Keith David Watenpaugh
Professor and Founding Director of Human Rights Studies in the College of Letters and Science
Global Human Rights Big Idea
My Passion for this Big Idea
“I believe people have rights because we are human beings. We don’t stop being human beings simply because we move across borders. My hope is to educate a new generation of leaders in every field, working actively with impacted communities while equipping our students to point the way forward in protecting human rights for all.
Our basic core rights — the right to an education, to work, to be a parent — are imagined by the global human rights community as things that can go into a backpack. The idea is that you keep these rights with you no matter where you go in the world.
“I have no doubt that education must be a human right and the university must be a public good if we are to achieve just, equitable and peaceful societies.”
As a champion of the Global Human Rights Big Idea and director of UC Davis Human Rights Studies — the first program of its kind in the UC system — I have created an international humanitarian tool to help assert everyone’s right to education. Article 26 Backpack helps displaced individuals keep an online record of personal archives, like transcripts, to share with universities and professional resources. This will revolutionize the way refugees –– and others whose educations have been disrupted by war, natural disaster, or economic collapse –– shape, store and share elements of their professional and educational identity.
Education is so important to confront ideologies of hate and xenophobia. I have no doubt that education must be a human right and the university must be a public good if we are to achieve just, equitable and peaceful societies. Defending these two ideas is at the very heart of who we are and what we stand for as academic professionals and students.”