Human Rights Lectures Take Off With ‘Star Trek’

UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May Is Featured Speaker at Sacramento Event

Gary S. May
Chancellor Gary S. May. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

The University of California, Davis, Human Rights Lecture Series takes off with a talk about Star Trek, exploring how the television series and movies can help explore human rights topics.

“Star Trek/Human Rights: To Boldly Go to Human Rights for All” on Dec. 4 starts the three-event series with UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May and Human Rights Studies Director Keith David Watenpaugh of the College of Letters and Science. The discussion 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. The 7 p.m. talk will be held at the Crocker Art Museum, 216 O St., Sacramento. This is the first time one of the talks has been held in Sacramento. Admission is free.

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

Watenpaugh will deliver the primary program topic followed by a discussion period with the chancellor.

Both scholars are longtime 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 his 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 the issues raised in Star Trek in several of his classes.

Advance registration is suggested for this free, public event.

The series continues through the winter, with a second and third lecture taking place 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, and Marian Schlotterbeck, assistant professor of history, both of UC Davis.

Media Resources

Jeffrey Day, College of Letters and Science, 530-219-8258,

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