Scholars at Risk monitors reports of threats to academic freedom and higher education communities worldwide, including media articles, blogs, opinion pieces and other announcements. Scholars at Risk identifies situations of concern on its own and welcomes reports submitted by faculty, students and volunteers at participating higher education institutions. Subscribe to SAR’s weekly media review.
The below articles have been featured in this year’s media reviews.
Academic freedom crushed under new National Security Law
Mimi Leung and Yojana Sharma, University World News, 07/01
Jittery Hong Kong students, academic freedom groups, activists and many ordinary citizens were this week deleting their social media posts and shutting down Facebook and Twitter accounts as China on Tuesday promulgated its National Security Law for Hong Kong which prohibits “secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces” to endanger national security, which could lead to life in prison for “primary instigators”. It was only published in full after it was promulgated on Tuesday and came into force in Hong Kong before midnight the same day. Read more.
Uludağ University launches an investigation against Prof. Kayıhan Pala
Following a decision of non-jurisdiction given by the prosecutor’s office, Uludağ University administration has reportedly launched an investigation against public health specialist Prof. Kayıhan Pala over an interview published on a Bursa-based local news website. As reported by Serkan Alan from Gazete Duvar, Pala was first tipped off by the Provincial Administration Board of Bursa Governor’s Office after he gave an interview to “enBursa.com” website on April 20. The interview was about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and it was entitled “The number of cases and fatalities in Bursa is higher than announced.” Read more.
University staff must find their voice, says Murdoch whistleblower
John Ross, Times Higher Education, 07/01
A “whole spectrum” of options confronts university staff concerned about their institutions’ activities, according to Murdoch University associate professor Gerd Schröder-Turk. “The first level might be finding the guts to say something in a meeting,” he said. “The next is to assert your opinion when others are trying to downplay it. The next is to put something in writing.” Read more.
NASA scientist, detained in Turkey for years, returns to U.S.
Carlotta Gall, The New York Times, 06/30
An American NASA scientist returned with his family to the United States early Tuesday morning after nearly four years of imprisonment and house arrest in Turkey, and more than seven months after President Trump said he had secured an agreement for his release. The scientist, Serkan Golge, arrived in Washington on a commercial flight shortly after midnight, ending a tortuous journey for him and his family, who had become caught up in increasingly fraught Turkish-American relations. Read more.
Mounting faculty concerns about the fall semester
Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Education, 06/30
Purdue University president Mitch Daniels, an early advocate of reopening campuses for the fall, has become a de facto spokesperson for the movement. The role comes with attendant criticism, including from within his institution. During an interview on CNN, for example, Daniels was asked about a previous comment Alice Pawley, associate professor of engineering education and president of the main Purdue campus’s American Association of University Professors chapter, made to Inside Higher Ed: “I don’t want to think about face-to-face teaching the hordes of students I usually teach until there is a vaccine.” Read more.
Spied on. Fired. Publicly shamed. China’s crackdown on professors reminds many of Mao era
Alice Su, The Los Angeles Times, 06/27
The professor was under surveillance. Cameras taped her every lecture. She couldn’t publish or give talks outside the university. She knew she had to be careful when she taught on one of China’s most sensitive and dangerous topics: the Cultural Revolution. To preempt accusations of straying beyond academia, all discussion was based on archives, books and articles. Classes were kept small; heavy reading lists filtered out potential student-informants. She made seating charts with photos, making sure no stranger could wander in unnoticed. Read more.
Students arrested in protests over online classes fees
Ameen Amjad Khan, University World News, 06/26
Police arrested over 80 students of different universities in Pakistan’s Balochistan province when they staged a rally this week against online classes, which they see as a way for universities to ‘extort’ fees from students while campuses are shut due to coronavirus. Over 300 students from the province’s universities and colleges gathered in Quetta, the Balochistan provincial capital, on 24 June chanting slogans against the Higher Education Commission (HEC), the country’s regulatory body, and against management of universities for charging what they said was unfair fees. Police beat them and arrested over 80, including female students. Read more.
Academic ‘solidarity’ needed to save gender studies from populism
David Matthews, Times Higher Education, 06/26
Academics need to show far more “solidarity” towards colleagues in subjects such as gender studies that are under fire from far-right populists, one of Germany’s constitutional court judges has warned, arguing that such attacks are only the first step in a broader assault on academia. Speaking at an event on freedom of expression at universities, Susanne Baer, herself a professor of public law and gender studies at the Humboldt University of Berlin, said that some scholars had “underestimated” the threat. Read more.
Professor could face death penalty for ‘blasphemy’
Ameen Amjad Khan, University World News, 06/24
This month over two dozen police officers including commandos raided the home of Sajid Soomro, a professor of Sindhi literature, to arrest him on charges of blasphemy, a serious charge in Pakistan that can lead to the death penalty if proven. “Why are you arresting me? I am a professor. I am a Muslim and I have not committed any blasphemy; this is injustice, this is grave injustice,” Soomro reportedly pleaded. But he was ordered to “get inside the van” and driven away to Khairpur city police station in Sindh province where he was put behind bars on 10 June. Read more.
Facial recognition to ‘predict criminals’ sparks row over AI bias
Harrisburg University researchers said their software “can predict if someone is a criminal, based solely on a picture of their face”. The software “is intended to help law enforcement prevent crime”, it said. But 1,700 academics have signed an open letter demanding the research remains unpublished. One Harrisburg research member, a former police officer, wrote: “Identifying the criminality of [a] person from their facial image will enable a significant advantage for law-enforcement agencies and other intelligence agencies to prevent crime from occurring.” Read more.
When free speech and racist speech collide
Greta Anderson, Inside Higher Education, 06/23
As a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, Emerson Sykes has focused on the intersection of racial justice and free speech and how it plays out on college campuses. Sykes is a strong proponent of the First Amendment and said he’s aware of and “frustrated” by the many examples of public and private universities invoking free speech rights in response to incidents of racism or hateful speech from students. He believes it’s a way for administrators to say “our hands are tied” and sometimes shirk their responsibility to meaningfully respond to such incidents, which can leave students of color, in particular, feeling hurt and unsafe, Sykes said. Read more.
Pakistan: Smear campaign against Dr. Arfana Mallah
International Federation for Human Rights, 06/23
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders has been informed by reliable sources about the smear campaign against Dr. Arfana Mallah, a professor of chemistry at the University of Sindh Jamshoro, a prominent women’s rights activist, and a member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), based in Hyderabad, Sindh Province. According to the information received, on June 10, 2020, Dr. Arfana Mallah expressed her dismay on Twitter when a colleague at Shah Abdul Latif University in Khairpur, Sindh Province, was arrested on charges of blasphemy and sedition. Within hours, Dr. Mallah was subjected to a vicious campaign led by clerics with the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party and, subsequently, the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, who sought to have Dr. Mallah charged with blasphemy. Read more.
Trump expands immigration restrictions
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Education, 06/23
President Trump signed an executive order Monday suspending entry to the U.S. by foreign nationals through a number of nonimmigrant work visa programs, including the H-1B program for skilled workers, which many colleges use to hire faculty and postdoctoral scholars. The order, which extends through Dec. 31, also suspends certain subcategories of J-exchange visitor visas by denying entry to those wanting to participate in internship, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair and summer work travel programs. It does not affect visa holders coming to the U.S. as college students, professors and research scholars through the same program. Read more.
Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Education, 06/22
No one is guaranteed tenure. But two black scholars at the University of Virginia who are appealing negative tenure decisions say their processes were significantly flawed, and that the work they were hired to do appears to have counted against them in the end. Beyond flawed processes, the accounts raise questions about possible racial bias on the part of all-white tenure committees and other key evaluators. In this way, the cases echo the recent #BlackintheIvory Twitter campaign, in which black academics recalled having their work questioned and their contributions undercut more than their white colleagues’. Read more.
Hungarian protesters fear govt control in arts university’s overhaul
Anita Komuves, Krisztina Fenyo and Balazs Kaufmann, Reuters, 06/21
Hundreds of Hungarians protested on Sunday against the planned reform of the prestigious University of Theatre and Film Arts which they fear will bring the school further under government control.The protesters, many of them university students and staff, actors and writers, carried placards and made speeches in front of the main building denouncing the planned changes. “The government has already damaged Hungarian culture a great deal and we have to raise our voice against what they are planning to do now,” said Jozsef Mate, a theatre fan at the protest. A bill introduced in parliament on May 26 would transfer the ownership of the state-run institution, which goes back 155 years, to a private foundation. Read more.
Chinese professor banned from teaching over Hong Kong protest comments
Zhuang Pinghui, South China Morning Post, 06/20
A university in central China has banned one of its professors from teaching after she expressed sympathies online for Hong Kong’s anti-government protesters and the country’s official position on Japan’s wartime activities. Hubei University’s Communist Party committee announced on Saturday that Liang Yanping, a professor of literary criticism at the university’s school of Chinese language and literature, had been expelled from the party for publishing “wrong remarks concerning Hong Kong and Japan”. Read more.
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Education, 06/18
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was “arbitrary and capricious” under the Administrative Procedure Act, and that the decision to end it must be vacated. The decision returns the issue to the Department of Homeland Security and means the Trump administration cannot immediately end the DACA program, which provides protection against deportation and work authorization for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. An estimated 454,000 undocumented immigrant college students comprise roughly 2 percent of the U.S. higher education system. About half — 216,000 — are eligible for the DACA program. Read more.
Bolsonaro’s “anti-intellectualist policy” compromises academic freedom, writes researcher [Portugese]
Jorge Barcellos, Zero Hora, 06/18
Jair Bolsonaro’s attempt to intervene in the appointment of deans for universities was rejected by Congress on the 12th, which forced the president to back down from his position, but this initiative should not go unnoticed. It is not the first time that the federal government has attacked higher education institutions (HEIs). In 2019, Education Minister Abraham Weintraub, accused the universities of making a “mess”, blocked 30% of the budget allocations and, a year later, excluded the humanities area from federal scientific initiation grants. To imagine the most recent government intervention as an isolated act, which will end with the Legislative’s refusal, is a mistake. It is part of a project to repress academic freedom. Committed to science, the university has become an enemy of the president – a community whose freedom needs to be curtailed. Read more.
Romania gender studies ban: Students slam new law as going ‘back to the Middle Ages’
Alice Tidey, Euro News, 06/17
Romanian academics, students and human rights groups have condemned a new law banning gender identity studies in schools and universities and accused lawmakers of wanting to send the country’s education “back to the Middle Ages”. The law approved on Tuesday by Romanian lawmakers would ban all educational institutions from “propagating theories and opinion on gender identity according to which gender is a separate concept from biological sex”. Several higher education institutions have harshly condemned the legislation, including the University of Bucharest, which said in a statement that “it contradicts fundamental rights guaranteed by the Romania Constitution and international conventions of which Romania is a party to”. Read more.
China: Scrap national security law to save Hong Kong freedoms
Human Rights Watch, 06/17
China’s proposed national security law for Hong Kong is a devastating assault on human rights and should be abandoned, more than 86 civil society organizations groups said today in a letter to Li Zhanshu, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC). The proposed national security legislation is likely to be discussed at the NPCSC session from June 18 to 20, 2020, or at a special session by the end of June. The proposed law could come into force soon afterward, and quickly be used to crack down on Hong Kong’s freedoms. Read more.
Sajid Soomro: Another Pakistani academic falls victims to blasphemy law
S. Khan, Deutsche Welle, 06/16
Sajid Soomro, a Pakistani professor of Sindhi literature at Khairpur’s Shah Abdul Latif University in Sindh province, was arrested on June 10. Police filed a blasphemy case against Soomro under the Pakistan Penal Code. He has since been detained and is awaiting trial. The professor is known to Pakistani authorities for his dissenting views and criticisms of the country’s most powerful clerics. Read more.
India: Human rights defenders targeted by a coordinated spyware operation
Amnesty International, 06/15
Amnesty International and the Citizen Lab have uncovered a coordinated spyware campaign targeting at least nine human rights defenders (HRDs) in India. These targets include activists, lawyers, academics, and journalists. Between January and October 2019, each of the targets were sent spearphishing emails containing malicious links that, if opened, would have installed NetWire, a commercially available spyware. A spearphishing attack is a targeted attempt to install a spyware (a malicious software) on the victim’s computer or smartphone. Spearphishing is generally performed by sending very carefully crafted and personalized emails to the target, often impersonating colleagues or loved ones. Read more.
Is Zoom safe for Chinese students?
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Education, 06/12
China studies scholars say they are worried about teaching on the online meeting platform Zoom after multiple news outlets reported that the company temporarily shut down the account of a U.S.-based dissident after he organized a commemoration of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre on Zoom. The company confirmed that it ended three Zoom meetings commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacre and terminated the host accounts associated with those meetings — one in Hong Kong and two in the U.S. — after the Chinese government informed Zoom the gatherings were illegal in China. Zoom said the accounts have been reinstated. Read more.
Released from Iranian prison, U.S. student Xiyue Wang says he was held as a ‘hostage’
Colin Dwyer, NPR Morning Edition, 06/11
Until his release in December, American student Xiyue Wang spent more than three years behind bars in Iran — not because Iranian authorities hoped to glean any information from him, he says, but because they believed he would be useful in their negotiations with the U.S. Wang, a U.S. citizen and graduate student at Princeton University, was released in a prisoner exchange between the two countries. Read more.
Lilah Burke, Inside Higher Education, 06/11
Only 3 percent of bachelor’s degrees in physics go to black students. In 2017 some fields, such as structural engineering and atmospheric physics, graduated not a single black Ph.D. On Wednesday, over 4,500 STEM faculty and students pledged to forgo research and meetings to instead focus on a day of action dedicated to protecting black lives and dismantling antiblack systems in academe and STEM. Read more.
No NLRB jurisdiction at religious colleges
Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Education, 06/11
Reversing a precedent set by the Obama-era National Labor Relations Board, President Trump’s appointed board on Wednesday said it doesn’t have jurisdiction over faculty members at religious colleges and universities. The decision, concerning Bethany College, a Lutheran liberal arts institution in Kansas, heartened some religious education groups and First Amendment hawks who believe that the NLRB, a government entity, should have no say in how religiously affiliated campuses are run. Read more.
University professor arrested under blasphemy charges
Sameer Mandhro, The Express Tribune, 06/10
A professor of Shah Abdul Latif University, Khairpur, was arrested by the local police under blasphemy charges on Wednesday. Prof Sajid Soomro, who is also a writer known for his books on Sindhi-Mohajir unity, was arrested from his house in Ali Murad Mohalla, Khairpur city. Condemning Soomro’s arrest and the charges against him, activists, writers and members of civil society demanded that the Sindh government initiate an inquiry into the registration for such a case against a university teacher. Read more.
Provisional measure empowers MEC to appoint university presidents during pandemic
Abraham Weintraub, Sul21, 06/10
President Jair Bolsonaro published on Tuesday (9) a Provisional Measure (MP) that empowers the Ministry of Education to appoint pro tempore rectors to federal universities, federal institutes and to Colégio Pedro II during the new coronavirus pandemic. Currently, the choice of the directors of the institutions is made in consultation with the academic community. In the case of universities, although the custom is to nominate the candidate with the most votes in the consultation, the president can choose the nominee from a triple list sent by each institution. In the case of institutes, the one chosen by the community is endorsed by the president. Read more.
What does the future hold for Hong Kong’s universities?
Futao Huang, University World News, 06/09
Since late May, the proposed National People’s Congress’ national security law on Hong Kong has been the subject of controversy. Although full details of the law or its effect in Hong Kong are not known yet, some mainly pro-China celebrities and social media posts and some major businesses who may be worried about repercussions have claimed that the law will not threaten Hong Kong’s autonomy or violate international agreements. In contrast, Western countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the European Union have criticised it on the grounds that it goes against China’s ‘one country, two systems’ principle and violates or diminishes Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedom as set out in the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Read more.
Ghana is considering a new law to govern universities. Why it’s a bad idea
Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua, The Conversation, 06/08
Academic freedom is supposed to enable academics to conduct scientific enquiry and produce knowledge to be used for the public good. Academics need it so that they can meet their obligation to society. And the state has a corresponding duty to respect this freedom and protect it from abuse. Read more.
Macron demands Iran release French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah
AFP via France 24, 06/05
France on Friday urged Iran to release French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah as she marked one year behind bars, with supporters charging she is being used as a bargaining chip by Tehran in a political game.Adelkhah, an anthropologist specialising in Shia Islam, was arrested on June 5, 2019, and has been in prison ever since. Last month she was given a five-year sentence after being convicted on national security charges. She is one of several foreigners and dual nationals being held by Iran in what activists condemn as a policy of hostage-taking aimed at pressuring the West. Read more.
University to investigate professor who tweeted about ‘Black privilege’
Michael Levenson, The New York Times, 06/05
The University of Central Florida said on Thursday that it had opened an investigation into complaints of bias against a professor who made comments on Twitter this week that were roundly condemned as racist. The professor, Charles Negy, is a prolific commentator on Twitter and the author of a book titled “White Shaming: Bullying Based on Prejudice, Virtue-Signaling, and Ignorance.” The university said on Thursday it was investigating his Twitter posts as well as accusations of bias in Dr. Negy’s classroom. Read more.
Academic freedom is under pressure in Irish universities
William Reville, The Irish Times, 06/04
Academic freedom is essential to the university’s mission of discovering new knowledge and teaching existing knowledge to students. It is unfortunately under threat worldwide from pressures both internal and external to the academy. Read more.
Police fired for injuring Spelman and Morehouse students
Greta Anderson, Inside Higher Education, 06/03
The mayor of Atlanta fired two city police officers over the weekend who forcibly removed two black college students from their car, tased and arrested them without explanation on May 30. Four other officers also involved in the incident have been charged with assorted counts of aggravated assault and battery, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and several national media outlets reported Tuesday. Taniyah Pilgrim, a 20-year-old Spelman College student, and Messiah Young, 22, who attends Morehouse College, were stuck in traffic in the city on the second night of public unrest over the death of George Floyd after the city’s newly instated 9 p.m. curfew, when officers shattered Young’s car windows and aggressively took both students into custody, according to news reports. Read more.
Hong Kong campuses ‘could be the target’ for China’s security law
Joyce Lau, Times Higher Education, 06/03
Demonstrations have erupted in Hong Kong again after a period of relative calm, just as schools are reopening and universities are preparing for in-person summer courses after four months of Covid-19 closures. In late May, the Hong Kong police arrested nearly 400 protesters, about half of whom were students, prompting fears of both political repression and a potential resumption of demonstrations. Universities in the region are still reeling from damage caused by clashes between students and the police last November. Read more.
Students demand that more colleges break ties with the local police
Katherine Mangan, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 06/02
Calls to limit ties between colleges and local police forces grew stronger this week as student leaders from at least three more universities demanded that they follow the University of Minnesota’s lead and take strong stands against police violence and institutional racism. In a letter to Ohio State University officials on Monday, leaders of three student organizations called on the university’s police department to cut its contractual ties to the Columbus Police Department for all on-campus investigations, services, and events. They criticized the city police department’s decision to use wooden bullets, tear gas, and pepper spray to disperse protesters last week after largely peaceful protests became heated. Read more.
Academic freedom for American college’s China program
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Education, 06/02
Faculty at Franklin & Marshall College, a liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, have raised academic freedom concerns about a planned F&M semester program in Shanghai designed to teach first-year Chinese students who may not be able to make it to campus due to the pandemic. Students in the Shanghai program will take online classes with professors at F&M, a college with an especially international student body: between 20 and 25 percent of its students are from overseas, with most coming from China. Read more.
Scientists rush to defend Venezuelan colleagues threatened over coronavirus study
Rodrigo Pérez Ortega, Science Magazine, 06/02
Scientific and human rights groups in Venezuela and abroad have rushed to defend the Venezuelan Academy of Physical, Mathematical and Natural Sciences (ACFIMAN) after a high-level government official suggested raids or arrests to punish the academy for “causing alarm” in a report that suggested the country’s coronavirus epidemic is far worse than official numbers show. In the unsigned 18-page report, released on 8 May, scientists at ACFIMAN used mathematical models to estimate the current and future size of the epidemic in the country. Read more.
Alarm over universities’ backing of national security law
Yojana Sharma, University World News, 06/02
The heads of the governing councils of Hong Kong’s eight publicly funded universities have backed a plan announced by Beijing last month to impose a national security law on the city, in an act that many academics see as ‘doing Beijing’s bidding’. Some fear such statements on policies from Beijing emanating from universities could lead to the politicisation of institutions in Hong Kong, which are already polarised between pro-democracy and pro-Beijing groups. Read more.
New restrictions for Chinese students with military university ties
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Education, 05/29
The Trump administration plans to cancel the visas of Chinese graduate students and researchers who have direct ties to universities in China affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army, a decision that will only affect a small percentage of the approximately 370,000 Chinese students studying in the U.S. The move was praised by some as a smart approach to mitigating the risk of theft of sensitive research and criticized by others as an overly blunt and likely ineffective measure that could open the door for further restrictions on Chinese students. Read more.
U.S. to expel Chinese graduate students with ties to China’s military schools
Edward Wong and Julian Barnes, The New York Times, 05/28
The Trump administration plans to cancel the visas of thousands of Chinese graduate students and researchers in the United States who have direct ties to universities affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army, according to American officials with knowledge of the discussions. The plan would be the first designed to bar the access of a category of Chinese students, who, over all, form the single largest foreign student population in the United States. Read more.
Minister denies threat to academic freedom of medical scientist
Sharon Dell, University World News, 05/27
South Africa’s Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize this week denied there had been any interference with academic freedom in the case of Professor Glenda Gray, head of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), whose critical public comments about the government’s lockdown regulations drew calls from a government bureaucrat for an investigation. Read more.
Law lecturer’s dismissal over exam question raises concerns
Tunde Fatunde, University World News, 05/26
Dr Nkongho Felix Agbor Balla, formerly a lecturer in the faculty of law at the University of Buea, an English-speaking university in a predominantly French-speaking region, was suspended by his university following a complaint by the Minister of Higher Education Professor Jacques Fame Ndongo to the university’s vice-chancellor, Professor Ngomo Horace Manga, about a question he set in a law paper. Read more.
Over 600 citizens call for temporary release of Sudha Bharadwaj, Shoma Sen from Byculla jail
The Wire, 05/25
In a memorandum to the high powered committee headed by Justice AA Sayed, a statement endorsed by over 600 civil society members, comprising of activists, lawyers and academicians, has called for the release of lawyer and activist Sudha Bharadwaj and academic Shoma Sen, both of whom are currently lodged at the Byculla Jail in Mumbai. Read more.
Nigeria-based students cut off as universities resume work
Samuel Okocha, University World News, 05/25
While the higher education system in Benin is getting back to work, after the government said the ban on classes to fight the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic would end on 11 May, the ongoing closure of the border with Nigeria is creating problems for private institutions and their students. While the public higher education sector has quickly returned to teaching, partly leveraging a new remote learning system, private universities in the francophone West African country have struggled to return to normal, with one major obstacle being cross-border movement controls imposed on international students from Nigeria, who have been a key component of their classes. Read more.
US scrutiny of Israel’s China ties extends to universities
Bloomberg News via University World News, 05/23
Israeli academics’ ties with China are on the United States’ radar, according to two people familiar with the matter, adding new pressure on its Middle Eastern ally to cool relations with Beijing, writes Ivan Levingston for Bloomberg News. Academic projects involving technology research and development are a focus, one of the people said. While there has been no discussion of possible penalties or incentives to get Israel to dial down relations with Chinese universities, the person said, the US is Israel’s top benefactor and cannot be ignored. Read more.
Chinese scholars pressured over criticism of state on Covid-19
Joyce Lau, Times Higher Education, 05/22
Concerns have been raised about the treatment of Chinese academics deemed to have strayed from official narratives about the Covid-19 pandemic. According to news reports and testimony from some of those involved, there has been an increase in online harassment and censorship, and in some cases interventions by universities and the police, as Beijing bristles against international criticism. Read more.
University of Queensland to ban foreign diplomats from gaining honorary positions
Ben Smee, The Guardian, 05/22
The University of Queensland has banned foreign diplomats from being awarded honorary academic positions, after comments by a senior Chinese official who praised the “spontaneous patriotic behaviour” of pro-Beijing protesters involved in a campus brawl last year. The university’s chancellor, Peter Varghese, told Guardian Australia the controversial statement released in June last year by China’s consul-general in Brisbane, Xu Jie, was “unacceptable” and would have breached its code of conduct. Read more.
Recent developments in Turkey targeting Istanbul Şehir University
Middle East Studies Association, 05/20
The Middle East Studies Association’s Committee on Academic Freedom issued a letter regarding recent developments affecting Istanbul Şehir University that have compromised the university’s governance and autonomy and now threaten it with closure as a result of an apparently politically motivated campaign by the Turkish government. Read more.
University of Queensland holds hearing behind closed doors to consider expulsion of student involved in China protest actions
George Roberts and Holly Richardson, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 05/20
The Australia director at Human Rights Watch, Elaine Pearson, said the perceived persecution of a student activist by a university could have lasting effects on student activism. “I think students might then have to think long and hard about the heavy price that they might pay for holding protests on campus,” she said. Read more.
Exigency outlook uncertain
Rick Seltzer, Inside Higher Education, 05/19
So far, only a few institutions have taken the step of declaring financial exigency, which enables institutions to lay off tenured faculty members under American Association of University Professors guidelines. Still, colleges and universities have signaled that they’re willing to take other steps to make deep cuts without a formal exigency declaration. That’s sparking concern from the AAUP, which argues exigency rules exist in part to protect academic freedom. Read more.
Fears raised over scope of OfS’ crisis regulatory powers
Anna McKie, Times Higher Education, 05/19
University leaders and experts in higher education policy and law have warned that the proposals put forward by England’s regulator to stabilise the sector during the coronavirus pandemic are “alarmingly broad” and threaten the autonomy of institutions. On 4 May, the Office for Students (OfS) announced that it was consulting on a new regulatory condition, allowing it to intervene where universities “act in ways that undermine students’ interests or threaten the stability of England’s higher education sector during the crisis”. Read more.
At least 238 writers and intellectuals were detained for their work last year, advocacy group says
Siobhán O’Grady, The Washington Post, 05/19
At least 238 writers, academics and intellectuals around the world were detained in connection to their work last year, according to a report released Tuesday by PEN America, a freedom of expression advocacy group. The imprisonments and detentions occurred in 34 countries, although the majority took place in just three — China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Those same countries are also among the top jailers of journalists worldwide, according to the 2019 Committee to Protect Journalists prison census. Read more.
Trump drags US universities into virus battle with China
Paul Basken, Times Higher Education, 05/18
The Trump administration is pulling US universities into its coronavirus-driven excoriation of China, warning of Chinese attempts to steal research findings that could help the country reap the political reward of being first to find a vaccine. US university leaders have long agreed that Chinese espionage represents a threat. But they have warned the administration and its congressional allies that the methods and tone they adopt in addressing the threat could harm the far greater contributions of Chinese nationals to the overall US scientific enterprise − in terms of international collaboration on vital coronavirus research and potential damage to Chinese enrolments at US universities. Read more.
Iran sentences French academic to 6 years in prison
Arab News, 05/16
An Iranian court has sentenced a prominent researcher with dual French-Iranian citizenship to six years in prison on security charges, her lawyer said on Saturday. Fariba Adelkhah was sentenced to five years for “gathering and collusion” against the country’s security and one year for “spreading propaganda” against the Islamic system, her lawyer, Saeed Dehghan, told the AP. Dehghan said Adelkhah will appeal the ruling. Read more.
Historian complies with Pofma order but says he will challenge it
Tham Yuen-C, The Straits Times, 05/15
Historian Thum Ping Tjin has put up a correction notice on his Facebook page alongside his online video on Singapore’s fake news laws, complying with correction directions he received on Wednesday, but only after receiving a warning. While he had put up a notice on the New Naratif website he founded, he had not done so on his Facebook page by the deadline set by the Pofma (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act) Office until he received a warning from the office. Read more.
Science ‘risks coronavirus backlash’ as it is drawn into politics
David Matthews, Times Higher Education, 05/14
Trust in science could sour in the pandemic crisis, especially if politicians try to pin blame for policy mistakes and the downsides of lockdowns on their scientific advisers, international science policy experts have warned. Although initial surveys in the UK and Germany suggest that trust in science has jumped, scientists advising governments on their response to the coronavirus have also been subject to death threats, newspaper exposés and online hate across a number of countries, leading some to fear that they could be held responsible for the economic and social damage wrought by national lockdowns that seek to halt the disease’s spread. Read more.
Recent amendments to law on higher education threaten academic freedom
Turkey: The University Faculty Members Association (ÜNİVDER) has shared its opinions as to the recently amended law on higher education in a statement. “The Law Foreseeing Amendments to the Law on Higher Education and Some Laws” was drafted by the Council of Higher Education (YÖK), passed by the Parliament and published on the Official Gazette on April 17. In its nine-page statement shared with the public yesterday (May 13), the Association has noted that “the law on higher education does not comply with the mindset of universities and restricts academic autonomy as well as freedom of expression and freedom of thought.” Read more.
Was this professor dangerous?
Emma Pettit, Chronicle of Higher Education, 05/13
At Utah Valley, Shively’s case became a Rorschach test. With little detail into the initial allegations, a group of faculty members saw the shape of something that seemed wrong: a protracted investigation of a tenured professor without due process. They questioned why suspension was warranted and why Shively’s classroom practices were under scrutiny. Academic freedom is an ideal treasured by professors, and universities vow to protect it. The classroom is the instructor’s domain. But that freedom doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Read more.
Government targets academic critics of COVID-19 response
Yojana Sharma, University World News, 05/12
Two Chinese academics are under investigation by their universities and a third has been arrested in recent weeks for criticising the handling of the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown in China. COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, in China’s central Hubei province, at the end of last year. Read more.
Cameroon pressures university to fire anglophone-rights advocate and lecturer
Human Rights Foundation, 05/12
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) condemns the regime of Cameroon’s dictator Paul Biya for orchestrating last week’s dismissal of human rights lawyer Felix Agbor Nkongho from the University of Buea, in retaliation for his activism in defense of the rights of Cameroon’s Anglophone minority. Read more.
Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Education, 05/11
Online proctoring has surged during the coronavirus pandemic, and so too have concerns about the practice, in which students take exams under the watchful eyes (human or automated) of third-party programs.Chief among faculty and student concerns are student privacy and increasing test anxiety via a sense of being surveilled. Read more.
Mergers and ‘FE future’ predicted for some English universities
Jack Grove, Times Higher Education, 05/11
English universities at risk of financial collapse will receive significant government assistance only if they agree to merge or to accept a “further education future”, vice-chancellors have predicted.Some fear that the reintroduction of student number controls − which allow universities to recruit 5 per cent more this autumn than they did last year − signals the Treasury’s intention to intervene far more in higher education, which might include denying some institutions access to research funding. Read more.
Racist attack disrupts virtual graduation
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Education, 05/11
Oklahoma City University’s virtual graduation ceremony on Saturday was disrupted by a “hate-filled attack” from an unknown person who displayed racist and offensive language, the Methodist university reported. KFOR, an Oklahoma City-based television station affiliated with NBC, reported that someone broadcast a racial slur and swastika as a student gave a blessing at the virtual ceremony, which was hosted via the online meeting platform Zoom. Read more.
Contradictions on free speech
Greta Anderson, Inside Higher Education, 05/05
Students continue to have a conflicting view of how speech should be managed on college campuses. A majority of them say certain offensive language should be restricted, but they also agree it is important to be exposed to all types of speech during college, according to a new survey report. The report, released Tuesday and based on a survey conducted in 2019 by the Knight Foundation and Gallup, is the third in a series of reports that measures students’ knowledge of and value for the First Amendment. Read more.
EU lawmakers call for online exam proctoring privacy probe
David Matthews, Times Higher Education, 05/05
European lawmakers have demanded an investigation into whether online proctoring software violates student privacy rights, arguing that it is unfair for universities to force students to use exam monitoring tools that capture their personal biometric data. The coronavirus pandemic has spurred many universities to turn to software such as Proctorio, used by about 500 institutions globally, mainly in the US, to stop students cheating when sitting online exams at home. Read more.
MMfD submits response to UNSR on Academic Freedom and the Freedom of Opinion and Expression in Pakistan
Zoya Rehman, Digital Rights Monitor, 05/04
Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD) submitted its response to the UN Special Rapporteur on the protection and promotion of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, regarding the threats to and scope, promotion and enforcement of academic freedom in Pakistan. The concerned Special Rapporteur is currently studying the scope and protection of academic freedom as a component of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Read more.
Opinion: Iran is using the pandemic as cover for cracking down on intellectuals
Eugene Chudnovsky, The Washington Examiner, 05/04
Poor management of the COVID-19 pandemic (that Iran has blamed on the United States and Israel) has led to sharp criticism of the country’s leaders by Iran’s intellectual elite. On March 29, 100 Iranian academics signed a letter to the supreme leader, accusing him of being “the No. 1 culprit in the COVID-19 pandemic becoming a national disaster.” Overcrowded Iranian prisons, with their unsanitary conditions, have become the breeding grounds for the coronavirus. Read more.
Iran sentences student to six years in prison, 74 lashes for joining protests
Yaghoub Fazeli, Al Arabiya English, 05/02
An Iranian student has been sentenced to six years in prison and 74 lashes for taking part in Iran’s January protests after the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) admitted to shooting down a Ukrainian passenger plane. Iranians took to the streets in early 2020 to protest the regime after it admitted to shooting down a Ukrainian airliner, killing all 176 people, having denied responsibility for several days. Read more.
Europe: Universities beyond the coronavirus crisis – What awaits?
Michael Murphy, University World News, 05/02
The coronavirus crisis has challenged universities in many new ways; being places that gather many people, they cannot open their doors to students, but this does not mean that they are closed. In a short time, many have moved their learning and teaching online. For a sector serving more than 20 million students in Europe, this is no small feat. Read more.
Opinion: Universities run on disposable scholars
Musa al-Gharbi, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 05/01
Crises like the continuing Covid-19 pandemic often serve to clarify the state of the societies and institutions they impact, highlighting dynamics that have long been present but have gone unnoticed or underdiscussed. Higher ed is no exception. At colleges nationwide, institutional responses to the pandemic underscore just how much the ordinary lifestyles of tenured faculty are premised on the production and exploitation of “disposable scholars.” Read more.
An incentive for more freedom [German]
German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), 04/30
Prof. Dr. Katrin Kinzelbach from FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg and an international team of researchers collected the most comprehensive data set on freedom of science worldwide to date. In the Free Universities report , she and the team also launched a new academic freedom index, the Academic Freedom Index (AFi). In an interview, the political scientist explains how the investigation came about, what results surprised her and how the findings can be used. Read more.
University expels hundreds of students during lockdown
Nick Holdsworth, University World News, 04/30
A Russian university has been criticised for expelling and evicting students from campus dormitories during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown. Moscow’s Russian State Social University expelled and evicted at least 200 of its 1,568 students in mid-April, according to a report in the student newspaper Doxa. The university claimed the students were expelled for failing their exams and therefore were asked to leave their university-owned accommodation. Read more.
When knowledge is banned
Linda Marie Rustad and Sunniva Folgen Høiskar, Kilden, 04/28
Today we see that gender researchers’ freedom to research, study and teach gender and sexuality is under pressure in several places in the world. Amongst other things, the pressure comes from ‘anti-gender’ movements. According to Andrea Pëto, researcher at Central European University, the resistance towards gender is a unifying factor for right wing populists and conservative religious movements in their common opposition towards gender equality and sexual minority rights. Read more.
Prominent scholars threaten to boycott colleges that don’t support contingent faculty during pandemic
Megan Zahneis, Chronicle of Higher Education, 04/28
To account for the effects of the pandemic on scholars’ professional and personal lives, hundreds of institutions have extended their tenure clocks, giving junior faculty members extra time to prepare their dossiers. A similar courtesy ought to be afforded to their non-tenure-track and graduate-student colleagues, say a group of prominent academics. More than 70 scholars are among the initial signatories to an academic-solidarity statement that promises not to accept invitations — for speaking engagements, conferences, and workshops — at institutions that do not “include non-tenure-track faculty and graduate workers in extensions of fixed-term contracts.” Read more.
University professor criticized the regime on his social networks and was arrested by Conas
El Nacionale, 04/28
A university professor was arrested for criticizing the Nicolás Maduro regime on social media. In the publications, he referred to the lack of fuel and the food shortages that occur in Nueva Esparta and throughout Venezuela. Fernando Antonio Marcano Ferrer was detained by the National Anti-Extortion and Kidnapping Command of the Venezuelan National Guard. The crime he is charged with is that of instigating hatred. Read more.
China warns Australia of student boycott
John Ross, Times Higher Education, 04/28
China has flagged a possible boycott of Australian universities, as bilateral tensions rise over Australia’s call for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus. China’s ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye, said Australia risked inflaming resentment among Chinese parents by “teaming up with…forces in Washington to launch a kind of political campaign against China”. The remarks suggest that geopolitical tensions, long considered the factor most likely to undermine Chinese enrolments in Australia, could stifle the resurgence of student flows after travel bans are lifted. Read more.
Hong Kong police chief tells university to look into lecturer’s televised comments slamming force’s protest performance
Phila Siu and Chan Ho-him, South China Morning Post, 04/27
Hong Kong police chief Chris Tang Ping-keung has written to the Education University demanding the institution “seriously follow up” on televised comments by a lecturer, who argued the force had caused a “humanitarian crisis” with its handling of the anti-government protests last year. The letter, sent to university president Stephen Cheung Yan-leung on Friday, followed the Communications Authority watchdog ruling earlier that week, that lecturer Sam Choi Chun-wai’s remarks on a November RTHK programme were unfair to police and could be considered hate speech. Read more.
Organizations call for release of Iran’s female prisoners of conscience and political prisoners
Ewelina U. Ochab, Forbes, 04/27
On April 22, 2020, a broad coalition of international human rights organizations and the Vice President of the European Parliament published an open letter calling for the immediate release of Iran’s female prisoners of conscience and political prisoners, who have been left out of the recent mass furloughs during the Covid19 pandemic. Over the recent weeks, the Iranian authorities reportedly temporarily released close to 100,000 prisoners of conscience to mitigate the spread of Covid19. However, many high-profile prisoners of conscience continue to be imprisoned. Read more.
The end of the Harvard century
Matteo N. Wong, The Harvard Crimson, 04/23
Teng Biao, who has cropped black hair and rectangular, wire-framed glasses, was preparing to drive to Logan International Airport on March 10, 2015, when he received a phone call from a “powerful person” at Harvard. Teng was then a visiting fellow at Harvard Law School. A Chinese dissident and human rights lawyer, he has criticized the Chinese Communist Party for human rights violations since the early 2000s. Read more.
New report exposes arbitrary detention and torture of university student activists
Fortify Rights, 04/23/20
The new joint report, “Our Demands are for All Students”: Violations of Students’ Rights in Mandalay, Myanmar, documents how Myanmar authorities arbitrarily arrested university students, tortured students in detention, and prevented students from exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The government has failed to provide remedies to affected students as well as hundreds of other former political prisoners freed or released since 2015, including those freed last week. Read more.
Is pass-fail an equity issue?
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Education, 04/22
Students at Georgia’s public colleges and universities are petitioning for a pass-fail grading policy at their institutions this semester, arguing it is a matter of equity given the starkly different living and working situations students find themselves in following the suspension of in-person classes due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many colleges have moved to mandatory or optional pass-fail policies for the spring semester, but the University System of Georgia has resisted appeals for a pass-fail option, saying it trusts faculty to grade students effectively and that maintaining high academic standards matters. Read more.
Report: Public universities censor social media speech
Greta Anderson, Inside Higher Education, 04/22
A majority of public colleges and universities filter language in posts on their Facebook pages, and some ban specific words to limit public criticism, according to a new survey of about 200 public institutions released by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, a civil liberties watchdog group. Read more.
Lawyer of Iranian-French academic being tried in Tehran raises hopes for her freedom
Radio Free Europe, 04/19
The lawyer of an Iranian-French academic being tried in Tehran on security charges says he expects the court in charge of the case to issue its ruling in the coming days. Fariba Adelkhah’s lawyer told AFP by telephone that Branch 15 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court held a session in her trial on April 19 — the second since her trial began last month. Describing the hearing as “satisfactory,” the lawyer, Said Dehghan, raised hopes for Adelkhah’s freedom and said he expected the court’s decision within a week. Read more.
Universities must help shape the post-COVID-19 world
Ira Harkavy, Sjur Bergan, Tony Gallagher and Hilligje van’t Land, University World News, 04/18
The post-COVID-19 world must be based on the values we cherish: democracy, human rights and the rule of law as well as social justice, inclusion and equity. Higher education can add momentum by renewing our commitment to our core values of academic freedom, institutional autonomy and engagement by students, faculty and staff, and re-emphasising the role of higher education institutions as societal actors for the public good. Read more.
Amid pandemic, Hong Kong arrests major pro-democracy figures
Elaine Yu and Austin Ramzy, New York Times, 04/18
The arrests signaled a broader crackdown on the antigovernment movement that roiled the semiautonomous city last year, one of the most significant challenges to Communist Party rule in decades. Beijing and pro-government supporters in the city have called for lawmakers to pass national security laws that residents worry would allow the mainland authorities to further encroach upon the territory’s civic freedoms. Read more.
UN urges Iran to “immediately release” political prisoners and dual, foreign nationals
Center for Human Rights in Iran, 04/17
UN human rights experts* today called on Iran to expand its temporary release of thousands of detainees to include prisoners of conscience and dual and foreign nationals still being held despite serious risk of COVID-19 infection. The country has been hit hard by COVID-19, with Health Ministry officials reporting one person dies every 10 minutes from the virus. Read more.
University of Queensland takes disciplinary action against pro-Hong Kong student activist
Ben Smee, The Guardian, 04/16
The University of Queensland has taken disciplinary action against a prominent pro-Hong Kong student activist, who faces expulsion in relation to a series of satirical stunts, social media posts and criticisms of the vice-chancellor. Drew Pavlou, a member of the UQ senate, was this week sent a series of misconduct allegations against him and told to attend a disciplinary board hearing, where a decision maker would have the ability to terminate his enrolment. Read more.
University shutdowns bring new challenges to academic freedom
Wagdy Sawahel, University World News, 04/16
The range of containment measures imposed by national governments to counter the spread of the coronavirus pandemic has dramatically affected research, teaching and learning in African universities – in some cases leading to their suspension. In these unusual circumstances, what are the implications for academic freedom? Read more.
Online learning in universities – A missed opportunity?
Florence Mayega Nakayiwa, University World News, 04/16
The Universities and other Tertiary Institutions Act 2001 as amended was intended to establish and develop a system governing institutions of higher education, while respecting the autonomy and academic freedom of the institutions, and widen the accessibility of high quality institutions to students wishing to pursue higher education. The act states that the minister may issue directives of a policy nature to all institutions of higher education, whether public or private. But where is the distinction between policy and the limitations to autonomy and academic freedom? Read more.
Online learning shift contends with Chinese internet restrictions
Joyce Lau, Times Higher Education, 04/15
The world’s mass shift to online learning is shining a more intense light on the Chinese government’s tight internet controls and is spurring new efforts by academics to provide students with unimpeded access to course materials. Some foreign universities now find themselves unable to engage fully with students who have returned to mainland China during the coronavirus pandemic. Read more.
India: Activists detained for peaceful dissent
Human Rights Watch, 04/15
Indian authorities on April 14, 2020 detained two rights activists who have been critics of government policies, Human Rights Watch said today. The government should immediately drop all charges under a counterterrorism law against Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha for allegedly inciting caste-based violence along with other activists during a demonstration in Maharashtra state in 2017. Read more.
Will the pandemic usher in an era of mass surveillance in higher education?
Alexander C. Kafka, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 04/14
Online learning and meeting apps are just one aspect of privacy in higher education brought to the fore by the Covid-19 pandemic. Some academics fear the spreading crisis will be used to justify accelerated growth in intrusive observation of faculty members and students, further eroding individual rights in the name of education and public health. Read more.
Turkey: Prison release law leaves innocent and vulnerable prisoners at risk of COVID-19
Amnesty International, 04/13
Responding to the passing of a new law which is expected to allow for the early release of up to 100,000 prisoners in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, but fails to cover many others who should be considered for release. These include those held in pretrial detention, i.e. those yet to be convicted of any crime; people convicted under overly broad anti-terrorism laws including journalists, lawyers, political and human rights activists who have been imprisoned merely for speaking out; and even those at heightened risk including older prisoners and those with underlying health conditions convicted under anti-terrorism laws. Read more.
Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Education, 04/10
Non-tenure-track professors are used to uncertainty about contract renewals. But the coronavirus and related hiring freezes represent an unprecedented threat to their careers. They’re increasingly refusing to quietly bear the brunt of the disruption. COVID-19 poses the greatest health risks to the most vulnerable. New petitions are asking institutions to stretch current appointments and renewal limits for all instructors teaching off the tenure track by at least a year. Read more.
We need to rethink what counts for tenure now
Joy Connolly, Inside Higher Education, 04/09
The evaluation process for faculty members coming up for tenure or reappointment is a murkier area. The Twitterverse came alive several weeks ago with calls to extend tenure clocks, and some universities, including Ohio State, rapidly announced yearlong extensions. Recently, 34 learned societies endorsed a strong statement by the American Sociological Association calling for the review and adjustment of faculty evaluation practices in light of the disruptions caused by COVID-19. The Modern Language Association has called for institutions to “pause the tenure clocks of junior faculty members” during this unprecedented crisis. Read more.
Concern over proposed changes to UCD’s academic freedom
Jack Power, The Irish Times, 04/09
University College Dublin (UCD) has dropped proposed changes to its academic freedom policy to allow for “different interpretations” of the concept due to the university’s expanding links to China and other countries, following a significant backlash from academics. The draft policy, seen by The Irish Times, states UCD must consider “the risk of tension” between its obligations to uphold academic freedom and “the strategic imperative to internationalise higher education”. Read more.
French academic Roland Marchal speaks out after nine months of detention in Iran
Christophe Boisbouvier and Franck Mathevon, France 24, 04/08
In an emotional interview with FRANCE 24’s partner radio stations RFI and Radio France, Roland Marchal, the French academic released last month after more than nine months in an Iranian jail, spoke out about his time in detention. Marchal’s partner, Fariba Adelkhah, who was arrested at the same time as him, remains in prison in Tehran. Read more.
Top economist calls for overhaul of India’s ‘Inspector Raj’ regime
Joyce Lau, Times Higher Education, 04/07
India’s powerful University Grants Commission (UGC), which controls funding and standards for the country’s nearly 1,000 higher education institutions, should be closed and replaced with a new Higher Education Promotion Commission (HEPC), a top Indian economist has proposed. Read more.
UK government to tackle foreign interference at universities
Will Nott, The PIE News, 04/07
The UK government will tackle foreign interference at British universities by working with Universities UK and by promoting the diversification of international students, according to a document obtained by The PIE News. In November 2019, a Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry found “alarming evidence” of Chinese interference on UK campuses, and that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was failing to protect academic freedom in the country. Read more.
Fake news laws may ‘catch on’ during coronavirus
Ellie Bothwell, Times Higher Education, 04/06
The prevalence of fake news related to the coronavirus could be used by countries to justify new misinformation legislation that could harm academic freedom, scholars have warned. Earlier this month, Singapore’s communications and information minister S. Iswaran said that the use of fake news during the pandemic strengthened the government’s decision last year to introduce the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma). Read more.
College professors say ‘Zoombombing’ is the latest weapon in attacks against higher education
Kate McGee, WBEZ Chicago, 04/03
As various aspects of society have shifted to online video platforms like Zoom for meetings and school during the COVID-19 shutdown, racist trolls have followed. While Zoombombing is widespread, college professors like Ahad feel it’s just the latest iteration of an effort by far right activists and trolls to dismantle higher education and attack professors of color. Read more.
When populism makes you sick [German]
Jörg Heeren, Informationsdienst Wissenschaft, 04/03
World Health Day on April 7th aims to draw attention to the importance of health care and disease prevention. But these goals are endangered in many countries, scientists from Bielefeld University state in a contribution in the scientific journal Science. According to the research team, the corona crisis shows how important fact-based research is and how dangerous it is for public health if indications by researchers and doctors about illnesses are politically suppressed. Read more.
‘Heaviness in the stomach’: A Uyghur daughter alone in America on her birthday during a pandemic
Darren Byler, Sup China, 04/01
Last month, Akida Pulat celebrated her birthday alone. It was her third birthday since her mother, Uyghur anthropologist Rahile Dawut, had disappeared in Northwest China. Akida worried that during the pandemic, her birthday would be especially hard for her mother. Read more.
World-renowned scientists express support for Bülent Şık
Over 600 world-renowned scientists, including Nobel laureates, have condemned the 15-month prison sentence given to bianet columnist, food engineer Asst. Prof. Bülent Şık for sharing the results of cancer research with the public. Read more.
US war on science ‘undermining war on coronavirus’
John Ross, Times Higher Education, 04/02
Derision of expertise has been concentrated in the US – but that’s where it matters most. The US administration’s war on expertise is imperilling the country’s people and jeopardising the global fight against Covid-19, according to former Australian chief scientist Penny Sackett. Read more.
The Coronavirus pandemic and the rise of Chinese civil society
Willy Wo-Lap Lam, The Jamestown Foundation, 04/01
On the surface, Chinese civil society actors—led by intellectuals, rights lawyers, and underground churchgoers—are being suppressed by draconian means. Yet, a number of brave activists have defied the censorship and oppression to have their voices heard. Tsinghua University professor Xu Zhangrun and a dozen-odd public intellectuals published a net-based appeal stating that “Freedom of expression starts today.” Apart from demanding proper treatment of victims of the pandemic, the petitioners asked for the establishment of a Dr. Li Wenliang Day, and a National Freedom of Expression Day. Read more.
Outrage over denial of amnesty for Turkish political prisoners
Bethan McKernan and Beril Eski, The Guardian, 03/31
Anger is growing in Turkey that while the government is preparing to grant amnesties to up to one third of the country’s prison population in order to combat the coronavirus pandemic, jailed human rights activists, journalists and opposition politicians will not be among those considered for early release. Read more.
Bangladesh: End wave of COVID-19 ‘rumor’ arrests
Human Rights Watch, 03/31
The Bangladesh government appears to be cracking down on free speech as COVID-19 hits the country, silencing concerns over the government’s handling of the epidemic, Human Rights Watch said today. Authorities should stop targeting academics and arresting people for speaking out about the epidemic, and ensure that accurate and timely information about the virus is accessible and available to all. Since mid-March 2020, authorities have apparently arrested at least a dozen people, including a doctor, opposition activists, and students, for their comments about coronavirus, most of them under the draconian Digital Security Act. Read more.
Ranking academic freedom globally
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Education, 03/30
Comparative data on academic freedom has been hard to come by, but a new index released Thursday assigns ratings to countries based on how free scholars are to teach and research. The index relies on expert assessments of five measures related to freedom to research and teach, freedom of academic exchange and dissemination, institutional autonomy, campus integrity (defined as the degree to which campuses are free from politically motivated surveillance or security-related infringements), and freedom of academic, cultural and political expression. Read more.
Coronavirus crisis awakens a sleeping giant: China’s youth
Vivian Wang and Javier C. Hernández, The New York Times, 03/28
Students have flooded social media to organize donations for Chinese doctors battling the coronavirus epidemic. Workers have marched in the streets to demand compensation for weeks of unemployment during citywide lockdowns. Young citizen journalists have taken to YouTube to call for free speech. Read more.
Union opposes online classes as ‘violation of equality’
Wagdy Sawahel, University World News, 03/26
In a statement on 22 March, the General Tunisian Union of Students (UGET) rejected the proposal of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research to deliver university and other educational courses through online learning as a violation of the principle of equality and equal opportunity because not all students have personal computers, tablets, smartphones or reliable internet access. Read more.
Academic freedom index aims to boost defence incentive
Ellie Bothwell, Times Higher Education, 03/26
Researchers have published a new index of the state of academic freedom worldwide and across time in a bid to better defend a value that “remains under attack in many places”. More than 1,800 scholars assessed the level of academic freedom in different countries between 1900 and 2019 to create the Academic Freedom Index – the most comprehensive global assessment of scholarly autonomy to date. The index was created by researchers at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and the V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg; the Scholars at Risk Network; and the Global Public Policy Institute. Read more.
Student affairs leaders on mental health, race relations, free speech and more
Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Education, 03/26
Inside Higher Ed conducted a first-ever survey of student affairs leaders, conducted by Gallup between Jan. 16 and Feb. 12, before the coronavirus left more campuses without students. Approximately one-third of student affairs professionals at public institutions (28% at private) reported spending a “significant amount of time” on free expression issues on campus. According to the report, some of the most contentious issues surrounding campus speech are whether students understand why free speech is important on campus and the punishments (if any) for those who disrupt free speech. Read more.
Freedom of speech in universities: Who draws the line?
Robin Lustig, BBC, 03/25
SAR’s Executive Director Rob Quinn speaks about free speech on university campuses with the BBC as a part of a series where reporter Robin Lustig visits universities around the world to talk about the freedom of ideas. In this episode, Rob Quinn discusses where the line is drawn regarding freedom of speech in universities, who draws it, and what happens to those who cross it. Listen here.
China set to indict Australian academic Yang Hengjun on espionage charges
Ben Doherty and Lily Kuo, The Guardian, 03/25
China is preparing to formally indict Australian academic Dr Yang Hengjun with espionage, a charge that potentially carries the death penalty, as concerns grow over his isolation and treatment in prison. Yang, 54, has been imprisoned for more than 432 days, and, for the last three months, has been held in total isolation, allowed no contact with the outside world. Read more.
Ming Pao row: If we learn anything from the virus outbreak, it should be the importance of free speech
Kevin Carrico, Hong Kong Free Press, 03/25
A frank discussion of the origins of this virus and the need to prevent another pandemic, written by two experts in microbiology who have been on the frontlines in researching and battling both SARS and COVID-19: this would appear to be precisely the type of opinion piece that we need at this moment. Yet Yuen and Lung’s article produced a storm of angry controversy on Chinese social media. Within a day, the authors had publicly retracted their piece. Read more.
A side effect of remote teaching during covid-19? Videos that can be weaponized
Emma Pettit, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 03/24
The coronavirus-prompted shift to remote teaching was stressful enough for faculty members before Charlie Kirk weaponized online learning. On Sunday the founder of the conservative political-action group Turning Point USA told college students whose professors had switched to online classes to share with Turning Point videos of “blatant indoctrination.” Turning Point, Campus Reform, and other groups have created a cottage industry of naming and shaming professors who they say advance what they call the liberal agenda. Read more.
Turkish pediatric hematologist & oncologist acquitted
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, & Medicine, 03/24
On March 19, 2020, pediatric hematologist and oncologist Dr. Murat Tuncer was acquitted of national security-related charges by the Criminal Court in Ankara. He had faced a lengthy prison sentence in an ordeal that lasted almost two years. Read more.
Iran releases French academic Roland Marchal: French official
Marine Pennetier and Mathieu Rosemain, Reuters, 03/21
Iranian authorities have released French academic Roland Marchal, who has been imprisoned in Iran since June 2019, a French presidency official said on Saturday. Marchal is due to arrive in France around midday on Saturday, the official said. French President Emmanuel Macron urged Iran to also release French citizen Fariba Adelkhah, who is still imprisoned, the official added. Adelkhah also holds an Iranian passport. Read more.
Coronavirus: Egypt detains novelist Ahdaf Soueif for demanding prisoners’ release
Middle East Eye, 03/18
Egyptian police detained four prominent activists who staged a protest on Wednesday calling for the release of political prisoners to prevent further spread of the novel coronavirus. Earlier on Wednesday, sister of detained left-wing activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, Mona Seif, posted a live stream on Facebook showing a mini protest by her mother the academic Laila Soueif, her sister, novelist Ahdaf Soueif, and political science academic Rabab el-Mahdy. Read more.
Hounded out of U.S., scientist invents fast coronavirus test in China
David Armstrong, Annie Waldman, and Daniel Golden, The Chronicle of Higher Education (co-published with ProPublica), 03/18
Professor Weihong Tan abruptly left the University of Florida in 2019 during a federal investigation into his alleged failure to fully disclose Chinese academic appointments and funding. He moved to Hunan University in south-central China, where he now conducts his vital Covid-19 research. Read more.
Jailed Iranian activist begins hunger strike to demand release of political prisoners amid country’s coronavirus crisis
Joseph Hincks, Time, 03/17
Jailed Iranian human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh has announced she is going on a hunger strike to demand the release of political prisoners in Iran, a move taken amid fears that inmates’ safety could be jeopardized by the coronavirus outbreak overwhelming the country’s health system. Read more.
‘No regrets’: Umbrella Movement co-founder Chan Kin-man released after 11-months in prison for peaceful protest
Rachel Wong, Hong Kong Free Press, 03/16
Chan Kin-man, one of the co-founders of the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement, has been released from prison after serving 11 months of his 16-month sentence. The sociology professor was one of nine activists convicted on public nuisance charges last April for participation in the 2014 protests. Read more.
Academic freedom in the time of coronavirus
Shannon Dea, University Affairs, 03/13
As universities respond to COVID-19, they must be guided by their core values of social responsibility, accountability and equitable access – all of which support suspending on-campus teaching and learning. Read more.
Foreign students asked to leave for ‘joining protests’
Shuriah Niazi, University World News, 03/13
Three foreign students have been asked to leave India for allegedly taking part in rallies against India’s contentious new citizenship law, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which has sparked protests across the country. Read more.
Universities rewrite Confucius Institute contracts amid foreign influence scrutiny
Fergus Hunter, The Sydney Herald, 03/11
Two of Australia’s top universities have renegotiated their contracts to host China-funded culture and language centres in an effort to safeguard their teaching autonomy and ward off the Morrison government’s foreign influence crackdown. Read more.
Academic freedom and institutional autonomy–for democracy and quality
Sjur Bergan, Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), 03/12
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) released its monthly International Quality Group Policy Brief, with Sjur Bergan of the Council of Europe addressing the role that academic freedom and institutional autonomy play in higher education. Read more.
Persecution by the Bolsonaro regime: Brazil’s researchers under threat [German]
Ana Paula Lisboa, Der Tagesspiegel, 03/10
There are even death threats: more and more scientists have to leave Brazil to flee President Jair Bolsonaro. Read more.
Annual Collegiality Reviews?
Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Education, 3/10
Sam Houston State University is considering adding collegiality to its list of tenure and promotion criteria. This follows a failed attempt to do so in 2018 when rating professors’ collegiality on a scale of one to 10 was proposed.This time around, Sam Houston State wants to rate professors on whether they’re collegial or not, up or down. Still, the idea is controversial. Read more.
Silencing science? Auckland academics challenge media policy
Jamie Morton, The New Zealand Herald, 03/09
University of Auckland academics have challenged a policy they say would limit them in speaking out on important issues, while having a “chilling effect” elsewhere. But the university insists it’s not trying to gag its academics, and just seeking to clarify under what capacity staff members should be making public comments. Read more.
Do not forget the jailed Saudi women’s rights activists
Fadi al-Qadi, Al Jezeera, 03/08
It has been two years since Saudi Arabia intensified its crackdown on women activists and many of those jailed are still languishing in prison. Read more.
IACHR recognizes the need to protect university autonomy [Spanish]
Hernan Porras Molina, Entorno Inteligente, 03/07
The second vice president of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Flavia Piovesan, recognized that 85% of Venezuelan universities are affected by the economic and political crisis of the Nicolás Maduro government. According to her, without university students there can be no “future or possible democracy”, for which she considered it important to defend academic freedom and university autonomy. Read more.
China activist who called Xi clueless on coronavirus faces years in jail for ‘subversion’
Verna Yu, The Guardian, 03/07
A prominent Chinese activist detained for criticising President Xi Jinping’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak is being held on a state security charge that carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in jail, his friends said on Sunday. Read more.
Lawyer: Detained Egyptian student moved to notorious prison
AP via New York Times, 03/05
Police on Thursday transferred an Egyptian rights activist who was arrested after returning to Cairo from Italy last month to a notorious prison complex, his lawyer said. Patrick George Zaki, 28, a student at the University of Bologna in Italy, has been detained since arriving at Cairo airport Feb. 7 for what was supposed to be a brief trip home. Read more.
CEU welcomes the Advocate General’s Opinion regarding Lex CEU
Central European University, 03/05
CEU welcomes the unequivocal opinion of the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice in the matter of lex CEU. Advocate General Kokott has clearly declared that lex CEU violates European law. In her opinion, she declares that Lex CEU “cannot be justified”. It is an exercise of “arbitrary discrimination” and imposes a “disproportionate restriction” on academic freedom. Read more.
Pentagon proposes cuts to social science research
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Education, 03/05
The Trump administration has proposed cutting a Department of Defense program that funds unclassified, university-based social science research relating to topics of national security. Read more.
TUP Manila holds first student rally in campus
Angelo Cocharo and Rona Fe Curia, Manila Today, 03/04
On Wednesday, March 4, students from the Technological University of the Philippines (TUP) – Manila held their first black shirt rally with the calls #DefendAcademicFreedom and #UpholdDemocraticRights. The protest was organized by TUP University Student Government (TUP USG) Manila after receiving different reports of repression from the students. Read more.
Two detained French academics go on trial in Iran
AFP via France 24, 03/03
Two French academics jailed in Iran for over half a year on national security charges went on trial Tuesday in a case that has raised tensions between Tehran and Paris. Read more.
After announcing firing of grad assistants, UC-Santa Cruz is in turmoil
Vimal Patel, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 03/02
The University of California campus spiraled toward a labor crisis on Monday in the aftermath of an extraordinary decision to send dismissal notices to 54 striking graduate students who are withholding winter-term grades to demand a cost-of-living adjustment. More than 500 other graduate students have pledged not to fill the spots vacated by the dismissed teaching assistants. Read more.
It’s not too late to save Brazil’s universities and its democracy
Debora Diniz, Times Higher Education, 02/28
An atmosphere of fear on campuses has served to mute expression and limit academic freedom, but action can still be taken to fight back, says Debora Diniz. Read more.
Universities in Venezuela: “You can be critical, but the threat is latent” [Spanish]
Julia Brekl, Deutsche Welle (DW), 02/27
Autonomous universities in Venezuela have a long tradition of resistance. What is the current situation of academic freedom in the country? These are the perspectives of different academics. Read more.
Open letter from Canadian academics opposing the IHRA definition of antisemitism
Independent Jewish Voices Canada, 02/27
Nearly 350 Canadian academics have signed on to an open letter opposing the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. Read more.
Oettinger defends controversial job for Orbán’s science council
Hans Von der Burchard and Cristina Gonzalez, Politico, 02/26
Former European Commissioner Günther Oettinger has defended his plan to take up a top post at a controversial science council set up by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Hungary’s Official Journal said last week that Orbán had appointed the German politician as co-chairman of the newly created National Science Policy Council, which advises the government on innovation and research. Read more.
China decides to set its own path in academic evaluation
Futao Huang, University World News, 02/26
On 18 February 2020, the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Science and Technology jointly issued a notice announcing a reform of China’s academic evaluation system. Read more.
Jailed French academic Adelkhah hospitalised in Iran: Lawyer
AFP via France 24, 02/25
French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah, jailed in Iran since last year, has been transferred to a prison hospital after her health deteriorated following a hunger strike, her lawyer said Tuesday. Read more.
Visa obstacles thwart renowned foreign scholars
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Education, 02/24
A German professor invited to Virginia to teach about far-right politics faces visa delays, and a British professor focused on human rights can’t travel to Florida in the latest cases of scholars facing heightened scrutiny by U.S. immigration authorities. Read more.
When the State wants to control the narrative [Spanish]
Claudio Pairoba, Los Andes, 02/24
Tensions between science and the power of the day are not new. Today we see them related to current events. Read more.
Speech under siege from street to internet: Annual Report on the State of Freedom of Expression in Egypt for 2019
The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), 02/23
AFTE’s annual report for 2019 examines threats to freedom of expression across Egypt, including targeted attacks and legislation that negatively impact journalists, netizens, scholars, and students. Read more.
An Egyptian’s arrest rekindles an Italian trauma
Declan Walsh and Elisabetta Povoledo, The New York Times, 02/21
Haunted by the 2016 death in Cairo of an Italian student, Giulio Regeni, Italians are campaigning for the release of an Egyptian who has said he was tortured. When an Egyptian student was arrested at the Cairo Airport recently, it was hardly an unusual event. Read more.
Iran upholds lengthy prison sentences for eight environmentalists
Middle East Eye, 02/19
An Iranian court has upheld prison sentences ranging from four to 10 years against eight members of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, despite criticism by rights groups. Read more.
Scholars’ growing insecurity puts academic freedom at risk
Farkhad Alimukhamedov, The Conversation, 02/19
In Iran, several scholars, including France’s Fariba Adelkhah and Roland Marchal (Sciences Po) and Australia’s Kylie Moore-Gilbert (University of Melbourne), have been detained under espionage charges. All deny the accusations, yet face several years in jail. Read more.
Evidence that conservative students really do self-censor
Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, 02/16
I’ve argued before that campus speech is threatened from a dozen directions, citing scores of incidents that undermine the culture of free expression and dialogue needed to seek truth and learn. The academic Jeffrey Adam Sachs has staked out a contrasting position at the Niskanen Center. Read more.
Hong Kong scholars perceive declining academic freedom
Ellie Bothwell, Times Higher Education, 02/16
More than two-thirds of scholars in Hong Kong believe that the level of academic freedom in the territory has declined over the past year, according to a study. Read more.
Police stormed a university in India. Muslim students say the violence was an act of revenge.
Joanna Slater, The Washington Post, 02/16
Inside Room 46 of the Morison Court dormitory, the university students huddled in the dark, too afraid to speak. Police in riot gear pounded on the door. The next sound was glass shattering, then came the thunk and hiss of tear gas. Something exploded once, then twice, with a deafening noise. Read more.
‘This may be the last piece I write’: Prominent Xi critic has internet cut after house arrest
Verna Yu and Emma Graham-Harrison, The Guardian, 02/16
The Chinese professor Xu Zhangrun, who published a rare public critique of President Xi Jinping over China’s coronavirus crisis, was placed under house arrest for days, barred from social media and is now cut off from the internet, his friends have told the Guardian. Read more.
Scientists in Indonesia fear political interference
Dyna Rochmyaningsih, Science Magazine, 02/14
After living and working in Indonesia for about 15 years, French landscape ecologist David Gaveau suddenly left the country on 28 January. Indonesian immigration authorities had ordered Gaveau, a research associate with the Center for International Forestry Research in Bogor, on Java, to leave because of a visa violation. Read more.
Polish academics fear Catholic group’s role in ‘free speech’ law
John Morgan, Times Higher Education, 02/13
Polish academics have raised fears about government moves to create a committee to rule on alleged “freedom of speech” violations in universities, highlighting the involvement of a group of ultra-conservative Catholic lawyers in the proposed legislative changes. Read more.
Controlling Hong Kong HE is ‘top priority’ for China
Yojana Sharma, University World News, 02/12
Controlling the higher education sector in Hong Kong is a high priority, if not the top priority, of the Chinese government’s bid to step up authoritarian controls across different sectors of Hong Kong society, and must be seen in the context of China’s bid to spread its influence on campuses globally, says a group of Hong Kong scholars in a new report on academic freedom in Hong Kong. Read more.
‘Naked intimidation’: How universities silence academics on social media
Tess Reidy, The Guardian, 02/12
When Cardiff University PhD student Grace Krause began getting headaches and back pain after staring at a computer screen for days on end, she decided to speak out online. “Staff are marking hundreds of essays in an impossibly short time. It is exhausting. Everyone is in crisis mode. Stressed, moody, morose, everyone feels like they’re drowning,” she wrote on Twitter. Read more.
South Sudan academic suspended over opinion piece
Nyagoah Tut Pur, Human Rights Watch, 02/12
South Sudan’s University of Juba has suspended a renowned academic and writer from his teaching position over an opinion article on the issue of states and their boundaries – a controversial issue that has yet to be addressed by South Sudanese leaders before a unity government can be formed. Read more.
One academic per university at overseas conferences, says Brazil
Anna McKie, Times Higher Education, 02/11
Researchers in Brazil have expressed anger at an “unbelievable” government decree that limits the number of academics who may attend an international conference to just one per institution. Read more.
Students are the ‘backbone’ of Iraq anti-government protests
Linah Alsaafin, Al Jazeera, 02/10
Iraqi students in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square say they will remain at the sit-in until their demands have been answered. Inside one of a sea of tents in Tahrir Square, Sajjad Muyed and a group of his friends are sitting in a circle on thin mattresses, singing anti-government songs. Read more.
Egypt arrests, tortures human rights advocate: Rights group
Al Jazeera, 02/09
An Egyptian researcher and activist has been arrested at Cairo’s international airport upon his arrival from Italy. Patrick George Zaki, 27, had been in Bologna since August 2019 for his postgraduate studies and returned to Egypt’s capital for a brief family visit on Friday. Read more.
Academic dissent emerges over coronavirus outbreak
Mimi Leung and Yojana Sharmam, University World News, 02/06
A well-known academic in China has this week criticised the government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak highlighting that it has caused widespread dissatisfaction in the country. The emergence of criticism by academics, medical personnel, and netizens silenced by the authorities for ‘spreading rumours’ could herald a new strand of political dissent with the potential to outlast the current emergency. Read more.
Struggle between state control and autonomy is playing out at the University of Nairobi
Ishmael Munene, The Conversation, 02/05
Since mid-January the University of Nairobi has been operating without a leader. This follows a decision by Kenya’s cabinet secretary for education to disband the institution’s council. He also rejected the institution’s appointment of a new vice-chancellor. Read more.
At Moscow university, a debate: Ban politics or risk the Kremlin’s wrath?
Fred Weir, The Christian Science Monitor, 02/04
Russia’s second-largest and most progressive state-funded university is facing a dilemma. On one hand, the Higher School of Economics (HSE), which has openly modeled itself on Western university traditions, generally espouses freedom of speech, and its spacious, modern downtown Moscow campuses are a known bastion of liberal moods. Read more.
Iranian students with valid visas turned back at US borders
Jihan Abdalla, Al Jazeera, 02/04
A mad dash to collect documents, two overseas trips, a nerve-racking interview followed by months of anxious waiting. After securing admission to some of the world’s most prestigious universities, this is the gruelling and costly process Iranian students go through to obtain a student visa to the United States. Read more.
Open Society University Network launched with $1 billion gift
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed, 02/04
The financier George Soros recently announced a $1 billion donation to endow a new international network of universities with a stated aim of promoting “critical thinking, open intellectual inquiry, and fact-based research to strengthen foundations of open society amid authoritarian resurgence.” Read more.
Free to Think: Attacks on scholars, scientists threaten societies everywhere
Ian Graham, EuroScientist, 02/03
On September 26, 2019, a Turkish court ruled that the publication of a series of newspaper articles about pollution constituted a criminal act. The articles’ author, a scholar of public health named Bülent Şık, had been dismissed from his position at Akdeniz University three years earlier by presidential decree. Read more.
Iraqi students rally against PM-designate Mohammed Allawi
Al Jazeera, 02/02
Hundreds of students have marched in cities across Iraq to denounce the nomination of Mohammed Allawi as the country’s next prime minister despite calls from influential Shia leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, for his supporters to clear roads and resume “day-to-day life.” Read more.
Free speech for whom?
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed, 01/31
The arrest and sentencing of a Chinese student at the University of Minnesota for tweets he posted while studying in the U.S. raise concerns about restrictions on Chinese students’ speech. Read more.
Abduction of Ethiopian students fuels anger at the government
Simon Marks and Abdi Latif Dahir, The New York Times, 01/30
Ethiopians are taking to the streets and to social media to protest their government’s failure to find at least a dozen university students and five other people who were believed to have been kidnapped from a bus by masked men in December in the latest in a chain of ethnically driven conflicts. Read more.
Jamia Millia: Indian student injured as man fires at university protest
A student has been shot after a man opened fire during a protest against a controversial citizenship law in the Indian capital, Delhi. Police arrested the gunman outside the city’s prestigious Jamia Millia Islamia university. Read more.
Sedition charges against JNU scholar for citizenship speech
Shuriah Niazi, University World News, 01/30
Jawaharlal Nehru University researcher Sharjeel Imam’s arrest in New Delhi on sedition charges has sparked outrage among lecturers and students. Some see it as part of a conspiracy to vilify left-leaning students and dissenters and to undermine secular institutions, academic freedom and criticism of the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Read more.
Brazil’s pick of a creationist to lead its higher education agency rattles scientists
Herton Escobar, Science Magazine, 01/26
The appointment of a creationism advocate to lead the agency that oversees Brazil’s graduate study programs has scientists here concerned—yet again—about the encroachment of religion on science and education policy. Read more.
‘Demeaned and humiliated’: What happened to these Iranians at U.S. airports
Caleb Hampton and Caitlin Dickerson, The New York Times, 01/25
Since August, at least 16 Iranian students have been turned away at airports, losing their chances to study at prestigious universities, amid new tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Read more.
Campus attack and police violence alarm Indian academics
Sanjay Kumar, Science Magazine, 01/24
A controversial citizenship bill that became law on 12 January has led many in India’s scientific establishment, traditionally apolitical, to speak out. But the response has been fierce. In December 2019, police brutally suppressed protests at two predominantly Muslim universities, and on 5 January, masked intruders armed with iron rods, stones, and sticks beat and terrorized students and teachers at Jawaharlal Nehru University, a liberal bastion where students were on strike against the bill and a steep hike in student fees. Read more.
Iraqi government pressures protesting students to return to the classroom
Gilgamesh Nabeel, Al-Fanar Media, 01/24
Iraqi students have become a focus of the government’s efforts to snuff out the protests that have largely paralyzed that country since the end of October. Read more.
Merkel reminds Erdogan about scientific freedom (German)
Amory Burchard, Der Tagesspiegel, 01/24
Chancellor Angela Merkel called for more social freedom, especially at universities and in research, during a visit to Turkey. “The greater the degree of scientific freedom, the greater the scientific output,” said Merkel on Friday in Istanbul at the opening of the Turkish-German University campus with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Read more.
China’s camps now have survivors, and their ordeals aren’t over
Josh Rogin, The Washington Post, 01/23
The Chinese government is busily spinning lies about its massive “re-education camps” for Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. But as survivors escape China, their firsthand accounts tell the true story — and their terrible ordeals continue. Twenty-four-year-old college student Vera Yueming Zhou came to the United States in 2008 and is a U.S. permanent resident. She also happens to be a member of the Hui, a largely Muslim ethnic group. Read more.
Turkey: Alternative academies
Ben Upton, Research Europe, 01/23
Dismissal, exile and imprisonment drove Turkish researchers to build their own academies
Yücel Demirer should have been teaching in September 2016, but instead he began the month sipping tea in a café in Kocaeli, an industrial city close to Istanbul. Read more.
Iranian student denied entry to U.S.
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed, 01/22
The student was bound for study at Northeastern University but was sent back after arriving in Boston. He’s the latest in what experts say has been a troubling number of cases of Iranians being turned back despite having valid student visas. Read more.
University of Maryland cuts China-supported education program amid tensions between countries
Phil Davis, The Baltimore Sun, 01/22
The University of Maryland, College Park has ended a Chinese-government approved education program after Congress passed legislation that the university said could jeopardize future federal funding if the program were to continue. Read more.
‘Harmony,’ not censorship: Students and faculty at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics have been told to cease ‘divisive’ political activism or find another university
Irina Kravtsova, Meduza, 01/21
On January 17, the administration at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics — one of the best universities in Russia — published amendments to its internal regulations on students and instructors. Following the changes, individuals affiliated with the university are now prohibited from mentioning their connection to the school when discussing political issues or taking part in “socially divisive” activities. Read more.
Chinese universities are enshrining Communist Party control in their charters
Emily Feng and Amy Cheng, NPR, 01/20
It wasn’t just the fact that one of China’s best universities had changed its charter last December to emphasize loyalty to the ruling Communist Party that raised eyebrows. Shanghai’s Fudan University also deleted principles like freedom of thought, and did so publicly, as if expecting praise. Read more.
Famous Pakistani rights defender detained for hours
Ayesha Tanzeem, Voice of America, 01/20
Authorities in Pakistan detained a human rights defender for seven hours at an airport as she tried to take a flight from Pakistan’s second largest city Lahore to the United Kingdom. Activist and human rights lawyer Jalila Haider was on her way to attend a workshop on feminism in the University of Sussex when she was told that her name was on a no-fly list for alleged “anti-state activities.” Read more.
Hong Kong student who helped found volunteer protest medic group arrested in China, classmates say
Hong Kong Free Press, 01/17
A Hong Kong student who helped found a network of volunteer medics to aid the city’s pro-democracy protests has been arrested on the mainland, fellow students briefed by his university have told AFP. Read more.
Occupy ringleader Shiu Ka-chun accuses Hong Kong university of ‘political cleansing’ after he is relieved of teaching post
Danny Lee, South China Morning Post, 01/17
Pro-democracy legislator Shiu Ka-chun has been relieved of his teaching post at Baptist University after being jailed for his role in the 2014 Occupy protest. The university has launched disciplinary proceedings against the department of social work lecturer, who served almost six months in prison last year after being found guilty of two public nuisance charges. Read more.
Top Russian university moves to ban political speech
The Moscow Times, 01/17
One of Russia’s elite universities is considering banning its students and faculty from exercising political speech in the wake of high-profile scandals involving free speech last year, according to its newly proposed rules. Read more.
‘You can’t handcuff my spirit’: Jailed writer wins freedom of expression prize
Alice McCool, The Guardian, 01/17
The Ugandan academic, writer and feminist activist Dr Stella Nyanzi, imprisoned for criticising the country’s president, has been awarded the Oxfam Novib/PEN International award for freedom of expression. Read more.
‘Attacks on academic freedom anywhere threaten us all’ (Portuguese)
Renata Cafardo, O Estado de S. Paulo, 01/15
Brazil appears for the first time in a report that monitors attacks on higher education across the world, alongside countries like China and Turkey. ‘We are deeply concerned,’ says Scholars at Risk’s Director of Advocacy, Clare Robinson. Read more.
Anti-regime student protests erupt after jet disaster
Shadi Khan Saif, University World News, 01/14
Undeterred by oppressive regime tactics, university students in Iran have put up a gradual yet defiant show of resentment towards the ruling religious elite with their latest protests triggered by the shooting down of a passenger plane outside Tehran by the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), killing all 176 on board, many of them students. Read more.
Protect India’s universities
For several weeks the world has watched as India’s citizens — including academics and students — have taken to the streets. Tens of thousands have been gathering to read out the preamble to the Indian constitution, as a mark of protest against a discriminatory new citizenship law. Read more.
Behind campus attack in India, some see a far-right agenda
Kai Schultz and Suhasini Raj, The New York Times, 01/10
Hindu nationalists view Jawaharlal Nehru University, where a mob rampaged last weekend, as “a symbol of everything that is bad in this country,” one analyst said. Read more.
France calls for ‘gesture’ from Iran over detained academics
France 24, 01/10
France said on Friday that the imprisonment of two prominent French academics by Iran was unacceptable and that their release would represent a “significant gesture”, as tensions mount between Tehran and the West. Read more.
Freedom curbs raise academic collaboration uncertainty
Yojana Sharma, University World News, 01/10
Academic experts say universities in Western democracies should review their engagements with universities in China to gauge whether dramatically tightened restrictions and recent Communist Party-imposed reviews of Chinese university charters – aimed at reducing commitments to freedom of thought – are eroding academic freedom standards outside China. Read more.
Russian ‘foreign agent’ rules are chilling academic freedom
Katarzyna Kaczmarska, Times Higher Education, 01/08
As pressing political and social issues in contemporary Russia become harder and harder to discuss through online and artistic media, it may seem that academia is the only sphere left in which critical debate enjoys a relatively safe haven. However, while freedom of thought and research are legally protected under articles 29 and 44 of Russia’s 1993 constitution, academic freedom is increasingly under threat. Read more.
‘The police did nothing.’ Students in India are protesting after a masked mob violently attacked a top Delhi university
Sameer Yasir and Billy Perrigo, Time, 01/07
Nursing a bandaged right hand and bruises on his back from where he was struck with a rod, Santosh Singh says he no longer feels safe at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, where he is a masters student. Read more.
Sudan’s revolution, phase 2: Universities seek independence
Edward Fox, Al-Fanar Media, 01/06
A plan for educational reform written by teaching staff at Sudan’s oldest and largest public university, the University of Khartoum, calls for Sudan’s universities to be made independent of the central government’s control. Read more.
Peter Biar Ajak: Imprisoned Cambridge student released, lawyer says
A Cambridge University student who had been detained in a “modern-day hellhole” in South Sudan has been pardoned and released, his lawyer said. Peter Biar Ajak had been a critic of his country’s regime and was studying for a PhD when arrested in July 2018. Read more.