When Professor Sally J. Kenney, the new executive director of the Newcomb College Institute, went to Dallas in January to visit Martha Kimmerling (NC-63) she expected to converse about literature and art. Martha Kimmerling after all had been an English major who had just generously fully endowed the Zale-Kimmerling writer-in-residence program. Not only was Kimmerling a docent at the Dallas Museum, but her beautiful home was a museum itself, full of beautiful artifacts. But Kimmerling was also a strong supporter of the Dallas Women’s Foundation and particularly concerned about domestic violence. Her daughter Amy had married a batterer and just completed the difficult process of extricating herself from her marriage and pursued criminal charges against him. Kimmerling and Kenney ended up discussing how Tulane University might better prepare young women to avoid such dangerous relationships given every woman thinks it will never happen to her. The sobering statistics show otherwise.
After reading the memoir Kimmerling recommended, Leslie Morgan Steiner’s Crazy Love, and crying her eyes out, Kenney reached out to Law Professor Tania Tetlow, director of the Domestic Violence Clinic, who had served on the search committee that hired Kenney. Although many Tulane faculty had expertise on violence against women, the University offered no course on domestic violence for undergraduates. Tetlow suggested they meet with Social Work Professor Fred Buttell. The author of more than 40 scholarly articles on domestic violence, Buttell has a national reputation in domestic violence intervention research and has lectured widely. His innovative research extends to the moral capacity of batterers and the cultural sensitivity of intervention projects. Tetlow and Buttell were also hugely popular teachers. The three shared a commitment to women’s equality as well as a raucous sense of humor and became pals. With Louisiana having the highest rate of femicides of any states, Tetlow was often in the news decrying how courts failed to protect a woman who was subsequently killed by her abuser and recommending important legal and policy changes. And a murder of a Social Work student brought the issue, once again, to the campus.
At her previous position as director of the Center on Women and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota, Kenney had planned for an interdisciplinary course that pulled together the numerous experts on violence against women, only two which ever offered a course. Kenney had also written a public policy teaching case study about a battered women’s shelter in Iowa City that had survived attempts to close it after it was discovered one of its staff members and former clients was using an alias and on the run with her children in violation of a custody order http://www.hhh.umn.edu/centers/wpp/case_studies.html#kenney1. Kenney was drawn to Tulane University because of its innovative leadership in service learning and, as NCI director, was determined to encourage the development of more service learning courses partnered with women’s groups.
With the generous support of the Department of Political Science, the School of Liberal Arts, and the Center for Public Service a new service learning course was born: POLS 6950 Law and Politics of Domestic Violence. Under Tetlow’s close supervision, students will monitor domestic violence cases in court while engaging the interdisciplinary scholarship on violence. The three faculty members aim at nothing less than enlisting a cohort of the next generation to stop what experts now characterize as a slow homicide, in short, an end to violence against women.
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