International Migration Review
A conference report by Mark Miller, originally published in Winter 1998
EPIIC is the acronym for Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship, a program of Tufts University's Experimental College which, since 1986, organizes an annual program on an issue of pressing international concern. The 1998 program, Exodus and Exile: Refugees, Migration, and Global Security, was capped by an international symposium which was remarkable for the breadth and excellence of its coverage of international migration-related issues. What was most striking however, was the exemplary quality of the symposium for college and university level teaching about international migration and refugees and, more broadly, about international affairs. Here is a model for other colleges and universities to emulate.
At a juncture when many institutions of higher learning are contemplating reform of undergraduate education and are experimenting with experiential learning as well as with innovative ways to teach about diversity and world affairs, EPIIC gave a lesson. The key is involving students in the organization of a symposium and seeing it through to a successful conclusion. In order to do this, students must learn their subject matter and then apply their knowledge. This is accomplished in an interdisciplinary way and requires a variety of skills of students ranging from public speaking to being able to work together in a group setting. What I saw accomplished at the symposium is what proponents of undergraduate educational reform dream about -- interdisciplinary study, learning in real world non-classroom settings, application of learning to critical issues of the day, engagement of students in ethical dilemmas, debate, study abroad, field research, and writing of high quality research papers which speak to important public policy issues for the U.S. And the rest of the world. Most of the educational techniques so skillfully woven together by EPIIC are within reach of all U.S. Colleges and universities. A foundation could give a major boost to undergraduate education in general and study of global change, diversity and ethical responsibilities in particular by bringing faculty from around the U.S. And indeed the world to observe the EPIIC symposium.
An important focus of the symposium was upon internally displaced persons. Appropriately, Dr. Francis Deng, the Special Representative for the United Nations Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons and the Acting Chairman of the African Leadership Forum, was accorded the Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award and gave the keynote address. Myron Weiner, who played a key role in the symposium and the yearlong program, served as moderator. A moving tribute was paid to the late Rosemarie Rogers by Sharon Stanton Russell, who announced that the working papers series of the Inter-University Committee on International Migration would be named in honor of the late Tufts University immigration scholar. Her family attended several of the symposium functions and a number of the panel discussions, particularly the panel on Permanent Guests? Labor Migration, Citizenship, and Identity recalled Rosemarie Rogers' major contributions to the understanding of international migration.
Trafficking of humans was another important theme. Several students had gone to Nepal and India to study entrapment of Nepalese girls and women in prostitution in India. Journalists from the Dallas Morning News summarized their reporting on people smuggling around the world, accompanied by a slide presentation. This was the first of several photo and film presentation which brought poignancy and a human face to the symposium.
The panel on "Motives and Moving: Global Inequities and Migration" was remarkable for the observations of Morris Miller, the Canadian economist and former Executive Director of the World Bank. Dr. Miller was sharply critical of international agencies and governments for their inattention to the growing gap between developing and developed countries. The gap is larger now than it used to be.
Other panels focused on forced migration and ethnic cleansing. Most of these were regionally-oriented. One such panel examined the role of the press in conflicts like that of Rwanda. A Rwandan human rights activist testified to the key roles played by radio stations and the written press in mass indoctrination followed by mass killing. The panel focusing on population displacement in the former Soviet Union was particularly foreboding. Various panels analyzed conflicts which are hazily understood in the U.S. That have displaced millions of persons and which are unlikely to be resolved without commitment of thousands of peacekeeping troops in hazardous conditions. On the brighter side of the ledger, Professor Hurst Hannum of Tufts contrasted the cases of Russia-Chechnya and Russia-Tartistan to suggest that diplomacy can make a difference. The conflict in Chechnya caused tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of hundreds of thousands. In the Tartistan case, a 1994 treaty between Russia and Tartistan officials defused potential conflict by defining areas of powers.
Several of the panels wrestled with difficult questions pertaining to humanitarian intervention and the roles played by international agencies and NGO's in refugee-producing conflicts. The tour d'horizon of major issues and questions concerning international migration and refugees provided conferees and their audiences with an intense and in-depth education like none other. A typical panel might consist of a Tufts student, a professor, a U.S. Government official, a representative of an international organizations, a representative of a non-governmental organization and two refugees or victims of ethnic cleansing. The perspectives were by and large complementary and nearly always succeeded in giving an eyewitness immediacy to the subject discussed.