Academic Freedom in Venezuela Panel

Titsworth Marjorie Leff Miller ’53 Lecture Hall

Open to the public

/ Friday


Come join us for an evening filled with seven incredible panelists talking with Sarah Lawrence and the surrounding communities about academic freedom in Venezuela. This panel is hosted by SLCforSAR, an advocacy group concerned with violations of academic freedom in Venezuela. There will be a bake sale prior to the start of the panel with funds donated to Aula Abierta, a Venezuelan human rights organization founded by David Gómez Gamboa, one of our panelists.


David Gómez Gamboa is the Director of Open Classroom (Aula Abierta Venezuela), an organization that promotes academic freedom and freedom of expression in Venezuela through conferences, forums, and a weekly radio program dedicated to discussion of democracy and human rights. He is a lawyer who graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Zulia with a degree in Social Communication. He graduated Cum Laude from Universidad Católica Cecilio Acosta in 2008. David has also been a professor at the University of Zulia and Rafael Urdaneta University. He is currently Director of Extension of the Faculty of Legal and Political Sciences of the University of Zulia, and Academic Coordinator of the Doctorate in Political Science at the University of Zulia. He is also Coordinator of the Inter-Institutional Human Rights Commission of the University of Zulia and the Rafael Urdaneta University, which he represented before the UN Committee against Torture in Geneva in November 2014, before the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva in June and July 2015. David is additionally an accredited researcher of the PEII Research Stimulus Program. He was Legal Consultant of the Municipal Council of Maracaibo from 2007 to 2014.

Laura Cristina Dib Ayesta is a lawyer and human rights activist who is currently a student at the University of Notre Dame, in the LL.M. Program in International Human Rights Law. She attended the Universidad Metropolitana in Caracas, Venezuela and graduated in 2016, earning both a law and a bachelor of liberal studies degree. During her time at college, she interned at the firm Consultores Jurídicos Ayala, Dillon, Fernández, Linares & Chavero. After she graduated college, she worked as a junior lawyer there. As a junior lawyer, Laura prepared individual complaints and requests for precautionary measures before international treaty bodies in so many important cases that were symbolic of huge human rights violations in Venezuela. During college, Laura also led and oversaw the Society of International Law and co-founded an organization called Apoyo UNIMET to assist and defend students who were being detained during the demonstrations against the Venezuelan government. In 2017, she did an internship at the Organization of American States (OAS) Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and worked for the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.

Niurka Meléndez and Héctor Arguinzones are Venezuelan human rights activists who have been working with various community organizations in New York City to welcome and support the city’s growing Venezuelan diaspora community. Together, they founded Venezuelan Immigrants Aid, which is an organization that connects newly arrived Venezuelans to social services and organizations that can assist them. The VIA serves as a bridge between organizations that help immigrants and the Venezuelan diaspora.

Dr. Angelina Jaffe Carbonell is a Venezuelan lawyer and professor of international law, human rights, and maritime law. She earned her law degree from the Universidad Central de Venezuela, and her Master’s and PhD degrees from the Université Paris 1 PanthéonSorbonne. Along with graduating from college summa cum laude and très honorable mention, she was also granted the Roberto Goldschmidt Award. She has taught at numerous universities, including Universidad Central de Venezuela, Universidad Simón Bolívar, Universidad de los Andes, Universidad de Carabobo, Universidad Rafael Urdaneta, and Universidad Metropolitana, where she served as head of the Department of International Relations, director of the Law School, and director of the Human Rights Center. In addition, Angelina was the adviser of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Gesellschaft fur Techniche Zusammenarbeit. Angelina is the author of publications on international law, human rights, and maritime law and has been awarded fellowships by the Universidad Central de Venezuela, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France, and the International Red Cross.

Yonatan Matheus and Wendel Oviedo are LGBT rights defenders and co-founders of Venezuela Diversa, a nongovernmental organization that promotes and defends the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex people. Their advocacy has focused on discrimination and unequal treatment against LGBT persons, human rights violations against trans women who are also sex workers, and hate crimes and police brutality against LGBT people. They left Venezuela in 2016, after receiving multiple threats to their safety.

Janet Reilly will be moderating the panel. Janet is a guest faculty member in politics and Director of Refugee Initiatives at Sarah Lawrence College. She received a PhD and MA in political science from the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center, and a MSt in forced migration from the University of Oxford. She previously taught at Queens College (CUNY) and has worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Turkey, Save the Children Foundation in Ethiopia, and Lutheran Family Services’ Refugee Resettlement Program in the United States. Recent publications include articles in Refugee Survey Quarterly, Human Rights Review, and Refuge, and a chapter in Africa and Its Global Diaspora: The Policy and Politics of Emigration (Palgrave Macmillan 2017). Her current research project, co-authored with Dr. Shawna Brandle, is a comparative content analysis of media coverage of refugees.