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Joseph Loundy Human Rights Project

In 2008, with an initial $100,000 gift from alumnus Joseph Loundy, Roosevelt University established the Joseph Loundy Human Rights Project, a program unique in the US, in which students conduct comparative research on the promotion of human rights in the US and abroad. They then use that research to generate advocacy strategies for promoting human rights and social justice in Chicago.

Students engage in a series of seminars with national and local leaders in the year's designated advocacy area, which are also open to the public and the larger Roosevelt Community and then travel abroad for analogous seminars with human rights advocates and scholars in another country.  The students will use this comparative experience to analyze what has worked where, and why, and thus to predict the most likely effective solutions here in Chicago. Summer internships will allow students to work on implementing their proposals, according to Barratt.

The Loundy Human Rights Project typifies Roosevelt’s mission of social justice. Students engaged in transformational learning often see the world in new ways and fundamentally change as people."

"We will address problems that not only are present in a variety of cities across the globe, but that also provide students an opportunity to have a visible effect on the communities around them," said Bethany Barratt, Associate Professor of Political Science, who directs the project.

Offering Unparalleled Human Rights Research and Advocacy Opportunities for Students

The Loundy Human Rights Project is the only one of its kind in the country offering students a regular annual international human rights research experience, grounded in a firm foundation of Chicago-specific case studies.

  • On average, more than half of students completing the Loundy Project's comparative course intend to attend graduate school or law school (compared with a third on average at the outset of the course)
  • A quarter of our students travel outside the US for the first time with the Project
  • More than half our students began a human rights related internship during (or within the first six months) of being enrolled in the Loundy Human Rights Project's signature course
  • A third of our alums go on to graduate school or law school (significantly higher than the Roosevelt average)

Focus 2014-present: Environmental Justice in Urban Spaces

Chicago's recent mayors have demonstrated renewed commitment to the city's original motto: Urbs in Horta, "City in a Garden." But the environmental consequences of Chicago's industrial past -- including soil contamination, water pollution, toxic waste -- is unequally borne by different geographic areas of the city, and by different groups of people. In 2014, Loundy Project students visited several hotspots of environmental crisis in Chicago:

  • Little Village, site of the successful fight to close one of Chicago's oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants in 2015
  • The Chicago River, the most-engineered urban waterway in the nation
  • Former US Steel and other post-industrial sites on the far southeast side
  • Piles of petcoke currently being stored close to residential and sensitive natural areas on the Southeast Side

In our Distinguished Environmental Organizer's Speaker Series students enjoyed small seminar experiences with some of the most important leaders in environmental justice struggles in Chicago:

  • Kimberly Wasserman, Organizing and Strategy Director, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization. Ms. Wasserman was recipient of the 2013 Goldman Environmental Prize for leading the campaign for the passage of the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance that resulted in the closing of the Crawford coal-fired power plant.
  • John Quail, Watershed Management Director, Friends of the Chicago River.  Mr. Quail is an expert in the way that industrial uses ripple through an entire watershed system in complex ways.
  • Tom Shepherd, President, Southeast Environmental Task Force. Mr. Shepherd has been an organizer in Southeast Chicago for over 25 years, working to mitigate the negative effects of deindustrialization and new, more toxic industrial uses of the Southeast side.

In our Vancouver Field Experience students travelled to Olympic National Park and Vancouver, British Columbia. We

  • Hiked in the world's largest temperate rainforest
  • Explored fragile tidepool life on the Northwest coast 
  • Explored the world's largest dam removal project
  • Saw salmon spawning in Squamish estuary
  • Explored threats of reindustrialization on fragile Howe Sound
  • Learned about the environmental legacy of the world's largest copper mine
  • Examined climate resilience in the Vancouver area
  • Explored food security issues as they pertained to First Nations

In 2015 we expanded our students' field experiences in the Chicago area:

  • Altgeld Gardens, in the so-called "Toxic Doughnut" of landfills and industrial contamination on Chicago's Southeast Side
  • Little Village, site of the successful fight to close one of Chicago's oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants in 2015
  • The Chicago River, the most-engineered urban waterway in the nation
  • Former US Steel and other post-industrial sites on the far southeast side
  • Piles of petcoke currently being stored close to residential and sensitive natural areas on the Southeast Side

In 2015 we expanded our partnerships with environmental justice organizations in the Chicago area and student opportunities to build skills:  

  • Little Village Environmental Justice Organization
  • Southeast Environmental Task Force
  • People for Community Recovery

Focus 2010-13: Miscarriages of Justice and Wrongful Convictions

As the Illinois legislature was poised to consider a repeal of the death penalty, spurred on in large part by the tireless work of the Chicago- area projects, such as Northwestern's Medill Innocence Project, its Center on Wrongful Convictions, and Loyola's Life After Innoncence Project, we took up investigating the points in the criminal justice system where the process fails and innocent people are sent to jail or put to death. The US and UK have been the pioneers for innocence projects. Results are measured one life at a time, but this may be the most important metric of all.  We travelled to London in Fall 2010 and Fall 2011, and are partnering with key actors locally, including the Chicago Innocence Project, and the Justice Council of Northwestern Law School’s Center on Wrongful Convictions.  In addition, the Project has become a crucible for discussion of the most important recent legal and scientific developments in the field, attracting the people whose research and advocacy is shaping the field to our annual Wrongful Convictions Distinguished Speaker Series. In Fall 2011 we welcomed memory expert Elizabeth Loftus of UC Irvine, pioneering investigative reporter Rob Warden of Northwestern Law School's Bluhm Legal Clinic Center on Wrongful Convictions, forensic experts Jay Koehler  and Steve Drizin, also of Northwestern Law School's Bluhm Legal Clinic, and wrongly convicted individuals like Randy Steidl and Delbert Tibbs who have now become advocates for justice system reform.  In 2012 we have hosted groundbreaking investigative reporter and author John Conroy,  People's Law Office partner Joey Mogul, and Chicago police torture survivor Darrell Cannon. We also hosted Josh Tepfer of Northwestern Law School's Center on the Wrongful Conviction of Youth, memory expert Geoff Loftus from the University of Washington, and forensic psychologist Richard Leo of the University of San Francisco. In Fall 2013 we hosted Karen Daniels of Northwestern Law School's Center on Wrongful Convictions, recent exoneree Nicole Harris, University of Pittsburgh professor David Harris, eyewitness misidentification expert Penny Beerntsen, former prosecutor Robert Milan, and Rob Warden, executive director of Northwestern's Center on Wrongful Convictions. 

Others Fighting The Good Fight:

Doing work in this area? We'd love to know about it!
Please email Dr. Bethany Barratt,

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