Gift funds human-rights fellowship

A $3 million gift to the Yale Law School in July boosted the school’s renewed efforts to support graduates going into public service.

The gift, from the Minnesota-based Robina Foundation, will fund a human-rights fellowship over the next three years. The Law School announced a concerted public-service initiative last April after concerns among students and faculty members that a much-hyped program at Harvard Law School upstaged the University a month earlier.

The Robina fellowship at Yale will fund scholarships for students committed to human-rights careers, stipends for students pursuing human-rights summer jobs, postgraduate fellowships to begin human-rights practice after law school and a fellows-in-residence program to attract human-rights scholars and public officials to Yale.

The goal, Dean Harold Hongju Koh said in a statement, is “an expanding network of superbly trained human rights scholars, practitioners, and teachers capable of making a difference in all varieties of human rights struggles.”

The Robina Foundation, founded by the late Minnesota businessman James Binger ’38, has supported social-change programs at the University in the past as one of its institutional partners. The foundation also works closely with Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, The Council on Foreign Relations and the University of Minnesota Law School.

Human rights are particularly darling to Koh, whose expertise is in international human-rights law and who served as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor under President Bill Clinton LAW ’73. The Law School is generally known among peers and rivals for its emphasis on public service.

So it stung, students interviewed said, when Harvard Law School snagged headlines in March with its announcement that it would waive the third year of tuition for law students who commit to at least five years of public service after graduation.

Yale Law School administrators responded by saying Harvard was playing catch-up rather than pressing ahead. But in April, Yale announced its own package to raise the baseline income below which graduates’ loans are forgiven, double the number of post-graduate public-interest fellowships, hire a new full-time director of public-interest programs to counsel students and boost funding for summer opportunities in public service.

Administrators hope the grant will bolster the ranks of students interested in international human-rights work, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Megan Barnett said.

About 15 percent of Law School graduates enter public service in their first non-clerkship job, according to the Law School Dean’s Office.

Contact Isaac Arnsdorf at isaac.arnsdorf@yale.edu 

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