Tuesday, January 10, 2017


Robina Foundation Awards $13 Million Gift for Human Rights Work

Yale Law School has received two gifts totaling $13 million from the Robina Foundation to create a Robina Human Rights Initiative Endowment Fund and to establish a Binger Clinical Professorship in Human Rights. These gifts permanently establish the Foundation’s nine-year commitment to supporting the Law School’s efforts to foster a thriving network of human rights leaders.  Since 2008, the Foundation has provided the Law School with $22 million in support of the human rights program.

The Law School is matching the Robina gifts with a $5 million gift from a generous donor, and it has committed to raising an additional $1 million to complete the endowment match.

The Robina Human Rights Initiative Endowment will provide funding for fellowships and financial assistance to Yale Law School students and graduates pursuing careers in human rights; support visiting human rights faculty, scholars, and practitioners; and underwrite human rights-related research, clinical education, advocacy, teaching and programming at Yale Law School and for the broader Yale community. The endowment of a Binger Clinical Chair in Human Rights will support a Yale Law School faculty member who will teach human rights clinics and other human rights courses and lead the Robina Human Rights Initiative.

On December 10, 2016, the Yale Corporation voted to approve Professor James Silk ’89 as the inaugural Binger Clinical Professor of Human Rights. Professor Silk teaches the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic and is the co-director of the Law School’s Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights. Professor Silk has also been the chief administrator of the Robina Foundation’s support since it began in 2008.

“Jim Silk is widely considered the dean of clinical human rights work in the United States,” Dean Robert C. Post ‘77 said. “Here at Yale he has inspired generations of students, who have graduated and become human rights practitioners and clinicians.”

“I am very grateful for the thoughtful and generous support and the foresight of the Robina Foundation,” said Professor Silk. “These new gifts will ensure that the Law School will always have a faculty member to teach the human rights clinic, that students will continue to have life-changing summer human rights experiences, that our graduates will have opportunities, early in their careers, to contribute to the valuable human rights work of key international institutions.”

The Robina Initiative has supported Law School students and graduates interested in human rights through summer internships, post-graduate fellowships with human rights courts and other institutions, and financial aid. The funds have also brought leading scholars and practitioners of human rights to the Law School to conduct research, write, teach courses, give talks, host discussions, advise students, and participate in conferences.  

Over the years, the Initiative has met with great success and has expanded its scope. Beginning with the first Robina Foundation Human Rights Fellowship Initiative award in 2008, the Initiative has provided 76 Yale law students interested in human rights with scholarships, often for more than one academic year; enabled 283 students to participate in some 335 summer human rights internships in 54 countries, with many of them splitting a summer between two institutions or arranging such internships for more than one summer; and funded 30 post-graduate human rights fellowships. The post-graduate Robina Human Rights Fellowships have allowed recent graduates to work full-time for one year in such human rights institutions as the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Court, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Because many graduates cannot afford to pursue careers in human rights without assistance in repaying student loans, the Initiative began in 2015 to support graduates working in human rights who are enrolled in COAP (the Law School’s student loan repayment program).

The newly established Robina Human Rights Initiative Endowment will permit the Law School to continue to offer students and recent graduates these opportunities in perpetuity.

In the last few years, support from the Robina Foundation has made possible two new initiatives of the Schell Center. Professor Silk started and directs the Multidisciplinary Academic Program in Human Rights in Yale College, which enables a small cohort of undergraduates to engage in a program of coherent, critical, interdisciplinary study of human rights and receive support for summer internships.

Last year, Professor Silk directed JUNCTURE: Explorations in Art and International Human Rights, a year-long program that included an interdisciplinary graduate seminar, visiting artists collaborating with the seminar’s students, fellowships for Yale MFA students to travel to create human rights-related work, a series of speakers, and the 2015 Robert L. Bernstein Human Rights Symposium, Art and International Human Rights.

The Robina Foundation, a Minnesota-based private grantmaking foundation, seeks to positively impact critical social issues by encouraging innovation and financially supporting transformative projects of its four institutional partners. These partners, selected by the Foundation’s founder, James H. Binger (’38 B.A.), are Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Minneapolis, MN; The Council on Foreign Relations, New York, NY; University of Minnesota Law School, Minneapolis, MN; and Yale University, New Haven, CT.   In addition to its long support of YLS, the Foundation has also provided an endowment of $18 million to the Yale School of Drama, to establish the Binger Center for New Theatre.