Professor Katherine Beckett Appointed to Seattle Human Rights Commission

Late this past spring, LSJ Professor Katherine Beckett submitted an application to be one of the new commissioners on the Seattle Human Rights Commission.

Then, she left for Amsterdam to co-teach a study abroad course.

Upon her return, she was not expecting to be part of the group; she had been unable to be part of the selection process in her time away. So when she heard from Chris Stearns, the chair of the Commission, she was surprised.  Her application was still alive, in part because she was supported by a member of the Seattle City Council.

“I got an email from Chris Stearns, and he said, ‘We’d really like you to do it,’” Beckett said. Though she had mixed feelings about taking the position at first because of the time commitment, she decided to go for it. She started her two-year term last month.

Beckett is among six new commissioners this year for the group, which consists of a total of fifteen members. The group promotes and protects the human rights of Seattle residents and brings international affairs down to a local scope.

“It’s a very active group,” Beckett said. “The city has many commissions, and they’re all very active. The trouble is human rights encompass everything, so we’re pretty busy. There’s a lot of joining forces.”

More recently, the Seattle Human Rights Commission worked with the Seattle LGBT Commission and others to put together an “It Gets Better” video to reach out to LGBT members of the community, especially youth.

Beckett’s interest in the Commission stems from the work that she loves doing. As an active participant in some public discussions in the city, she had seen the Commission at work prior to her application.

“They were doing really good work and they were everywhere. They have a lot of access to the Seattle City Council, which takes the voices of the commissions really seriously,” she said. “It seemed like a good place to bring together the research interests that I have with an effort to reach out to policymakers and inform those discussions.”

Though ideas for the Commission’s work sometimes come from the citizenry, the commissioners are usually the ones to suggest projects, often for issues they have been following themselves. Each issue is vetted to make sure that it is something that can be dealt with on a local level, and also to make sure that whatever must be done is within the Commission’s power.

“We figure out if it’s really a human rights issue, and if it’s something that makes sense for the local commission to take a stand on,” Beckett said. “If those two conditions are met and people are interested in it, then we do it.” At the first meeting that she attended and participated in, they ended up with 20 projects. Though some are as simple as writing a letter, others will span over a number of years.

It is work that LSJ students might be interested in; the Commission is currently putting together an internship for students. Since the group’s work requires a thorough knowledge of the issues at hand, students would be able to help with the research aspects of the job to inform the reports and memos the commission writes to bring across its ideas.

“We are looking for interns for January, in winter quarter,” Beckett said.

Though this is just the beginning of her two years on the commission, Beckett is excited for what is in store for her future in the group.

“It’s interesting. I’m learning a lot,” she said. “It’s going to be fun.”


This article was composed by Kristine Kim.