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Kaye enhances law school’s presence in China

August 30, 2007

Professor David Kaye is spending the academic year away from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, teaching international human-rights law and other subjects in a country often criticized for its human-rights record.

Kaye, a Regents’ Professor of Law and a professor of life sciences, will be the Freeman Foundation Visiting Professor of American Law at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies in China. The center, a joint venture of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and Nanjing University, attracts American and other English-speaking students who live and study together with Chinese students in the historic city of Nanjing.

International students there focus on contemporary China and are taught by Chinese professors in Mandarin, while Chinese students study the United States and the international system in English with American professors.

Kaye, an internationally recognized expert on scientific evidence and statistical methods in law, is among seven American faculty members chosen by the center this year. Their expertise is in law, political science, history and economics.

Kaye will teach courses in law and science, the American legal system, and the history and philosophy of Western law, as well as international human-rights law.

“It’s a sensitive topic in China,” he says, referring to the U.S. Department of State’s human rights reports that have criticized China for repression of ethnic minorities, torture and executions, and other misconduct. He noted that China has responded by citing the mistreatment of prisoners and civilians in Iraq, U.S. crime rates, poverty, racial discrimination, police brutality and false stories in newspapers as American human-rights violations.

Kaye said he is looking forward to discussing with modern Chinese students their outlook on human rights, and learning whether they embrace the Western world’s view of them.

He will alter a course on “Law in a Technological Society,” which he’s taught at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, to focus on law and medicine, bioethics, forensics, and other technologies and scientific developments that are pertinent to modern China.
“The Chinese are interested in learning about the regulation of technology, environmental, protection, genetically modified foods, and the international regulation of such matters,” Kaye says.

The prestigious Johns Hopkins program recruited Kaye as a result of his earlier teaching in China. He first traveled there in 2003 as a Fulbright professor at the Wuhan University law school in the province of Hubei, in central China, and taught the first courses in U.S. evidence and scientific evidence offered in China.

In the spring of 2004, Kaye taught an evidence course at Sichuan University in Chengdu, in western China.

His classes in Wuhan and Chengdu had 30 to 50 students in them and lasted three hours per class. He found Chinese students to be more respectful – and also more reluctant to speak out in class – than their American counterparts.

“During the breaks, they would come up to me to ask questions, but they didn’t want to do that in front of the group,” Kaye says. “I think they were concerned about losing face. They also said that it was impolite to interrupt a professor.”

In 2005, he returned to China at the invitation of the Beijing Genomics Institute to serve on the faculty of an international workshop on forensic DNA evidence for Chinese law enforcement officials. In 2006, Kaye joined the Board of Foreign Advisers of the newly formed Institute of Evidence and Forensic Science at the Chinese University of Politics and Law in Beijing.

Kaye, who speaks “very rudimentary Chinese – enough to be polite, to order food, and buy a bus or train ticket,” he says – and his wife, Nancy, are looking forward to reuniting with friends made in China and traveling the countryside.

During the year, Kaye also plans to complete two new books. One that will be published by Harvard University Press is a legal history of DNA evidence. The other, to be published by Yale University Press, analyzes civil liberties and criminal procedural issues posed by DNA evidence.
Kaye’s appointment to the Nanjing faculty expands the College of Law’s connections to China. In recent years, David Kader taught torts at Wuhan University, and Charles Calleros presented a short course in common law reasoning to law students at the Wuhan University of Economics and Law.

Chinese law professors from Hubei have studied American law at the college, which also has, or is establishing, faculty exchange programs with Sichuan University and Shanghai Jiaotong University.