In a special gathering last week in the student lounge, Miami Law hosted its inaugural Human Rights Open House and Reception. The event not only celebrated the impressive strides Miami Law has taken to develop a wide-ranging human rights program, but also served to spread awareness to students interested in pursuing a career in human rights law.
The event was organized by Professor Caroline Bettinger-Lopez, director of Miami Law's Human Rights Clinic; Professor Christina Zampas, practitioner-in-residence and supervising attorney of the Human Rights Clinic; and Professor James W. Nickel, a human rights expert who holds a joint appointment in the Philosophy Department and Miami Law.
The organizers sought to use the Open House to expose the Miami Law community to the various human rights offerings available to students. "Whether it is thinking about course selection, the faculty speaker series, networking and organizational opportunities or our law clinics," explained Bettinger-Lopez, "there are so many different places in which we see human rights in the law school."
To highlight the many varied human rights opportunities offered at Miami Law, both faculty and students alike were invited to speak at the event, in order to detail their individual experiences in human rights law. Faculty speakers included Professors Nickel; Donna K. Coker; Markus Wagner; Stephen J. Schnably; Bernard P. Perlmutter; and Mary Anne Franks.
Although not all of the faculty members who spoke currently teach human rights-related courses at Miami Law, the speakers all highlighted the many ways in which human rights law intersects with other areas of the law.
Professor Wagner, who teaches International Law and International Economic Law, emphasized the importance that international law plays with respect to human rights law.
"International law provides [students] a much needed framework in which to think about human rights," explained Wagner. "It provides you with a much more solid way of arguing within the framework of human rights itself."
Similarly, Professor Franks, who teaches Family Law, Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure, discussed her connection to human rights. For her, "it's more along the lines of thinking about domestic issues. So often, we think about human rights as something that happens somewhere else. In the courses I teach, we think about conceptualizing our rights as human rights and how the abuses that go on here are connected to things that happen in other parts of the world."
Students involved in Miami Law's human rights community also contributed to the discussion. Second year students Luis Ramos, Catherine Kaiman and Erin Lewis all spoke about their human rights involvement on campus, and the ways in which other students can get involved. Ramos and Kaiman—two of the original founders of the new student organization, Law Students for Reproductive Justice—both stressed the many human rights opportunities available to Miami Law students.
Lewis encouraged students interested in human rights law to not limit themselves to organizations with "human rights" clearly incorporated in the groups' titles. "There are definitely lots of other options," explained Lewis, on how students can get involved in human rights.
The Human Rights Open House and Reception showcased the many varied human rights offerings available at Miami Law. Moreover, with continued expansion of the human rights program at Miami Law, there is hope that the school will begin to be considered as a top-option for prospective law students looking to enter human rights law practice.
"I would like it to be the case that when someone thinks about the University of Miami School of Law," explained Professor Nickel, "that they think 'wow, they have a lot of people doing human rights work there, and they have a nice range of offerings.' That would be a nice thing for our reputation."