Democracy 101 lecture to focus on human rights

GVL/Kevin Sielaff - Professor Louis Moore speaks during the Democracy: 101 event on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017.

GVL/Kevin Sielaff – Professor Louis Moore speaks during the Democracy: 101 event on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017.

Ita Tsai

The Democracy 101 series is returning to campus this week. The lecture “Human Rights and the Promise of Democracy” will be presented by Grand Valley State University associate professor of political science Karen Zivi on Wednesday, Feb. 28, from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the Kirkhof Center, Room 2266.

In her lecture, Zivi will explore the role of human rights in the U.S.’ democratic society and their historical contribution to the expansion of principles of equality and freedom up to present day. Zivi will also talk about how democratic practices like voting and protesting are crucial for preserving human rights.

“We need to recognize our responsibilities as citizens,” Zivi said. “We tend to think of rights and responsibilities as two distinct things: Rights are something we have; responsibilities are something we do. I want students to understand that in order to make human rights a reality, they require civic engagement, and that is hugely important in contemporary politics. 

“Students that are interested in doing social change, social justice, equality, I want to talk to them about how they can use human rights framework to do work in that field.”

Zivi’s lecture will be interactive with planned activities for attendees.

“I’m hoping to deepen their understanding when they make claims of human rights and the effect of that way of thinking,” she said. “I want to get students thinking about the kind of democratic practices that are important to make human rights meaningful.”

This event is open to students, faculty and staff from all disciplines and is LIB 100- and 201-approved. Pizza will also be provided for the attendees.

This lecture is part of the Community Service Learning Center’s (CSLC) Democracy 101 series, which consists of lectures, panel discussions and workshops that focus on democratic values and systems. 

“Democracy 101 is meant to provide our campus community with an opportunity to think about the structure and values of our democracy and the principles upon which it is built,” said Melissa Baker-Boosamra, associate director of student life for civic engagement and assessment, and the organizer of the Democracy 101 event. “We want them to learn how to consider current public issues and ways to most effectively engage as a citizen in our democracy.”

Baker-Boosamra said the series started in response to the CSLC’s post-election town halls from last academic year.

“It came from a demand to understand our role in a democracy and to do it in a way that crossed boundaries between students, staff and the faculty community,” she said.

Baker-Boosamra believes the series presents an opportunity to spark students’ interest in community affairs.

“With these conversations, I hope students become more energized about their role as a citizen and their responsibility in society as a citizen,” she said. “I want them to have a deeper commitment to being involved in the public sphere and give them a deeper sense of understanding of public issues and develop skills to engage in the world as a citizen.”