Faust commended the committee, noting that since its inception over a decade ago it has grown from an ad hoc committee of professors interested in human rights to a nexus for students, scholars, institutes and organizations within and around Harvard.
The University president added that she was “inspired” by the high level of student engagement in human rights, and suggested that the College’s changing curriculum might cater to that interest.
“We have a new undergraduate curriculum being implemented and I can think of all different kinds of opportunities for teaching and learning in human rights to impact the curriculum,” Faust said.
Other speakers also called for increasing the opportunities for students to study human rights issues.
Nancy L. Rosenblum, chair of the government department and a member of the committee, said that while there were an ample number of human rights-related offerings within the university, there was a lack of overall coordination.
“What we don’t have is a comprehensive program. But we now have a plan for that,” said Rosenblum, who is also the Clark professor of ethics in politics and government.
Stephen Marks, the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud professor of health and human rights at the Harvard School of Public Health and a member the committee, presented the committee’s forthcoming plan to enhance human rights-related course offerings.
While undergraduates currently have the option of taking human rights courses in different departments and of applying for human rights related internships, Marks said that the committee will seek to enlist several departments to create a Harvard College Human Rights Fellowship Program for undergraduates. These fellows would be able to take intensive junior seminars taught by faculty members throughout the University and would ultimately go on to write senior theses on human rights issues.
Citing the larger curricular reforms currently underway, Marks told the crowd that “the time is right for this.”
In addition to launching the committee’s agenda for the year, the event served to introduce this year’s resident “Scholars at Risk.” These academics, forced to flee their home countries as political refugees, are provided with temporary positions in the University.
Jacqueline Bhabha, executive director of the committee, who introduced the scholars, described the program as an “act of academic solidarity” and “a practical contribution to academic freedom.”