$100,000 donation will aid South Africans studying law at MU

The gift will aid those seeking a master’s degree in dispute resolution.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:08 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

An Arkansas man gave $100,000 to MU’s Law School to enable South African students and faculty to participate in its dispute resolution program.

The money from Geoffrey Oelsner Jr. of Fayetteville will provide grants to students and staff from the University of Western Cape in Cape Town.

Oelsner, who could not be reached Monday, said in a press release that he donated the money because of his mother’s interest in furthering the cause of civil rights.

Most of the money will go to students from South Africa who want the degree of master of laws in dispute resolution and faculty who will lecture and learn about the program, said Leonard Riskin, director of the Center for the Study of Dispute Resolution at MU.

MU’s dispute resolution program, founded in 1984, was the first of its kind, the Law School’s Web site stated. It has been ranked the best in the nation by U.S. News and World Report for five of the last six years.

Dispute resolution seeks to find alternatives to litigation that are not as adversarial and destructive to relationships, said Larry Dessem, dean of the MU law school.

“Our program broadens the way lawyers tend to look at conflict,” Riskin said.

The program attracts students with law degrees from around the world, including one student last year from the University of the Western Cape, Dessem said.

Some of the money will provide a stipend to Christina Wells, a law professor at MU, whose research focuses on civil liberties and judicial review — the ability courts have to declare executive and legislative acts unconstitutional. Wells said her research this summer will explain from a scientific standpoint why judicial review can be viewed as objective and necessary.

“The article will certainly respond to members of the public who are generally upset with what they perceive as judicial activism,” Wells said.

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