Q+A: Pitt Law Professor Publishes Book on Iraq's Constitution

Instructor and scholar Haider Ala Hamoudi this fall put out a work detailing the backstory of the drafting of the document.

Pitt law professor sets example, publishes book
Haider Ala Hamoudi, an American-born Iraqi descendant, associate professor and associate dean at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, could be considered a humanitarian in his own right. Pitt’s junior law students may know him for his three-credit Islamic Law and Jurisprudence Seminar, but he’s more than a scholar and instructor. Hamoudi also is a survivor, author, blogger and legal adviser.

PM editorial intern Gideon Bradshaw recently spoke with Hamoudi about his new book, “Negotiating in Civil Conflict: Constitutional Construction and Imperfect Bargaining in Iraq,” as well as his ambitions.

It’s not often that a scholarly book comes with a backstory that includes the peril and frustration of doing business in a war-torn country. A recent release by a University of Pittsburgh law professor about the drafting of the Iraqi emerged from such a story.

In the immediate aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Haider Ala Hamoudi traveled to Baghdad and opened a law office, expecting foreign investors to flock to the country. Instead of a wave of foreign investment, Hamoudi found himself with a front-row seat to the storm of sectarian violence that engulfed the country.

Though Hamoudi’s plans to start a private law practice proved naive, these experiences fueled other passions in him.

After giving up on private practice, Hamoudi remained in the country for a few years and served on a number of humanitarian projects before coming back to the United States. In 2009, he took a leave of absence from Pitt to return to Iraq to advise the Constitutional Review Committee of the Iraqi Parliament.

Hamoudi’s experiences guided further research into the new Iraqi government, and in “Negotiating in Civil Conflict: Constitutional Construction and Imperfect Bargaining in Iraq,” Hamoudi argues the Iraqi constitution could serve as a guide to other Middle Eastern democracies.

He says this is particularly true for those that have popped up in the wake of the Arab Spring, many of which struggle with ethnic divisions similar to those in Iraq.

Hamoudi’s new book isn’t the first one he has penned about his parents’ homeland. In “Howling in Mesopotamia,” published in 2008, Hamoudi wrote about the danger and difficulty he faced while living in Baghdad during the sectarian conflict and U.S. occupation.

Hamoudi says that though his familial background and experiences in Iraq drove much of the research for “Negotiating in Civil Conflict …,” he wanted the book to be more than a personal account.

“In order to do good, credible scholarly research, [a book] needs to be more than personal or anecdotal,” he says.
— Gideon Bradshaw

Mercyhurst investigates archaeological Ice Age site in Florida
Through its hands-on approach, Mercyhurst University’s Archaeological Institute has provided students with education and research opportunities in locales ranging from Europe to the Near East. On Jan. 6, the institute began a five-month excavation in Vero Beach, Fla., at the Old Vero Man site. It’s known as the location of an early-20th century discovery of human bones dating to the Ice Age, as well as other fossils, artifacts and remains of extinct animals such as mammoths, mastodons, saber-tooth felines and land sloths. Controversy over the timeline of human remains has prompted some to wonder if the remnants are newer than others found in the same spot. To determine whether or not the unearthed animals and humans coexisted during the Ice Age in Florida, the Mercyhurst excavation group will collect further artifacts from the location and transport them for examination at its Erie, Pa., headquarters.
— Krystal Hare, PM Fact-Checker

Affordable college financing a priority for W&J, Grove City
Mid-January brought a lot of national talk about college financing, as the The Wall Street Journal published “More Students Subsidize Classmates' Tuition” and nine Pennsylvania universities joined with other institutions in a pledge, announced during a Washington, D.C. summit, to increase affordable options for students.

In a news release, Grove City College responded to the WSJ article, noting that though financial assistance is available, the Christian university does not increase rates for one student to accommodate such funding as scholarships for peers. Grove City says its costs already are low and mirror the actual price of education; with no added fees, one year of tuition plus room and board totals $22,988, or “less than half the average cost at competing private schools,” according to the school.

After the capital summit, Washington & Jefferson College released new financial plans for low-income students to supplement current financial assistance. On the list is the Good Neighbor program to aid more than 100 students in seven western Pennsylvania counties and Millennial fully funded scholarships for “high ability, low-income students.” There also is a very specific component added for the 2014-15 academic year: A two-part freshman orientation and professional advisor will focus on resumes, interviewing, study-abroad options and students’ financial understanding.

Note: Of the nine Pennsylvania schools included in the Washington, D.C., summit, Carnegie Mellon University and Allegheny College also plan to introduce new low-income student financial assistance options.
— K.H.

Categories: Great Minds