Upon returning from a week-long academic exchange visit to Cuba, Interim University President James E. Lyons has announced the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) and the University of Havana, indicating that both institutions desire “to establish collaborative relations between the two universities to promote friendship and to cooperate in a mutually beneficial association.”
The agreement with the only public university in the nation’s capital was adopted by Lyons and Havana University Rector, Gustavo Jose Cobreiro-Suarez, and preceded by approximately one week Wednesday’s announcement by President Barack Obama that the United States and Cuba have agreed to open embassies in each other’s capitals and re-establish diplomatic relations for the first time in half a century.
Lyons describes the University of Havana, founded in 1728, as the island nation’s premiere scholastic institution and one of the first to be founded in the Americas. He says the two universities have agreed to develop an exchange program among their academic and administrative staffs; researchers; visiting scholars; and graduate and undergraduate students. He says collaborations are expected to begin in January, 2016.
“The initial areas of agreement will be between UDC’s David A. Clarke School of Law and the Law College at Havana University, where Fidel Castro attended law school more than 70 years ago,” says Lyons. “It was a privilege to spend several days at the law school, where we were briefed by the faculty on the Cuban constitution and statutory laws, their judicial system and several other substantive areas.”
The exchange visit and the resulting agreement between the two Universities was initiated and coordinated by UDC Law School Dean Shelley Broderick, who praised President Obama’s efforts to normalize relations between the two countries. “We are delighted that President Obama has created a pathway for mutual respect and cooperation,” says Broderick, who was also heartened by the Havana law faculty’s strong interest in learning more about our constitution, governance and immigration issues. The Dean expects the development in the near future of short courses, summer courses, and a semester study abroad program.
“One area where we expect to collaborate with the law school is helping them to develop new laws to protect a rapidly growing elderly population, including those related to end-of-life directives, living wills, kinship care and other statutes to ensure that seniors and people faced with terminal illness will have their wishes carried out. ”
Broderick says President Obama has emphasized that the U.S. and Cuba have some shared interests, but that the two nations also have “very serious differences” on civil liberties issues. Consequently, says Broderick, “We’re particularly delighted that they want to learn about our Constitution and some of the rights we hold most dear, including the first amendment rights to free speech, free assembly and religion. It’s a privilege to be the first contemporary American university to sign such a partnership.”
About The University of the District of Columbia
The University of the District of Columbia supports a broad mission of education, research and community service across its colleges and schools: the College of Arts and Sciences; the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences; the School of Business and Public Administration; School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; the Community College; and the David A. Clarke School of Law. The University has been designated as an 1862 federal land-grant institution and a Historically Black College and University.
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The University of the District of Columbia is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, 3624 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, 267.284.5000.