University Committee on Human Rights Studies To Disband

The University Committee on Human Rights Studies, which was established a decade ago to unite various human rights efforts across the University, will dissolve on June 30, University Provost Steven E. Hyman announced Wednesday.

UCHRS will be replaced by a smaller human rights directorate responsible for University-wide coordination and communication on human rights, Hyman wrote in an e-mailed statement.

The group will consist of directors of the three human rights centers at Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Law School, and Harvard School of Public Health.

With the restructuring of the committee—which had focused on the development of undergraduate courses—human rights education will become the responsibility of the Ethnic Studies Committee, an interdisciplinary collection of faculty that introduced a secondary degree in Ethnic Studies this year.

Since its inception, UCHRS sought to integrate human rights activities into the “Harvard mainstream,” according to current UCHRS director Jacqueline Bhabha, who will assume the post of University Advisor on Human Rights Education on the new directorate.


Bhabha said that she views the decision to disperse the committee’s activities throughout the University as “a confirmation that we have succeeded in doing what we set out to do—which was to institutionalize a basis that can go forward on its own within the University.”

In addition to its mission of University-wide collaboration, the UCHRS offers a variety of research grants and runs Scholars at Risk, a fellowship program that invites scholars who are at risk of persecution in their native countries to Harvard. The new directorate will assume control of the program.

Because both HLS and HKS are still currently conducting searches for directors of their respective human rights centers, Hyman has entrusted the HSPH François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights with leading University-wide human rights initiatives in the coming year.

The UCHRS budget was in the hundreds of thousands, according to Bhaba, who does not credit the closure to current budgetary pressures throughout the University.

“I think that the funding crunch certainly concentrated the mind on rationalizing the way that many University-wide faculty things worked,” Bhabha said. “But it is difficult to say the counter-factual...It wasn’t actually that we were running out of money.”

Because the two staff members who currently work at UCHRS had already made plans to depart, no staff positions will be lost as a result of the human rights committee’s closure, according to Hyman.

“The existing Centers and programs are now poised to continue the collaborative spirit that you spearheaded and Jackie [Bhabha] modeled in her leadership of UCHRS,” Hyman wrote.

“Congratulations on a job well done,” he added.

—Staff writer Noah S. Rayman can be reached at

—Staff writer Elyssa A.L. Spitzer can be reached at