Human Rights Education Program

Calendar Highlights: Sept. 1, 2009

SMU Unbridled logoFaculty-Staff Campaign Kickoff: Join your colleagues in campuswide events to mark the launch of the faculty and staff component of The Second Century Campaign on Sept. 3. School and area events will take place throughout the day (find yours here) and will culminate in an all-University celebration hosted by SMU President R. Gerald Turner at 4 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom, Umphrey Lee Center. For more information and to make a gift, visit

Jewish life, past and present: Photographer Loli Kantor has documented the disappearing population of Holocaust survivors and their lives within the vanishing shtetls of Poland and Ukraine. In the process, she found glimpses into a re-emergence of Jewish life and culture in Central and Eastern Europe that is beginning to transform larger communities. Her work is collected in There Was a Forest – Jews in Eastern Europe Today, on display through Nov. 15 in the Hawn Gallery, Hamon Arts Library. Kantor will lecture on campus at 6 p.m. Sept. 11 in the Taubman Atrium, Owen Arts Center, followed by a reception at 7 p.m. Both events are part of “Holocaust Legacies: Shoah as Turning Point,” a semester-long series presented by SMU’s Human Rights Education Program.

SMU wide receiver Emmanuel SandersGame time: The Mustang football team hosts its season opener against Stephen F. Austin at 7 p.m. in Ford Stadium. Traditional tailgating parties and other festivities will take place on The Boulevard for most of the day. Find a complete season schedule, ticket information and more at 2009 Gameday Central, and learn more about Sellout 2009. (Right, wide receiver and senior co-captain Emmanuel Sanders, SMU’s career leader in touchdown catches and the first player in University history to record three 600-yard receiving seasons.)

Tate Lecture Series opens: New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria, moderated by former White House adviser David Gergen, will offer their insights on current events and international politics in the first event of the 2009-10 Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series season. The event begins at 8 p.m. Sept. 8 in McFarlin Auditorium.

Tune In: Understanding the Rwandan genocide

Rwanda in Central Africa was the scene of the mass killing of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and Hutu political moderates in 1994 by Hutus over the course of 100 days.

In April, Mark McPhail spoke about his experiences as an expert witness before the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (UNICTR) in 2008. McPhail, chair of the Division of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs in SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, shared his personal reflections on the tragedy, its political and moral legacies, and the implications it holds for international justice and reconciliation in the 21st century. The lecture was presented by SMU’s Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility. Click the YouTube screen to watch the video.

To help students better understand the genocide, SMU’s Human Rights Education Program traveled to Rwanda during summer 2009, where the group visited such sites as the Nyarubuye Genocide Memorial and Urukundo Home for Children. Laura, one of the group, blogged for SMU Student Adventures about her experiences and impressions – including a visit to Murambi, the site of some of the worst massacres of the genocide.

Read Laura’s Rwanda blog
Visit SMU Student Adventures
Read more about the Rwanda Genocide

Rick Halperin honored for teaching excellence

<img alt="Rick Halperin" src="" align="left" style="padding-right:5px" Rick Halperin, director of SMU’s Human Rights Education Program in Dedman College, has received a 2009 Piper Professor award from the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation.

The Piper Professor Program honors superior teaching in Texas colleges and universities. Nominations are requested annually from all accredited institutions of higher learning in the state, and 15 awards are given each year.

The award selection committee “seek(s) out the well-rounded, outgoing teacher, devoted to the profession, who has made special impact on his students and the community.” An adjunct lecturer in the Clements Department of History, Halperin also teaches in the Human Rights Education Program as well as in SMU’s Master of Liberal Studies program.

“The Piper Professor Award is especially important because it is for outstanding teaching, and only 15 are awarded,” says Kathleen Hugley-Cook, director of SMU’s Office of National Fellowships and Awards. “At SMU, our nominee is selected through colleague nomination. So this Piper Award is deeply meaningful not only because there was exceptional support from former students for Dr. Halperin’s nomination, but also because it represents immense respect from his faculty colleagues across the University. He makes a great difference to our entire community, and his great teaching has a lasting impact on students and faculty alike.”

A longtime human rights advocate and member of the Board of Directors of Amnesty International USA, Halperin regularly leads SMU groups on human rights educational journeys to places such as Cambodia, Rwanda, South Africa, El Salvador, Bosnia and numerous Holocaust sites across Europe. Every December he takes a group to death camps and other Holocaust sites in Poland for two weeks.

Halperin was chair of the Board of Directors of Amnesty International USA from 1992-93 and again from 2005-07. He is a member of the National Death Penalty Advisory Committee and the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and served as President from 2000-06 and again in 2007-08.

Sister Helen Prejean to speak at SMU April 23

Sister Helen PrejeanSister Helen Prejean, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States, will speak at SMU April 23 as part of a panel discussion, “Arts, Social Change, and Human Rights,” from 7-8:30 p.m. in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Theater.

Hosted by SMU, Fort Worth Opera and the Dallas Opera, the panel will be moderated by Rick Halperin, director of the Human Rights Education Program in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

The other panelists include Jonathan Pell, artistic director for the Dallas Opera; Darren K. Woods, general director of Fort Worth Opera; and Jake Heggie, composer of the modern opera derived from Dead Man Walking.

Sister Helen Prejean, a former teacher from Louisiana, joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille at a young age and dedicated her life to the poor of New Orleans. She began a prison ministry in 1981 and became a pen pal and spiritual adviser to convicted felons, which led her to share her experiences through Dead Man Walking. The book was made into a major motion picture in 1996.

Sister Prejean received the Robert O. Cooper Peace and Justice Fellowship from SMU in 1998. The fellowship is sponsored by the SMU Office of the Chaplain, in collaboration with the Human Rights Program, the Ethnic Studies Program and the Dallas Peace Center.

The panel discussion will highlight examples of how the arts have impacted communities and will emphasize efforts to integrate the arts into social change. The event also will spotlight Heggie’s operas Dead Man Walking, which will be presented by Fort Worth Opera in May, and Moby Dick, which the Dallas Opera will premiere in 2010.

The panel is free and open to the public, and a reception will follow the discussion.

An inmate’s fight for constitutional rights

Fred CruzIn 1960, at age 21, Fred Cruz was arrested for robbery, convicted and sentenced to 50 years on a Texas prison farm. The San Antonio native denied committing the crimes but couldn’t afford a lawyer to appeal his case. With only an 8th grade education, Cruz read every law book he could find and filed his own appeal.

Fred Cruz’s story is now an independent film by producer/director Susanne Mason and will debut at SMU at 6 p.m. April 15, 2009 in McCord Auditorium, Dallas Hall. “Writ Writer: One Man’s Journey for Justice” tells the story of Cruz’s evolution into a jailhouse lawyer, the legal battle he waged against physical and racial violence, and how he used writs of habeas corpus to secure the constitutional rights of Texas prisoners.

Told by wardens, convicts and former prisoners who knew Cruz, “Writ Writer” uses contemporary and archival film footage to show the transformation of a prisoner and a prison system still haunted by their pasts. The film was honored as an official selection of the 2008 South By Southwest Film Festival. The SMU screening is sponsored by the University’s Clements Center for Southwest Studies in Dedman College.

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion on prisons, rights, race and violence featuring the following participants:

  • Rick Halperin, moderator, director of SMU’s Human Rights Education Program
  • Susanne Mason, director and producer of “Writ Writer”
  • Robert Chase, Clements Center Fellow and author of the upcoming book, Civil Rights on the Cell Block: Race, Reform and Punishment in Texas Prisons and the Nation, 1945-1990
  • Ernest McMillan, civil rights veteran and community activist
  • Reginald Gordon, community activist

The program is free and open to the public; advance registration is required. Register online at the Clements Center website or contact Ruth Ann Elmore at 214-768-3684.

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