“Tattooed Professor” Plays a Role in IR Final Exam

Students in Tim Green’s International Relations class took their study of human rights and mass incarceration to Skype this week, engaging in a conversation with Professor of History Dr. Kevin Gannon (a.k.a. the Tattooed Professor), who was a key contributor to the 2016 Oscar-nominated documentary 13th. The film explores the “intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States” and is titled after the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which abolished slavery throughout the U.S. except as a punishment for conviction of a crime.

In the documentary’s opening, former US. President Barack Obama shares a startling statistic: while the U.S. has only 5% percent of the world’s population, it houses 25% of the world’s incarcerated.

Mr. Green said he chose to incorporate this type of Skype conversation into the group’s final exam “to show that rigor and the acquisition of knowledge can be equally, if not more, engaging to that of traditional test-taking.”

The students prepared for the final with a reading on the state of human rights in the world today and screened three films which show mass incarceration on a global scale (13th, Surviving Chinese Uighur Camps, and Canada’s Dark Secret). They were then tasked with creating two to four questions, one of which they would pose to Dr. Gannon during the Skype conversation.

“I hope the students have a more nuanced understanding of a very complex and pervasive system that has historically targeted certain communities throughout the world,” said Mr. Green. “In understanding this, I hope they are able to think of ways to fix these issues, making the world a better place for all in the process.”