Carleton University began hosting scholars at risk remotely in the spring of 2020. It was interesting timing because it coincided with the onset of the global pandemic and it felt like everyone was working remotely at the beginning. Despite the seemingly fortuitous timing, the program had in fact been in the works for months as we sought to establish a safe and beneficial way to support scholars at risk who were unable to leave their current places of residence. Our goal was to contribute as much as possible to supporting scholars’ continued research and publishing opportunities from afar.
In developing the program, we followed the leadership of Roger Williams University in Rhode Island and benefited from the guidance offered by the Scholars at Risk team. Through a series of internal and external consultations with stakeholders including legal counsel, the university’s IT and security teams, library staff, and the Provost’s office, we determined that our university had the capacity to support up to five scholars at risk for a period of two years. These positions are renewable at the discretion of the scholar and host department or school. However, our hope is that within the two-year framework, the situation improves for the respective scholars so that they can resume their academic careers in-person.
With the remote scholar affiliation, Carleton University provides access to our library’s resources, a university email address, and a connection to a host department where scholars can develop contacts with colleagues with shared research interests. These contacts can also offer guidance in navigating the university’s system. These three main components of the program ensure that people can continue with their research and can submit potential publications for peer review. It may seem shocking that some journals do not accept submissions from non-academic email accounts but this happens and can have a truly detrimental impact on someone’s career.
As with all things virtual, one of the key challenges with the remote scholar program is building a sense of community, but we are hoping that with clear communication, regular check-ins, and a contact person in each host department or school we can address some of these issues. The remote scholar program complements our regular support of scholars at risk through placements in important ways, enabling us to respond in an immediate and cost-effective way to situations where scholars at risk are unable to cross international borders. Such situations include house arrest, the absence of documentation, punitive measures as well as the sometimes lengthy period between submitting a formal asylum claim and obtaining refugee status. Our two Scholars at Risk programs go hand-in-hand and we are grateful for the support of our university community in being able to contribute in these ways to supporting scholars at risk around the globe.