When Alexandra (Alex) Stupple ’00 was offered the opportunity to observe a pre-trial hearing at the Guantanamo Bay prison detention camp, she jumped at the possibility. Stupple was nominated by her law school professor, who was also then-president of the National Institute of Military Justice (NIMJ), the NGO responsible for sending her as a trial observer. Stupple didn’t know what she was in for, and with the hearing date continually postponed, she wasn’t sure if it was even going to occur. But finally, last February, Stupple boarded a military plane to Cuba for the chance of a lifetime, where the alleged perpetrator of the suicide bombing of the U.S.S Cole in Yemen was standing trial. The experience, which Stupple reported on with only ten other NGO observers, was mentally somewhat of a struggle. Stupple recalled:
“Everything was so contradictory. Beach bars and barbed wire. Secret roads. Gift shops with ‘I heart GTMO’ merchandise without even a sense of irony. We stayed in MASH-style tents, with one for men and one for women. There was another tent surrounded by barbed wire. They wouldn’t tell us what it was for.”
What might have been most difficult for Stupple were not the accommodations, but the fact that “the hearings themselves weren’t as blatantly unfair as [she] imagined they would be.” Stupple described a place where nothing was black and white, clear cut, or totally fair. In Stupple’s eyes, “the law strives for fairness and ways of dealing with conflict without violence. The problem with the GITMO situation is that we did resort to violence.” But sorting out these questions is something Stupple is well equipped to do.
Alex Stupple described her Evergreen experience, where she focused on American Studies, as where she “learned how to think.” While attending the Hastings College of Law at the University of California, Alex came to appreciate her Evergreen education more. She views the traditional model of education as “a ridiculous way to learn,” and recounted one class at Evergreen in particular, with David Marr, where she was tasked with the challenging assignment of “writing one perfect paragraph.” When she arrived at law school after spending ten years as an English teacher in China, then as a science editor in Scotland and in D.C. working for the National Academy of Sciences and the American Journal of Public Health, she wondered what traditional colleges actually taught students. Since Alex’s law school experience, she concedes Evergreen has “since been dear to my heart” especially during three and a half hour exams that comprised 100% of her class grades.
Alex is an Attorney for the California Department of Public Health in Sacramento and in her spare time is “still obsessed with international and military law.” You can read more about the significance of her experience to observe the pre-trial hearings at Guantanamo Bay in her other proud alma mater’s news release.