Campus & Community

Hausers’ gifts boost human rights studies

6 min read
Photo of Rita E. and Gustave M.
Rita E. and Gustave M. Hauser: “Human rights is a significant aspect of study and Harvard should excel in this field in all its schools and faculties.”

Law School alumni Rita E. and Gustave M. Hauser have given Harvard University two gifts that significantly strengthen the University’s capacity in the field of human rights studies. They pledged a new Chair in Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at the Law School (HLS). The first formal program in human rights at the University was launched at the Law School in 1984, which has since become a cornerstone of the University’s expanding effort in this field.

The Hausers also committed $2 million to support an interfaculty initiative on human rights studies. In making this gift, they expressed their wish that it be used for “education, research, scholarship and other human rights endeavors, with the express intention to foster cross-school collaboration and joint teaching.” They noted: “Human rights is a significant aspect of study and Harvard should excel in this field in all its schools and faculties.”

Harvard now boasts three vibrant programs on human rights based in the graduate and professional schools. In addition to the Law School’s Human Rights Program, the Kennedy School of Government (KSG), with the support of KSG alumnus Greg Carr, recently inaugurated the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. And several years ago, the Countess Albina du Boisrouvray endowed the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at the School of Public Health (SPH). In addition, individual members of the Faculties of Arts and Sciences (FAS), Business (HBS), Divinity (HDS), Medicine (HMS), and Education (GSE) have made human rights a particular focus of their academic work.

Provost Harvey Fineberg and Law School Dean Robert Clark applauded the Hausers’ philanthropic vision. Said Provost Fineberg: “With one stroke, they have amplified and knit together the University’s diverse intellectual resources in the field. The Hausers’ generosity both underwrites future leadership at the Law School and fosters collaboration across the University, leveraging our existing programs into something grander, more integrated, and more effective.”

Dean Clark said, “When we consider the many ways Harvard Law School can make contributions to society and the world, continuing our work in human rights is a stellar example. Thanks to Gus and Rita Hauser, the Law School will remain on the cutting edge of this important field. Their dedication to Harvard, and indeed to humanity, is truly uplifting.”

The $2 million gift will be used to support the activities of the University Committee on Human Rights Studies. Originally established by the Provost in 1994 to encourage communication among the increasing number of faculty members and institutes working on human rights issues across the University, the committee has more recently sought to expand its efforts by developing new opportunities for collaborative teaching and research.

Chaired by Law School Professor Henry Steiner and Provost Fineberg, the committee comprises members of eight faculties, including K. Anthony Appiah, Professor of Afro-American Studies and of Philosophy (FAS); Paul Edward Farmer, Associate Professor of Social Medicine (HMS); J. Bryan Hehir, Professor of the Practice in Religion and Society (HDS); David Little, T.J. Dermot Dunphy Professor of the Practice in Religion, Ethnicity, and International Conflict (HDS); Stephen Marks, François-Xavier Bagnoud Professor of Health and Human Rights (SPH); David H.P. Maybury-Lewis, Professor of Anthropology (FAS), Andrew M. Moravcsik, Associate Professor of Government (FAS); Gary A. Orfield, Professor of Education and Social Policy (GSE); Frederick Schauer, Frank Stanton Professor of the First Amendment (KSG); and Debora L. Spar, Associate Professor of Business Administration (HBS).

Of the Hausers’ gifts, Professor Steiner, who founded the Human Rights Program at the Law School, said, “The chair for the Law School, the third University chair in human rights, underscores the high significance for the School and University as a whole of this vital and dynamic field. The Hauser Foundation’s gift to the University committee opens the path to active exploration of how the University can facilitate and build on the creative work in a growing number of Harvard faculties. We are all very grateful.”

As late as 1984, the University could boast of no organized effort in the area of human rights studies. In that year, the Law School launched the University’s first program of teaching and research in the field. It was characterized by a commitment to bridge the worlds of scholarship and practice — a commitment that has come, 15 years later, to characterize all of the University’s human rights efforts.

The rapid emergence of interest in human rights in multiple schools and disciplines suggested the need for communication and coordination among them. Meeting together under the auspices of the committee, faculty members agreed that concerted action could be enormously productive: a new, multidisciplinary course in human rights for undergraduates, collaborative research projects, a graduate degree program in human rights studies are a few of the ideas that the committee will explore in the coming years.

The Hausers’ gift will enable the committee to pursue these projects and others, yet to be identified. Professor Fred Schauer, Kennedy School academic dean and acting director of the Carr Center, emphasizes how important the Hausers’ gift will be to Harvard: “Human rights is not only a new field, but it is also one that draws on numerous disciplines … and a gift such as this is precisely what is needed to foster important research and teaching on human rights issues.”

Human rights has been a concern of the Hausers for many years. The Hauser Foundation counts human rights among its priorities.

Rita Hauser is an attorney, currently of counsel to the New York firm Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, where she had been senior partner. She served as U.S. representative to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights and on commissions affiliated with the U.S. Department of State and The Brookings Institution. She is chair of the International Peace Academy. Mrs. Hauser earned a doctorate from the University of Strasbourg, France, and holds law degrees from the University of Paris Law Faculty and New York University Law School.Gustave Hauser, also an attorney, is chairman and CEO of Hauser Communications Inc., which specializes in cable television, international satellite, and telecommunications. He is a trustee of the Museum of Television and Radio. He holds degrees from Western Reserve University, New York University Law School, and the University of Paris Law Faculty.