About the Human Rights Program

The program offers Barnard Students courses on human rights and the opportunity to major in human rights. This takes the form of a joint major with another academic department of their choice. The Program works closely with the Human Rights Program at Columbia College. Courses are cross-listed. Student activities attract leaders and participants from both colleges. Recognizing the multi-disciplinary character of human rights studies, students can choose courses and faculty advisors from a wide range of disciplines.

While relatively new in undergraduate curricula, human rights studies has established itself as an interdisciplinary project that draws on the social sciences and the humanities, as well as law. Human rights studies comprises four basic fields of intellectual inquiry:

  • the normative (international and domestic laws and institutions, as well as ethical and religious principles and theories concerned with social justice)
  • the empirical (data on human rights problems)
  • the analytical (cause-effect relations, etc.) and
  • the remedial or response strategies.

These different dimensions do not necessarily coincide with individual disciplines. The range of issues that now fall within the field of human rights is extensive, namely the range of problems that fall within the scope of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its associated treaties.

The aim of the undergraduate curriculum in human rights studies at Barnard College is to introduce highly motivated students to the above four levels of intellectual enquiry. Human Rights Studies also seeks to supplement this curriculum with opportunities to meet advocates from NYC and overseas, to attend meetings and conferences, and to obtain career advising and internships in the city and overseas.