Rob Crawford: Human Rights Now More Than Ever

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Founding faculty member Rob Crawford has been recognized by UW and Mike Honey has provided an appreciation of his colleague.

The UW Retirement Association has recognized UW retiree Dr. Rob Crawford with the 2018 UW-UWRA Retiree Excellence in Community Service Award.

The annual award, first presented in 2015, has until this year recognized retirees from only UW’s Seattle campus. Crawford is the first retiree to be honored whose career was centered at a campus other than Seattle.

Crawford came to UW Tacoma at the very beginning. He was one of 13 founding faculty to start teaching when the campus opened in temporary downtown Tacoma quarters in 1990. He taught in what was then known as Liberal Studies, the predecessor of today’s School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences. Crawford retired in 2016.

Another founding faculty member, Dr. Michael Honey, has provided an appreciation of Crawford, presented below.

Dr. Robert Crawford, UW Tacoma founding faculty member, 2018 UW-UWRA Excellence in Community Service honoree

Rob Crawford: Human Rights Now More Than Ever

By Michael Honey

Our University of Washington Tacoma has a raft of great faculty and students working on human rights issues. This spring, for example, the UW honored Professor Danica Sterud Miller, who teaches literature and Native American studies, with a Distinguished Teaching Award. She has forged new paths in teaching, recovering and reviving the Lushootseed language and the heritage and history of the Puyallup Tribe. One can hardly mention the word human rights without learning about the people upon whose lands UW Tacoma exists.

UW also honored Rob Crawford as emeritus faculty for his outstanding human rights work that challenges many of our dominant narratives. As someone who served with Rob in founding the UW Tacoma campus in 1990, I want to remind people of his contributions. Rob created courses that confronted students with some of the most difficult topics of our time, including “AIDS and American Society,” “Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust,” and “War and Culture,” among others. He received the UW Tacoma Distinguished Teaching Award in 1996.

At a time of great peril for human rights following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Rob went into high gear, teaching a course on “Torture and Human Rights,” and researching and writing about the U.S. government’s use of torture, kidnapping and “rendition.” Following revelations of American torture practices in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Guantanamo prison, Rob founded the Washington State Religious Campaign Against Torture, which he still facilitates.  He worked on all three campuses as part of the UW Center for Human Rights. He forged new scholarship and used his scholarly authority to organize forums, write articles, support court challenges, and to demand an end to war crimes and torture in the name of freedom.

Professor emeritus Crawford continues on, recently publishing op-eds on the nomination and approval of Gina Haspel, who previously ran a CIA black site that used torture, as President Donald Trump’s Director of the CIA. He points out that Republicans and Democrats alike remain complicit as long as they fail to challenge human rights abuses in contravention of international law. He also writes that “it is not enough to be against torture.” In a statement that seems so relevant to our times, he writes that “single-issue politics may give way to movements that link militarism with racism, poverty, environmental degradation and pervasive violence.” 

Rob’s perspective as a teacher, scholar, and citizen always prioritizes democratic action. “Accountability will not come from the top,” he writes, but comes instead “from people taking on the political responsibility of a moral politics, people willing to perceive injustice and then give voice to their opposition.” Rob and I have discussed such issues on long hikes in the Cascade Mountains and in a few anti-war marches as well. Saludos to Rob Crawford, a UW Tacoma founder who continues his admirable marathon for human rights, beyond the classroom and into the public domain.

Dr. Michael Honey, Fred & Dorothy Haley Professor of Humanities, University of Washington Tacoma
Michael Honey is the Fred and Dorothy Haley Professor of Humanities at the University of Washington Tacoma.

Written by: 
John Burkhardt / June 12, 2018
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or