Kuhner, Rowberry, Todres Among 2017 Fulbright Awardees

Fulbright scholars

Three Georgia State Law professors, Jonathan Todres (from left), Timothy K. Kuhner and Ryan Rowberry, were each awarded a 2017 Fulbright for academic study and research in their respective fields.

Three Georgia State Law professors, Timothy K. Kuhner, Ryan Rowberry and Jonathan Todres, were each awarded a 2017 Fulbright for academic study and research in their respective fields.

The Fulbright Program has long been considered the flagship international educational exchange. The program receives thousands of applications from professionals, academics and artists annually from 140 countries.

Tim Kuhner

Kuhner, associate professor of law, teaches primarily in the areas of comparative and international law. Since publishing Capitalism v. Democracy: Money in Politics and the Free Market Constitution (Stanford University Press 2014), Kuhner has given many public lectures throughout Europe and the United States.

His Fulbright Senior Scholarship project centers on the financing of political parties and the regulation of corruption in Western European nations, especially Spain. His upcoming book, Democracy in the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge University Press), will include comparisons of those findings with his findings on the United States.

Fluent in Spanish, Kuhner also plans to teach a seminar at the University of Barcelona, comparing political finance in different countries. The United States ought to be considered a “plutocracy,” based on how campaigns, political parties, and lobbyists are funded almost exclusively by wealthy individuals and business interests, Kuhner said. European nations are better described as a “party-ocracy,” a system of government controlled by political parties, because of the trend of generous public financing controlled by political parties, he said.

As it is now, the major European political parties give themselves incredible amounts of money from the state and exclude minor parties from that bounty, Kuhner said, calling partyocracy “social democracy gone awry.”

“It’s done in the name of equality and representation, but it ends up insulating political parties from the desires in the people,” he added. In contrast, he calls the United States “an extreme example of capitalist democracy, liberal democracy gone awry.”

But wealthy interests often co-opt European politics as well, he said.

“But, if you could only take the best parts of both systems and discard the bad ones,” Kuhner offered, “you might be able to design an approach to elections and lawmaking that takes freedom, equality, and political community seriously—that’s the goal I associate with comparative research on the law of democracy.”

Kuhner said he looks forward to learning from the latest European studies and interviewing experts in the field, including those from the Catalonia (Spain) Anti-Fraud Office, where he has previously been a guest speaker. He will also interview professors, nongovernmental organization officers, leaders in the business community, and activist groups.

This subject lies at the root of most other subjects, he said. “Especially when you’re talking about what governments do and don’t do for the people they rule. You have to ask yourself, why are governments so unaccountable? Why are they so adept at pursuing the private interest? I don’t think most politicians are ignorant, I think they are attuned to the incentives in play—getting the funds they need to win an election or towing the party line. The question is whether you can change elections and party structure in order to promote other incentives—such as accountability to the people and independent leadership on crucial twenty-first century challenges.”

“I’m interested in this because when you look at the United States, you see rising economic and political inequality. You see political platforms and legislative agendas totally out of touch with the public and its problems. In fact, you see rising inequality and legislation in the private interest in most democracies around the world, not just developing democracies,” he said.  “I’m worried about that … these issues are at the heart of whether a democracy is healthy or terminally ill.”

Ryan Rowberry

Rowberry, associate professor of law and co-director for the Center for the Comparative Study of Metropolitan Growth, teaches property law, natural resources law, and Anglo-American Legal History. He also supervises a course called International Perspectives on Urban Law and Policy, which is taught by three visiting foreign professors who provide students with unique perspectives on land use law in other countries.

One visiting professor, Ellen-Margrethe Basse, suggested Rowberry teach a course at Denmark’s Aarhus University. He loved the idea and applied for a Fulbright to fund it.

In July 2018, Rowberry will teach Introduction to U.S. Law for Masters level law students at Aarhus. He also will research and examine laws and policies that govern the protection of cultural heritage in coastal cities. The reason, Rowberry says, is coastal cities are most directly affected by climate change. He will meet with city officials in Europe and United States to discover if and how they protect their cultural heritage as sea levels rise.

As part of Rowberry’s research, he will evaluate whether the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities initiative, a program that is supposed to aid cities in building resilience by funding a chief resilience office for each participating city to work alongside local leaders on climate change and other issues, has adequately considered the protection of priceless cultural heritage. Rowberry plans to meet with 10 resilience officers, including in Denmark, Spain, England, and Germany.

“I want to discover what role, if any, cultural heritage protection has figured into their resilience strategies,” he said. “I don’t expect it has figured prominently in their planning processes, because local governments are often most worried about jobs and houses in times of crisis.”

Yet cultural heritage matters, he said, because it creates jobs, a sense of place and drives tourism. Once his research is finished, Rowberry will write an academic article describing his findings, draft op-eds and complete policy briefs to be shared with government officials on state and local levels.

Jonathan Todres

Todres, professor of law, researches and writes extensively on children’s rights issues and teaches two related courses, Human Rights and Children and Global Perspectives on Children and the Law. Todres also serves as a regular adviser to nongovernmental organizations working on legislative and policy initiatives addressing child trafficking and other children’s rights issues. His Fulbright will focus on innovative strategies for human rights education and the implementation of children’s rights.

“Human rights education produces numerous benefits. Children exposed to it demonstrate the fundamentals of good citizenship and link rights and responsibilities,” he said. “Conversely, children who do not learn about human rights tend to think about rights as entitlements for themselves. Human rights education has also been shown to reduce bullying in schools.”

His research Fulbright includes a semester residency at University College Cork School of Law in Ireland in January 2018. While there, Todres will build on the work he did in his book, Human Rights in Children’s Literature: Imagination and the Narrative of Law, co-wrote with Sarah Higinbotham (Oxford University Press).

“I’m interested in how children learn and understand their own rights and their responsibility to respect the rights of others,” Todres said. “And I am particularly interested in exploring ways to implement human rights education using the spaces children regularly inhabit, like the world of children’s literature.”

Ireland has worked for years to advance children’s rights, making it an ideal setting to study the implementation of children’s rights law, says Todres. “I am particularly excited to be at University College Cork and to have the opportunity to collaborate with others who are passionate about children’s rights.”

Todres plans to meet with numerous scholars and practitioners throughout Ireland who work on children’s rights and who explore human rights in children’s literature. He hopes to build on prior work to expand his research to include global perspectives on human rights in children’s literature and other opportunities to advance children’s rights.