Human Rights and the University


In Fall 2015, Social Science Matrix is sponsoring a semester-long prospecting seminar on “Human Rights and the University.” The seminar is organized by the Human Rights Program (HRP), a program established in 2010 as an extension of the Human Rights Interdisciplinary (HRI) Minor that promotes interdisciplinarity and undergraduate research and education through a postdoctoral fellowship, speaker series, and other activities.

This seminar will convene a diverse group of Berkeley faculty, staff, and undergraduate and graduate students who are engaged in human rights research or practice, along with community practitioners from local human rights organizations and agencies. With the goal of fostering coordination and collaboration, this seminar will focus on two primary questions: what is the current human rights landscape at Berkeley, and how can the Human Rights Program best contribute to it?

“As we transition from our seed funds and establish our priorities for the future, we welcome the opportunity to engage in a wide-ranging conversation with university and community stakeholders about the university and human rights,” the seminar's organizers explain in their successful Matrix seminar proposal. "UC Berkeley has been a hub for pioneering human rights research and practice for more than three decades. Today, human rights initiatives operate across campus. The law school, where human rights doctrine and advocacy have been taught since the late 1960s, is home of the Human Rights Center and the International Human Rights Clinic, and it counts among its faculty some of the country’s preeminent human rights practitioners and scholars. Related work is also being done at the graduate schools of journalism, public policy, and social welfare on issues including poverty, discrimination, armed conflict, and state-sponsored abuses. In the College of Letters & Science, faculty members and students have long been leaders in human rights scholarship and activism. Most recently, the Human Rights Program was created in 2010 to advance human rights research and pedagogy in the social sciences and humanities, with a focus on undergraduate students.”

The objectives of the seminar are to identify the interdisciplinary architecture that could most effectively support human rights research at Berkeley; propose ways to bridge Berkeley’s human rights research and the world of human rights practice outside the academy, in activism, policy, and business; connect Berkeley researchers with Bay Area human rights practitioners, and recommend initiatives to deepen those relationships and create new partnerships; and produce a draft fundraising agenda for the Human Rights Program outlining specific HRP priorities and projects.

“With a particular focus on the role and future development of the HRP, we will explore the interdisciplinary architecture that could most effectively support human rights research at Berkeley,” the researchers write. “We will also propose mechanisms to bridge Berkeley human rights research and human rights practices outside the academy.”

Photo Credit: United Nations