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Professor Bert Lockwood and the Urban Morgan Institute Advocate for Human Rights

Professor Bert Lockwood Bert Lockwood, Distinguished Service Professor of Law, teaches Constitutional Law I and a human rights seminar at UC Law, but he wants to talk about that only briefly.  Professor Lockwood has been in the human rights field for over 40 years, and many of his courses revolve around related issues.  In the coming fall, he will be teaching a seminar on economic, social, and cultural rights, which, he points out, are topics that do not get enough attention, even within the human rights field.  Few courses are offered on the subject, and Lockwood is glad to contribute by teaching one at UC.  During his years at UC, the university has taken a greater interest in the human rights field and now offers a human rights certificate program.  Additionally, there are a number of faculty members and graduate students who get together about once a month to discuss human rights-related issues, with a different presenter each meeting. 

Breaking Ground: the Urban Morgan Institute is established

These topics are discussed only briefly, however; what Lockwood really wants to talk about is the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights (UMI), of which he is the Director, and which just celebrated its 30th anniversary.  Thirty years ago, in 1979, he says, he was presented with the challenge and the opportunity to establish the first human rights program at a law school in the world.  UC had received a gift for that purpose and Lockwood was the man for the job.  Since he undertook that challenge, he says, “I have been gratified by the Institute’s experiences and successes, in terms of the quality of students we’ve been able to attract—and their careers—as well as the contributions made to the scholarship and development of international human rights.”

One of the principal achievements of the Institute, he says, is the Human Rights Quarterly (HRQ), which has been a tremendous success and has received world-wide acclaim.  The UMI has had the responsibility of editing the HRQ for 27 years, and Lockwood proudly boasts that the publication is “108 for 108.  In all 108 issues, it has been mailed to its subscribers in the month of publication.  That kind of success is almost unheard of.”  In addition to being available in print the HRQ also is available electronically to institutions around the world. In fact, in 2008 it ranked second out of some 400 publications in terms of the number of downloads via Project Muse.  In addition, HRQ also serves as a great opportunity for students to get involved; first year students can be cite checkers, and second and third year students serve as articles editors.

Another publication for which Lockwood has played an important role is the Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights series, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press and of which he is series editor.  “I began it 20 years ago, with the goal in mind of making it the most important book series in the human rights field.”  In the intervening years, the series has published 63 books, and approximately 40 more are in the works.  He is especially proud of the fact that the series recently published the first book on women’s human rights.  Few law schools have any courses at all on this issue, and Lockwood is hopeful that the existence of this new book will lead to the creation of courses in more places.  “It’s difficult to create a course on a complicated subject from scratch,” he explains, “but when a course plan has been laid out in front of you, you’re more likely to take advantage of that.” 

Advocating for Human Rights Around the World

In addition to the opportunities these publications provide for students, the UMI also sends students abroad to work with various human rights groups around the world.  This summer more than 15 students are taking advantage of this opportunity, working in human rights organizations ranging from the Philippines to England, Bolivia and Austria.  In fact, shortly before meeting for this interview, Lockwood had just returned from a visit to The Hague, where he served as rapporteur for a two-day meeting with primary human rights representatives from many countries.  While there, he met with rising 2L Maribeth Mincey, who is working at The Hague for the summer.  Thanks to Lockwood’s experiences with other human rights organizations, the relationships he has cultivated over the years, and his eminence in the field, Mincey and many other students benefit from these types of opportunities.

Life Outside the UMI

Lockwood says he has little time for much outside of the UMI.  He has twice taken sabbaticals at the University of Essex, which he states has one of the best human rights programs, and he plans to do something similar in the near future.  He, his wife Lynn, and their three children, Dillon, Meredith, and Courtney, have otherwise lived in Clifton since they came to Cincinnati.  Indeed, even most of the travelling that Lockwood does is work-related.  “I have no hobbies,” he said smiling. “I enjoy being swamped with work.  Of course, the workload only increases with our continued successes, but I see that as a positive thing.”