First Day of Class

9:00 – 9:30 a.m.

It’s not obvious from the photo to the left, but we started each class day getting coffee/tea and biscuits (or some morning food). Subsequently, as can be seen in the photo, right after everyone was settled with their morning coffee, we gathered in a large circle around the classroom.

Charlie (standing) introduced himself, followed by Brian (to Charlie’s right) and Prof. MacLachlan (to Charlie’s left, in blue). Each gave a brief personal introduction, which included their experiences in negotiation and mediation.

This was followed by each students’ personal introduction. For this (and to begin with an exercise in listening), students broke off into pairs and talked about themselves for just a few moments with each other. After which we all returned to the large circle, and each student introduced the partner that they were speaking with a few minutes earlier.

Later in the day, Charlie gave an overview of mediation, including its applications, benefits, and methods. After which, he (with volunteers) gave a prepared mediation demo so students could have a first impression of what a mediation might look like. Following the demo, there was a discussion regarding many aspects and issues that arose during the mock mediation, before we ended our first day.

Monday Evening

As every evening during the rest of the week would be busy, we went out to have dinner as a group that first evening. It can be argued that during the term, before going to Scotland, our group got along very well, but as a whole, we hadn’t really bonded outside of the classroom much. This first evening was the beginning of that dynamic completely changing, so much so, that by the end of the trip a much deeper relationship existed between us; well beyond “oh, that’s someone that I have class with once a week.”

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Ross Priory & Loch Lomond


The program organisers, Bryan Clark and Prof. Charlie Irvine, from the University of Strathclyde, arranged an outing and barbecue at Ross Priory, the university’s recreation and conference centre, located on the shores of Loch Lomond.

At the outset, it seemed like complete confusion. Because it was the Sunday prior to the first class meeting, there was a fair bit of confusion as to where to meet to make our way to Ross Priory; the University of Strathclyde covers a very large area!

After a short time and a few phone calls, most people were gathered outside of the library, by the Lord Hope Building (which, coincidentally, is where classes were held, starting the next day).

At Ross Priory, most of the John Marshall students and many of the University of Strathclyde students who attended made initial introductions, and enjoyed barbecue cuisine expertly prepared by our master chef, Prof. Charlie Irvine!

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South Africa: Visit to the Apartheid Museum

On our last day in South Africa, we visited the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. Two days prior we had been to the Constitutional Court; during that visit we got a sense of the future of the country and the transformative nature of their constitution. With our visit to the Apartheid museum we looked to the past and marveled at the incredible transformation South Africa has already undergone.  As we entered the Apartheid museum, we were issued small, laminated pass cards with different racial classifications printed in English and Afrikaans. We passed through metal gates and partitioned corridors as a recreation of traveling during Apartheid. Along the path up the museum there are images of significant anti-Apartheid advocates cast in mirrored glass, unlabeled and pictured walking up the slope as if on a pilgrimage. Among them we spotted George Bizos, the distinguished human rights lawyer we had met just a few days before. Read More »

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South Africa: Constitutional Court Visit

We have officially reached the end of the seminar portion of our trip, and now it’s time to sit back and relax! We have learned so much in the last four days, and have been fortunate enough to experience first hand the inner workings of the South African court system and surrounding organizations. The government agencies, NGOs, and other systems we have encountered are feverishly dedicated to improving the lives, culture, concerns, struggles, deficiencies, and triumph of the South African people, achieving their purposes through the incredible and unique Constitution of South Africa. Read More »

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South Africa: Clinical Meetings

A major component of the program is our clinical work.  One of the most exciting and unique elements of this work is that we are performing it in conjunction with LLM students at the University of Pretoria. The clinical work covers the spectrum of human rights, from gender equality problems to communication studies.  Students are working in teams of two or three with small groups from the University of Pretoria. Today we had the opportunity to meet our counterparts, and the bonds formed were amazing. The significance of the work we are performing is so exciting to both groups. We will be preparing this research and reports for NGOs and other influential bodies as they attempt to improve the human rights situation across the continent. An interesting note is that for as much work that has to be done in South Africa, there were issues that our counterparts assumed were clearly provided for in the United States, including housing, health care, and privacy laws. By the end of the meeting everyone was hugging and taking photographs with their new friends. Skype meetings are getting scheduled, and though it’s strange to say we can’t wait to get back, these assignments are so exciting and new friends are so wonderful that we all want to get going on the work.

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South Africa: South African Human Rights Commission

This morning we visited the South African Human Rights Commission which has the responsibility of promoting, protecting, and monitoring human rights in South Africa. The Commission’s mandate is to address those human rights violations that have been brought to its attention by individuals and organizations. The Commission takes a dual approach to addressing human rights through its legal services department and training and education program. The training and education program takes a proactive approach by visiting rural communities and educating them on human rights guaranteed by the Constitution through public programs and seminars. Unlike the United States, the South African literacy rate is much lower among its citizens. Read More »

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South Africa: Progressive Realization

The concept of “progressive realization” came up at several points during our visits today, particularly at the South African Human Rights Commission and the Legal Resources Center. The socioeconomic rights in the South African Constitution are somewhat criticized as being something less than “real” because they are framed in terms of access (e.g., “the right to access to housing”) and the government is not tasked with directly granting them access, but only toward working to their “progressive realization.” South Africans respond to this by saying that they are real rights, though a person may not have access to a house, the people have a right to holding the government to this obligation of working toward this progressive realization. Though the legislative and executive branches of the South African government have made assertions about the meaning of this concept and their obligations, the South African judiciary has been hesitant about fixing a particular definition to it. Now South African jurists and leaders must decide what progressive realization should require or whether there is some utility to leaving the definition vague. Read More »

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South Africa: Orphanage Visit

Today, our group paid a very special visit to the Cotlands Orphanage in Johannesburg. It was our first stop of the day after arriving early Monday morning at Johannesburg Airport, following three days of wonderful sightseeing around Cape Town. Although we initially expected to visit the orphanage at an alternate location, we found our way quickly and efficiently to the proper place, and were excited to deliver the many donations and gifts we had brought with us from Chicago. Rochelle, a director of the orphanage, greeted our group with open arms, immediately thanking us when she saw the many suitcases that contained our donations. While we knew it would feel special to provide such items  as toys, pens, paper, and other important supplies, it was the chance to discuss the many important issues that surrounded the orphanage that may have been the most memorable.    Read More »

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South Africa: Last Day in Cape Town

Today was a busy day for the group. We started the morning in a cheetah and bird conservatory. The bird center was a rehabilitation and release facility for injured and rescued birds. The facility had three baby owls that had been rescued from a demolished home, and were abandoned by their mother. The owls were being taught to fly over a period of several days and would be released soon. These wildlife programs were very interesting. Read More »

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South Africa: Cape of Good Hope, Cape of Storms

Today the class went on a tour of some of the natural wonders of Cape Town. We saw the Cape of Good Hope and a penguin colony. Stunning plant life covered the rock faces and hills over hanging the cape. South Africa is home to what is geographically the smallest plant kingdom, but it is also one of the most diverse, comprised of 7,500 plant species in total! South Africa’s government is currently working to restore the fine brush native to the region, and is ridding the area of foreign and invasive species. In particular, the Australian Eucalyptus which, when fully matured, takes approximately 200 liters of water from the soil each day, far more than the ecosystem can afford. Read More »

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