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.
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.