Faculty forum addresses relations with Cuba

February 9, 2015
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PLATTEVILLE, Wis. —Three University of Wisconsin-Platteville professors recently discussed issues surrounding the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba at a faculty forum, “End of an Embargo? Understanding a Changing Cuba,” at UW-Platteville. Approximately 50 students, faculty, staff and community members attended the forum.

Forum presenters included Dr. Travis Nelson, associate professor of political science; Dr. Melissa Gormley, associate professor of history and chair of the department of geography, the department of history and the women’s and gender studies program; and Professor Wendy Brooke, assistant professor in the School of Business.

On Dec. 17, 2014, President Barack Obama announced the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba and declared an end to America’s “outdated approach” to the communist island, in a historic shift aimed at ending a half-century of Cold War enmity. The reactions to his announcement were mixed and strong. Cuba and the United States have been at odds since Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, though polls show that a majority of Americans would like to re-establish normal relations with Cuba.

Presenters discussed the historical context of United States/Cuba relations, arguments for and against the current Cuba policy as well as the arguments for and against changing that policy. They also discussed the current privatization trends taking place in the country, including the impact of tourism, remittances and private business.

“The economic embargo against Cuba is an outdated policy that has not fundamentally changed since it was implemented in 1960,” said Nelson. “Americans in general, and Cuban-Americans specifically, now favor opening diplomatic relations with Cuba, and there are much better and less blunt means of dealing with the country’s lingering human rights problems.”

“Cuba has always been imagined by North Americans,” said Gormley. “The ‘opening’ of Cuba will allow citizens from the United States to better understand the island on its terms. It will also allow Cubans the opportunity to tell their story.”

“We need to be careful of evaluating Cuba’s changes from our reference point,” said Brooke. “Fifty years of a command economy can’t be changed overnight.  The current privatization trends taking place in Cuba are providing an opportunity to re-launch economic reform for the nation.”

UW-Platteville has organized a short-term study experience in Cuba for students and community members in May. Anyone interested in studying in Cuba through this program needs to apply by March 1. For more information about the program, contact Melissa Beegle, interim program coordinator, UW-Platteville Education Abroad, at 608-342-6151 or beeglem@uwplatt.edu or visit the website.

As UW-Platteville pursues its vision of being recognized as the leading student-focused university for its success in achieving excellence, creating opportunities and empowering each individual, it is guided by four strategic planning priorities. The faculty forum and short-term study experience for students and community members aligns with three of the priorities, including providing an outstanding education, fostering a community of achievement and respect and enriching the tri-state region.

Written by: Laurie Hamer, College of Liberal Arts and Education, 608-342-6191, hamerl@uwplatt.edu

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