara Frey, the director of the Human Rights Program at the University of Minnesota, wrote in a letter to Dawes on Nov. 8. “Over the past decade, I have been pleased to see the dramatic increase in faculty expertise, public events and student activities on international issues at Macalester.