NYU Law announces human rights institute

NYU Law announced the creation of Robert L. Bernstein Institute for Human Rights, a research institute that will provide
resources to students on scholarship, advocacy and education on the topic of human rights.

The new institute, announced on Jan. 30, will preside over the established human rights centers at NYU, including the Center for Human Rights & Global Justice, the U.S.-Asia Law Institute, and NYU Stern’s Center for Business and Human Rights.

NYU has been criticized for the violation of human rights before, with the most recent case being the abuse of labor workers rights in Abu Dhabi.

NYU Law spokesperson Michael Orey said there was no connection between the announcement and the accusations. He said the institute will help NYU Law train the next generation of human rights leaders.

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“The Bernstein Institute will allow us to launch new human rights initiatives, including postgraduate fellowships at a variety of human rights organizations, and to sharpen the focus of and boost collaboration among existing programs,” Orey said.

NYU Law student Luke Herrine said the addition of the human rights institute will offer a good resource to students.

“The human rights faculty here is top notch, and I trust the new institute will continue a great tradition,” Herrine said.

Herrine, who was subpoenaed for circulating a letter criticizing Daniel Straus, a school trustee, for violating his workers’ rights, pointed out that there are contradictions in the way the university is run.

“NYU is purportedly a private university in the public interest, and in many cases it lives up to this motto,” Herrine said. “But the Straus and Abu Dhabi fiascos exemplify the fact that NYU is more than a set of ideals — it relies for much of its funding on wealthy private actors who may not have the same values.”

Gallatin sophomore Angie Liao, a Gallatin global human rights fellow, said though NYU has been involved in cases of human rights violations, the implementation of such an institution is a good step forward.

“NYU, as a massive academic institution, shouldn’t be precluded from entering the discourse on human rights because its administrative side has come under fire for neglecting to honor certain labor rights codes,” Liao said.

NYU Law student Leo Gertner, another student involved in writing the letter critical of Straus, said NYU should try to eliminate violations of human rights through the creation of an ethics code.

“I am obviously surprised that so soon after allegations of human rights abuses in Abu Dhabi — and before any remedial actions — NYU Law has chosen to create an institute for human rights,” Gertner said. “The main problem I see is that, even after the unfortunate events surrounding Mr. Straus, NYU has not taken any steps toward creating a binding and public code of ethics on its administrators and trustees in order to avoid such situations in the future.”

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Feb. 3 print edition. Email Marita Vlachou at [email protected]

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