By Maria Kimble, Contributing Writer
West Liberty University Professor Sheli Bernstein-Goff was recently reappointed to a four-year term as a member the West Virginia Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The announcement was made on Sept. 9 by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights staff director, Marlene Sallo.
The US Commission on Civil Rights was created by the Civil Rights Act of 1957. Its job is to inform the development of national civil rights policy and enhance enforcement of federal civil rights laws. The group plans to achieve this goal through objective and comprehensive investigation, research and analysis on issues of fundamental concern to the federal government and the public.
Professor Bernstein-Goff’s role is to advise the Federal government on civil rights issues in the state of West Virginia by thoroughly exploring all of the issues surrounding a chosen civil rights project. They are currently finishing a project that was started in 2013. The current project is examining the treatment of persons with mental disabilities.
“We are exploring the various types of training that state and local law enforcement as well as corrections personnel receive in order to determine if it includes training to effectively and to safely work with persons with mental health issues,” Bernstein-Goff said. They have also reviewed criminal justice system programs that address concerns with the mentally ill population.
“We are not finished with this project,” Bernstein-Goff continued. “Our goals are to inform the public of this issue; and to strengthen federal research on this issue by including state and local perspectives and data.” The advisory committee will meet in October to receive a new project assignment.
She does not know what the next project will be, but she wishes to represent our University’s concerns in this area.
“Anyone reading this article is invited to contact me at [email protected] with any issues regarding alleged deprivation of voting rights or alleged discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, or national origin, or the administration of justice,” she said. She then will take any concerns back to the organization as a suggestion for their next project.
Bernstein-Goff encourages students to become participants in the issues surrounding civil rights as opposed to just being spectators.
“I try to impart the following concepts in my SWK 201 course on Ethnicity, Diversity and Cultural Awareness,” she said. “I want students to understand that individuals can make a difference. Empowerment is the key.”