I sent my 168 fall students and 115 spring students in human rights out on a community service assignment to teach human rights in secondary schools. Most of them completed the assignment very well, verified by signature of their supervisor and my follow up telephone calls to the institution. That’s more than 2,500 hours of human rights teaching. Students said they overcame shyness to address classes of 100 or more. And their reports showed they used a variety of teaching techniques which we had used in our class. They also had to learn their material pretty well to be able to teach it. Many students said it was a significant achievement for them and that they enjoyed it. I gave them each a certificate of recognition with their name on it for their future portfolio.
Students are raised on a habit of memorization and recitation from primary school on through secondary school. Critical thinking is often new to them. In my classes, however, students had a good chance to voice their opinions and knowledge. Many, including most of the female students, were hesitant, but after a while, they began participating more.
While most of my students are honest and hard-working, some 17 (out of about 120) in my spring human rights class apparently cheated on their final research project, copying pages from each other. Since human rights and ethics are inseparable, I recommended their expulsion from the University to make room for more deserving students. A university disciplinary committee is reviewing the cases and will give the students an opportunity to present their case. A number of the students have admitted their cheating to me; a few have denied it, despite documentary evidence to the contrary. One senior faculty member described cheating at the College as “blatant.” Some would prefer less of a penalty such as not counting their report on which they cheated. I think that’s too mild. My syllabus called for expulsion from the class with an F for plagiarism.
Peace and Violence on campus
Last summer, students went on a rampage and destroyed their dormitories after campus student elections. Last winter, a student died during a harsh university club initiation. So this spring I began meeting with campus student leaders to encourage them to make initiatives to try to bring peace back as the norm. A number of groups did so, with handouts, banners, and even a student Peace Summit where leaders of rival factions pledged non-violence. Several students are trying to follow up with an Alternatives to Violence Project involving conflict avoidance training at colleges and schools nationally.