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Eye On Boise

BSU’s new Marilyn Shuler Human Rights Initiative to be a university-wide effort

BSU Professor Jill Gill, left, with moderator Marcia Franklin, right, addresses the Boise City Club on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. (Betsy Z. Russell)
BSU Professor Jill Gill, left, with moderator Marcia Franklin, right, addresses the Boise City Club on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. (Betsy Z. Russell)

The new Marilyn Shuler Human Rights Initiative at Boise State University will be a university-wide program to help educate the next generation of young people about human rights, BSU history Professor Jill Gill told the Boise City Club today. “That’s what’s different about this thing,” she said, reaching into all the different colleges within the university and available to all students. “I don’t know if we’ve ever tried anything like this before.”

The program, starting in the fall of 2019, will issue a certificate in human rights, which Gill described as a “mini-minor,” requiring six to nine credits. Eventually, it should grow to a minor, she said, and possibly even a major. “We’re in a unique and disturbing time, but it’s an urgent time,” Gill said, noting the resurgence of white nationalism and other movements. “What we need are builders, builders of our democracy,” she said. “Democracy is not perfect, but it’s the best structure for human rights … to thrive. So this program is prepare young people for that work.”

It was young people, historically, who carried on the work of the civil rights movement in the United States, she noted. ”Young people are the conscience of America – it’s their future.”

The initiative already has kicked off this fall with public events featuring North Idaho human rights activists Tony Stewart and Norm Gissel. And it’s already offering educational programs in “open classrooms,” where anyone can come and learn.

In the certificate program, students will take a core course in human rights, including its definition and nature and its history in Idaho, in the United States and worldwide. Additional study and research will focus on human dignity and the rights of all people to freedom, security and peace; mentoring; advocacy; volunteer opportunities and more.

Gill, who was joined at the City Club presentation by Marcia Franklin, a longtime friend of Shuler, the late Idaho human rights icon and longtime head of the Idaho Human Rights Commission, said Shuler gave a generous and unrestricted gift to BSU, and it was Corey Cook, dean of the School of Public Service, who decided to use a portion of the gift to create the new program in Shuler’s name to carry on her work.

“She continues to be an inspiration to all of us,” Gill said.

When Franklin asked Gill how the program will measure its success, Gill noted that Martin Luther King Jr. studied philosophy, political science, history, religion and more when he was in college, and that prepared him to lead the civil rights movement. “We’ll know it by its fruits,” Gill said, “if students can come back and say, ‘You prepared me well.’”

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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