Ashley Barton, Roger Williams University
Ashley Barton is a senior Legal Studies major at Roger Williams University who has worked tirelessly on the Scholars at Risk (SAR) initiative—most notably on the case of Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti. During her tenure, Ashley has engaged in discussions with high-level officials in the State Department, many members of Congress, and key voices in the NGO community. She has been instrumental in researching, drafting reports,and presenting results to the campus community and to SAR. A devoted supporter of Ilham’s college age daughter, Ashley has worked closely with a faculty member to edit a book-length interview with Jewher that will be published by the University of New Orleans Press. Over time, Ashley has raised herself out of an apprentice status, and into one of a colleague that SAR and her cooperating faculty member can call on for help with projects, as evidenced by her behind-the-scenes leadership in helping to create SAR’s #freedom2think international awareness campaign–something she will represent during a joint RWU-SAR poster session that was selected by a jury for the NAFSA: Association of International Educators conference. Ashley not only exemplifies the core values of Roger Williams University, but the mission of the Newman Civic Fellows Award in both letter and spirit.
-Donald Farish, President
Through my studies as a pre-law and creative writing double major, I have discovered the connection between social justice and the spoken word. Without freedom of speech or expression we cannot progress as a community, nation, or world. Things do not change unless we speak about changing them, and that is why I have spent the last two years advocating assiduously for protection of these freedoms. Domestically, the platform for freedom of speech and expression is there, but only a fraction of our community members utilize it. My goal is to remind students, professionals, and the rest of our community that this platform exists. I have worked with our legislature to pressure other countries to uphold Articles 18 and 19 of the United Nations’ International Declaration of Human Rights, I have been integral in a Turkish woman’s release from a two-year unlawful detainment, and I have worked with Scholars at Risk to promote academic freedom. I have done these things not solely for the individual I am helping but to remind the community that using peaceful dialogue to create change is welcomed in this country and that forgetting its availability is as shameful as the foreign governments that restrict it.