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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

CT governor appoints QU professor to state human rights commission

Photo contributed by Sujata Gadkar-Wilcox

In August, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont appointed Sujata Gadkar-Wilcox, an associate professor of legal studies and the chair of justice and law at Quinnipiac University, to the state’s Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.

The CHRO — the oldest state governmental civil rights agency — aims to eliminate discrimination and establish equal opportunity through civil and human rights law enforcement, as well as advocacy and education.

“The Commission of Human Rights and Opportunities promotes a culture of equality in Connecticut and actively protects human rights,” Gadkar-Wilcox wrote in a statement to The Chronicle. “It is the only agency in the state empowered to enforce civil rights statutes.”

This culture of equality, Gadkar-Wilcox said, exists by hearing individual claims of employment discrimination, promoting fair housing policies and ensuring that state agencies are promoting inclusive policies and practices.

The CHRO is responsible for enforcing laws that ban discrimination, monitoring compliance with affirmative action in state contracting and conducting educational outreach for Connecticut residents.

In fiscal year 2022-23, there were over 2,100 complaints, according to the CHRO annual case processing report.

Gadkar-Wilcox serves as a commissioner and a member of the appointed board. Her position oversees the work of the regional staff offices, which receive and resolve cases of individuals who believe they were illegally discriminated against.

“Professor Gadkar-Wilcox has dedicated her entire career both in and out of the classroom to drawing the world’s attention to human rights issues,” said Sarah Annabi, a second-year law student who has taken four of Gadkar-Wilcox’s classes on human rights.

Gadkar-Wilcox, who has taught classes on human rights and constitutional law, pursues research on the fundamental rights and principles of justice that are mentioned in the U.S. Constitution and throughout international law.

“Studying human rights has to go beyond the classroom,” Gadkar-Wilcox wrote. “It has been important for me to ensure the work we do on an academic campus has some direct connection and relevance to local communities.”

She said she wants students to consider how to apply the principles learned in class to help communities advocate for social and economic policies addressing human rights violations. Gadkar-Wilcox believes that her position on the CHRO will provide her with the opportunities to learn how nondiscrimination laws in employment, housing and public accommodations are enforced.

“I look forward to taking this knowledge back to my students, and connecting it back to my own research in human rights and constitutional law,” Gadkar-Wilcox said.

Gadkar-Wilcox studied constitutional values in India as a Fulbright scholar between 2015 and 2017. Prior to teaching at Quinnipiac, she was the director of a non-profit legal education organization and worked in the field of legal studies as a litigation associate.

In addition to teaching classes on human rights, Gadkar-Wilcox has been the Executive Director of the Oxford Consortium for Human Rights since 2017, coordinating human rights workshops and building strategy to partner with universities as well as establishing opportunities for students to connect with a network of global peers and scholars.

Annabi participated in a workshop hosted by the Oxford Consortium, which Gadkar-Wilcox introduced her to. Under her advisement, Annabi and three other Quinnipiac students presented on human trafficking in Connecticut and learned how to navigate potential solutions with human rights advocates.

“Gadkar-Wilcox inspires students and constituents to participate in activities that fuel a sense of community,” Annabi said. “She makes those around her realize that community service and participation are not burdens, but privileges and pleasures.”

Gadkar-Wilcox is the founder and director of the Global Engagement Fellows Program and the University’s Mock Trial Program when she first began teaching at Quinnipiac in 2011.

“Programs such as the Global Engagement Fellows Program enable students to take principles they learn in the classroom and build collaborative partnerships with community organizations,” Gadkar-Wilcox said. “This shows students the ways in which the law can serve as a tool for social justice.”

The Global Engagement Fellows Program’s goals aligns with those of the Oxford Consortium. It was created as a forum for students to discuss human rights and how to facilitate human rights issues on local, state, national and international levels. The emphasis of addressing human rights issues in the local community is important to Gadkar-Wilcox.

“The Global Engagement Fellows wouldn’t have existed (without) Sujata,” said Jill Martin, a professor of legal studies who has known Gadkar-Wilcox since she was hired at Quinnipiac. 

When Gadkar-Wilcox arrived at Quinnipiac, Martin was the chair of the justice and law department and remembers the passion and enthusiasm Gadkar-Wilcox demonstrated in her first semester of teaching.

“The first semester she was there, she came to me and said ‘Can I start a mock trial?’” Martin said. “She really is passionate about what she believes in. This position at the Commission is a perfect match for her at the state level because she has the expertise and scholarship in the area both practical and research.”

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