The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Human rights concentration in talks

By Anna Waugh

Faculty from multiple departments proposed a new Human Rights and Humanitarianism academic concentration last week to Educational Policy and Government (EPAG), a faculty board that oversees the college curriculum at Macalester.The new concentration is “designed to provide a truly broad, intellectual approach to human rights,” English professor Jim Dawes said. It would include courses from several departments including political science, international studies, philosophy, and English.

In the proposal to EPAG, the faculty explained that the goal of the concentration, writing its purpose is “not to invent something altogether new on campus for which we need to generate demand, but rather to more effectively organize and articulate a series of things we are already doing.”

Planning for the Human Rights concentration began nearly three years ago, when a group of faculty teaching human rights at Macalester felt they should “coordinate [their] efforts and streamline the educational process for students,” Dawes said. Today, he said there is “faculty in 10 departments closely involved in design and implementation.”

Dawes explained that a significant portion of the planning time for this concentration was “spent establishing a formal collaboration with the University of Chicago Human Rights Program, sharing research and developing collaborative teaching projects.” In the spring of 2006, the two schools jointly applied for and received a $100,000 grant for faculty development in human rights from the Teagle Foundation.

Concentrations are different from minors, Dawes said, both technically and theoretically. “[Concentrations] allow us to provide students new and exciting paths of study without needing to create complex and bulky administrative structures,” he said. “They draw upon resources we already have, and upon the deep interests and commitments of faculty already here.”

Professor Kendrick Brown, the current chair of EPAG, said that concentrations allow students to synthesize their major with other college requirements, and that they provide an opportunity for professors and students to engage in “interesting and innovative projects across disciplines.”

Faculty response to concentrations has generally been positive. Religious studies professor Ahmad Ahmad, who was involved with the approval of the popular Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies concentration last year, said he is excited about the idea of concentrations because they allow students to explore concepts in different departments.

“Disciplines are systematic and have certain ideologues,” he said, “but there might also be alternatives. I like to think of [concentrations] as intra-disciplinary.”

Students have also reportedly expressed a “huge interest” in the Middle Eastern studies concentration, even though it is still in its first semester at Macalester.

If the Human Rights concentration is approved by EPAG, it will join Urban Studies, African Studies and Middle Eastern Studies and Creative Writing to become the fifth concentration offered by the college.

“At this point,” Dawes said, “we would hope to have it up and running in a couple of years.

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