Capacity-building gift from the Charles Koch Foundation

Posted September 16, 2019

Scholars at Risk (SAR) is pleased to announce a capacity-building gift from the Charles Koch Foundation (CKF).  The gift will allow SAR to strengthen the network office, which has been under pressure to keep up with increasing attacks on higher education and related demand for SAR’s services. Specifically, the gift of $1.5 million over five years will allow SAR to hire a deputy director and communications staff to better coordinate SAR’s expanding network and activities, and enable SAR’s Executive Director Rob Quinn to focus on external partnerships, sustainability, and raising awareness.

“The foundation’s support is nothing short of transformative,” Quinn said. “We have been running a marathon at a sprint pace to keep up with the increasing attacks on scholars and universities around the world. This generous gift will help us engage more universities and partners—creating more opportunities for more at-risk scholars—even as it helps us spread the word about the urgent need to protect free inquiry and the free exchange of ideas.”

In 2019-20, Scholars at Risk will mark the 20th anniversary of the network’s launch. “The idea behind Scholars at Risk was not new twenty years ago,” Quinn noted, “in the sense that colleges and universities have always taken in those displaced for their ideas,” especially in the World War II and Cold War eras. But earlier efforts were mostly ad hoc and unconnected, and what organized programs there were in the US generally disbanded after the initial crisis abated. “What makes SAR unique is its ambition to link up institutions and programs into a permanent, global network that not only increases the number of scholars receiving help, but that can be a voice and advocate for truth and intellectual freedom.”

The foundation’s gift will help SAR meet the urgency of the moment. SAR’s caseload of individuals seeking help has exceeded 700 each of the last three years, up from 300-350 traditionally. Over the same time SAR’s annual Free to Think reports have consistently documented a worldwide crisis of attacks on higher education. SAR is helping more scholars today than ever before, but there remains an urgent need to increase capacity to prevent generations of talent from being lost, and to strengthen SAR’s operations and sustainability for the long-term. This gift will help SAR meet these urgent needs.

“Protecting scholars and the freedom to think, question, and share ideas is critical to generating new discoveries that make the world a better place,” said Charles Koch Foundation executive director Ryan Stowers. “We share Scholars at Risk’s vision to support academics who pursue the truth where ever it may lead. Support for academic freedom unites individuals who may disagree on any number of other issues, because without it progress and innovation are impossible.” The Foundation supports students and scholars pursuing research and expanding educational programs that help people reach their full potential.

To meet the current challenge, SAR has developed a range of activities and opportunities for campuses, scholars and students to get involved, while remaining flexible. “Rather than rigid criteria, we focused on defining our activities to meet the needs of scholars and opportunities for impact,” Quinn said.  Like previous programs, SAR arranges one- and two-year placements for scholars throughout the network, but also campaigns for scholars in prison or facing prosecution, refers scholars for legal or other services, provides emergency grants for scholars and their families, conducts training workshops for scholars, and offers career support including letters of introduction, CV review and interviewing. Unlike previous scholar-support programs, SAR has also developed a range of activities for university faculty, staff and students to get involved in protecting scholars and promoting academic freedom. These include faculty workshops, student seminars, legal clinics, and a free, online course, Dangerous Questions: Why Academic Freedom Matters. 

“We have learned from the casework that the number one tool of those who want to silence truth is not violence,” said Quinn.  “It is isolation.” Through a diverse array of services and the global SAR network, SAR is building a community, a movement, that combats isolation and supports intellectual freedom.  “Ideas are not crimes,” Quinn said, “and critical inquiry is not disloyalty.  It is a scholar’s responsibility.” The foundation’s gift will help SAR protect more scholars when they meet that responsibility.

To learn more about how you can add your own voice to the community of donors who make SAR’s our work possible write or call us at 212-998-2179 or, or make your gift today at  Your contribution helps us respond to the urgent needs of scholars and students around the world. (Every gift, at whatever level, goes a long way:  For every $1 given, SAR leverages $5 of direct support for at-risk scholars.)

Contact:  Starr Miller at +1-212-998-2215 or

Location New York, New York