Faculty members proposed a new Master of Science in Human Rights to the Faculty Senate on Tuesday, potentially adding a new course of study to Binghamton University graduate programs.
The proposal comes a little over a month after the launch of the Human Rights Institute (HRI), which aims to advance research and engagement on human rights issues among students, faculty and staff. If approved by SUNY, the master’s degree will be offered through the College of Community and Public Affairs’ human development department.
The program was first conceived in 2014 when Lubna Chaudhry, the primary author of the proposal and the chair of human development department, began looking at possible master’s programs for the department. While many human rights programs exist around the country, Chaudhry said few prepare students to work with communities at a grass-roots level.
“[The program] is modeled after what’s not there,” Chaudhry said. “A lot of the programs were coming from a legal perspective; they were about international law and human rights.”
If implemented, the master’s program aims to prepare students to engage in human rights practices and conduct interdisciplinary research in community settings, Suzy Lee, the proposed director of the program and an assistant professor of human development said. Lee also sits on the advisory board for HRI.
“The goal is to train human rights advocates and researchers who are prepared to work for communities engaged in real-world struggle over our modern world’s most pressing problems,” Lee wrote in an email.
The program will consist of 36 credits to be completed over the course of three semesters, according to the proposal. The courses will provide rigorous training in human rights theory, research and advocacy with a critical and community-oriented approach. They will also address the historical implications of past human rights projects and help students gain an understanding of the field’s future directions. In the first year of the program, the department plans to accept only eight high-quality applicants to build a solid reputation for the program before increasing enrollment. By the fifth year of the program, its organizers aim to have 30 students enrolled.
“We’re already starting to teach undergraduate courses on the topic, so it won’t be hard for us, once the program gets approved, to develop graduate courses that build on our undergraduate courses,” Chaudhry said.
No other SUNY school has a similar program. Jonathan Karp, chair of the Faculty Senate and an associate professor of Judaic studies, said HRI and the new program could form a new type of focus at BU.
“I hope that they would be complementary and benefit each other, and that they’d create a kind of synergy that would put Binghamton on the map as a center for this kind of endeavor,” Karp said.
Now that the proposal has passed the University’s process, it has been submitted for review by the SUNY Chancellor’s Office. Although the timeline for the review process is uncertain, plans for the formation of the program are underway. Once approved, BU will begin to recruit students for the first class of the new program.