Human Rights Lecture Series Takes Off With Star Trek

Human rights lecture series artwork

The University of California, Davis, Human Rights Lecture Series takes off with a talk about “Star Trek,” featuring new UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May. “Star Trek/Human Rights: To Boldly Go to Human Rights for All” on Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento features May in conversation with UC Davis Human Rights Studies Director Keith David Watenpaugh.

It is the first of a three-event human rights lecture series and the first time one of the talks has been held in Sacramento. The talk is free and open to the public. 

The talk will explore how the ideas and topics raised by the “Star Trek” television series and movies can be a teaching tool for human rights topics and barometer of where we stand on human rights. “Linking human rights

gary may
Chancellor Gary S. May

issues to a familiar and beloved popular cultural phenomenon creates a starting point for conversations about a difficult topic,” Watenpaugh said.

Watenpaugh, a professor in the College of Letters and Science, will deliver the primary program topic; then he and the chancellor will discuss and exchange ideas. Both scholars are long-time fans of “Star Trek.”

May has said comic books, science fiction and especially “Star Trek” led to his early interest in science and technology. He earned a doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science from UC Berkeley in 1991, then started his career at the Georgia Institute of Technology where he last served as dean of the College of Engineering.

Watenpaugh has used themes explored in “Star Trek” in several of his classes.

The series continues at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis:

  • Jan. 25, 7 p.m. “Confederate Monuments, Civil Rights Memorials and Civic Values” with Dell Upton, art history chair at UCLA and Ari Kelman, associate dean and history professor, UC Davis.
  • March 8, 7 p.m. “The Trial Nobody Expected: Torture, Music and Human Rights in the Americas” with Steven Stern, professor emeritus of history, University of Wisconsin, Madison; Michael Lazzara, associate professor and director of graduate studies, Human Rights Studies and Spanish and Portuguese, UC Davis; and Marian Schlotterbeck, assistant professor of history, UC Davis.

— Jeffrey Day, content strategist in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science