Alumnus to share ground’s-eye view of Afghanistan at lecture

January 11, 2012 | Events, UToday
By Cynthia Nowak

When Jeff Crowther makes his daily job commute, it’s in the company of armed bodyguards. To reach the people he serves, he travels through the mountains north of Kandahar, Afghanistan. Taliban territory, in fact.

UT alumnus Jeff Crowther posed for a photo at the Multinational Base in Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan.

An employee of the U.S. State Department, Crowther is a senior rule-of-law adviser embedded with a multinational force of Australians, Dutch and Americans — so the stories he can share are anything but fodder for an episode of “The Office.”

Students, faculty and staff are invited to hear Crowther, a 1976 graduate of the former University College and 1981 alumnus of the UT College of Law, share some of his experiences and insights at a special lecture, “Restoring the Rule of Law in Afghanistan,” co-sponsored by the colleges of Law and Adult and Lifelong Learning.

He will give the free, public lecture Thursday, Jan. 12, at noon in Law Center Room 1031.

Crowther works as part of a provincial reconstruction team, using his legal expertise to help re-establish the representative form of government that was validated by Afghan elections in 2010.

“The Taliban and other warlords continue to challenge that government through armed conflict,” he explained. “As the NATO forces clear out an area once occupied by insurgent forces, we come in behind them to reconstruct civil governance and public services.”

His efforts keep him in Afghanistan’s rural interior, removed both geographically and politically from the nation’s central government. He mentors and advises individual police, prosecutors and judges as well as their administrative branches.

Before his posting, he intensively researched the people of the region, particularly the Pashtuns and their code of honor known as Pastunwali, one part of which is the council — called jirga — organized by the Pashtuns on the village and regional levels.

“So yours is not the only court in operation,” Crowther said. “Constant dispute resolution is taking place the old-fashioned way just three or four miles outside town, where the tribal elders are getting together. Part of what I do is make a record of the jirga decisions, connecting the informal to the formal.”

As well as giving his lecture, Crowther will visit an ROTC classroom and attend a reception at the UT Military Service Center in the College of Adult and Lifelong Learning.

Beth Gerasimiak, director of Educational and Lifelong Learning Services, said, “We’re eager to have Jeff share his unique experiences and perspective. His active Vietnam experience and the important work he is now doing as a civilian in Afghanistan will resonate with our military students. It will be an exceptional opportunity to honor a UT graduate who is making such a contribution in the international community.”

Dr. Dennis Lettman, dean of the College of Adult and Lifelong Learning, added, “We are very fortunate to have Mr. Crowther return to campus and share his experiences and accomplishments with our UT community. I believe he will inspire many of our fine veteran and military students to complete their degrees and go on to do great work as he has done.”

“My expectation for this visit is two-fold,” Crowther emailed from Afghanistan. “One is to humbly accept this recognition for all UT students who have served this country. The second is to educate others on the difficulties we’ll face in the future as cultures are thrown together in this globalized world — and on the limits of military intervention.”

For further information about Crowther’s talk, call the College of Adult and Lifelong Learning at 419.530.3072.

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