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.
Keeping our heads down is a bad tactic in the culture war
Darren Linvill, Times Higher Education, 02/15
To our detriment, US higher education has become a trench line in the ongoing culture war. Deep partisan divisions have opened up regarding public respect for higher education, as lawmakers have moved to impose political balance on university hiring and faculty have faced harassment over their scholarship. Read more.
The Chinese student threat?
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed, 02/15
FBI director Christopher Wray tells Senate panel that American academe is naïve about the intelligence risks posed by Chinese students and scholars. Some worry his testimony risks tarring a big group of students as a security threat. Read more.
Death by hanging in Tehran
Roger Cohen, New York Times, 02/14
The supposed ‘suicide’ in prison of an Iranian-Canadian university professor is an outrage that reflects heightened tensions in Iran. Read more.
Top Ethiopian dissident Bekele Gerba ‘freed from jail’
News 24, 02/14
Top Ethiopian dissident Bekele Gerba was released from jail on Tuesday, state media reported, as anti-government protests by the country’s largest ethnic group closed roads and businesses near the capital. Read more.
Majlis podcast: Academia in peril in Tajikistan
Bruce Pannier, Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty, 02/11
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991, foreign students and researchers have done some amazing work, studying and producing articles and books about Central Asia. Outsiders have been given unprecedented access to the region in the last quarter-century, but that is now changing. Read more.
For scholars of women’s studies, it’s been a dangerous year
Emma Kerr, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 02/11
Since the election, these academics, many of whom are familiar with being the targets of criticism, say they’ve experienced vandalism, online trolling, and death threats at levels they haven’t seen before. Read more.
Turkey is taking everything from academics
Masi Noor, Times Higher Education, 02/10
Many of us take for granted our freedom to express opinions and to sign petitions about various social and political issues, including those that criticise government policy. This is no longer the case for people in Turkey, including academics. The most egregious example is the punishment meted out to the 1,128 scholars, including several fellow psychologists within academia, who signed the so-called “Academics for Peace” petition in January 2016. Read more.
UN rights experts urge Iran to annul death sentence against Ahmadreza Djalali
United Nations OHCHR, 02/09
United Nations human rights experts* have repeated their urgent call to Iran to annul the death sentence against Iranian academic Ahmadreza Djalali amid reports that his latest legal attempt to challenge the sentence has been rejected. Read more.
EDITORIAL: Academic freedom at risk
Jakarta Post, 02/08
For the time being, scholars and researchers across the country can sigh with relief after Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo on Tuesday announced the withdrawal of a contentious regulation that obliged researchers to report their research findings to the ministry. Read more.
Death sentence handed down for campus student lynching
Ameen Amjad Khan, University World News, 02/08
An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan has handed down a death sentence and 25-year sentences to five others for the horrific lynching last April of a student on the campus of Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan. Read more.
US academics not exempted from travel ban to Pyongyang
Yojana Sharma, University World News, 02/07
No special exemptions have been given so far for academics who are United States citizens to teach at the private Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), which has been hard hit by the US ban on travel to North Korea in the wake of the death of US student Otto Warmbier last year. Read more.
More Scrutiny for Confucius Institutes; One to Close
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed, 02/06
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio wrote to four Florida colleges and universities Monday asking them to close their Confucius Institutes, centers of Chinese language and cultural education that are housed in U.S. colleges or schools and funded and staffed by a Chinese government entity. One of those colleges — the University of West Florida — said in a statement it had already decided to close its Confucius Institute. Read more.
Hong Kong activists have jail sentences overturned
Benjamin Haas, The Guardian, 02/06
Three prominent Hong Kong democracy activists have won an appeal in the territory’s highest court against jail sentences relating to the 2014 “umbrella movement” protests, but were warned that future acts of civil disobedience would be dealt with harshly. Read more.
Academic freedom in Tajikistan endangered: what is to be done?
John Heathershaw and Edward Schatz, Open Democracy, 02/05
In Tajikistan, academic freedom is severely under threat. But how should the international academic community respond? Read more.
Protests turn violent at CSU after Charlie Kirk speech
Nick Coltrain, Coloradoan, 02/04
Protests around a conservative speaker at CSU on Friday night started peaceful, even if it got rowdy at times, but quickly turned violent when a group wielding riot shields, large flashlights and face masks emblazoned with skulls stormed a dwindling crowd while chanting a Nazi slogan. Read more.
‘It’s scary’ – Gambian lecturer’s arrest sparks repression fears
Ruth Maclean and Saikou Jammeh, The Guardian, 02/02
When students from the University of the Gambia heard that their political science lecturer had been arrested, they mobilized. Read more.
Texas lawmakers weigh the limits of free speech on campus
Katherine Mangan, Chronicle on Higher Education, 01/31
Stories from across the Lone Star State illuminate the difficulty of balancing First Amendment protections with student safety. Read more.
Parliamentarians call for release of detained students
Yojana Sharma, University World News, 01/31
With Iranian authorities still refusing to release exact figures of the number of people detained during protests in a number of Iranian cities in December and early January, Iranian lawmakers as well as academics have written to President Hassan Rouhani and the country’s head of the judiciary Sadegh Larijani calling for the immediate release of student detainees. Read more.
The schoolhouse gates
Legal Talk Network, 01/31
In this episode of Make No Law, the First Amendment Podcast by Popehat.com, host Ken White dives into the Tinker v. Des Moines case and how it has impacted freedom of speech for students on campuses today. While Mary Beth Tinker’s rights were upheld, many plaintiffs in First Amendment cases today have faced less sympathetic courts. Ken and his guests discuss the cultural and historic factors that have led to that retreat. Read more.
Turkish doctors arrested after group criticises Syria offensive
Laura Pitel, Financial Times, 01/30
Police arrested senior members of the Turkish Medical Association on Tuesday, days after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan branded the group “terrorist lovers” for calling for a halt to Ankara’s military offensive in Syria. The detentions are part of a widening crackdown against criticism of Turkey’s incursion into the Kurdish-controlled Afrin region of north-west Syria. More than 300 people have been detained for spreading “terror propaganda” on social media since the military operation began this month. Read more.
3 problematic campus cultures
Nancy Thomas, Inside Higher Ed, 01/30
Nancy Thomas describes the campus environments to eschew, as well as those to nourish, in order to encourage free expression, inclusion and learning. Read more.
Beijing attacks Hong Kong’s rule of law
Martin Lee, Wall Street Journal, 01/29
“Kill a chicken to scare the monkeys” is a well-known Chinese expression for making an example of someone. A Hong Kong court put that saying into effect Jan. 17 by handing down another three-month prison sentence to Joshua Wong, a 21-year-old democracy activist. Read more.
Teachers’ Federation condemns dismissal of student protesters from university
Zarni Mann, Irrawaddy, 01/29
The Myanmar Teachers’ Federation condemned the Ministry of Education on Sunday for the dismissal of student protesters from their respective universities and called for reconsideration. Read more.
UC Irvine chancellor: Students are not ‘snowflakes,’ but they need to understand free speech
Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times, 01/28
University of California Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman discusses free speech issues such as trigger warnings, safe spaces, and free speech zones in this Q&A. Read more.
Academic freedom is facing ‘growing threats’ – Report
Yojona Sharma, University World News, 01/26
There has been a “growing top-down backlash” in the wake of Hong Kong’s 2014-15 student-led Umbrella Movement protests, with the authorities trying to limit academic freedom and bring academia under their control, according to a new report from Hong Kong Watch. Read more.
Justice Dept. sides with conservative groups in free-speech lawsuit against Berkeley
Matt Zapotosky, Washington Post, 01/25
The Justice Department has filed a statement of interest siding with two conservative groups who have sued the University of California at Berkeley, alleging administrators created logistical and other hurdles that forced the cancellation or modification of planned events with right-leaning speakers. Read more.
Academic freedom: Can history be our guide?
Paul Axelrod, University Affairs, 01/24
Academic freedom, like freedom itself, is not absolute. There are conditions and qualifications around both the theory and exercise of this pivotal university concept. Some of these constraints pertain to particular historical circumstances and are no longer germane or legitimate. Other limitations are understandable and defensible. Read more.
The pressure on provosts
Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, 01/24
Provosts are generally confident of free speech rights at their own colleges and universities, but many are worried about the situation more broadly in higher education, according to the 2018 Inside Higher Ed Survey of College and University Chief Academic Officers, conducted by Gallup and answered by 516 provosts or chief academic officers. Read more.
Turkey’s politically motivated trials: Targeting Academics for Peace
Noemi Levy-Aksu, Index on Censorship, 01/23
Since January 2016 the Academics for Peace case has become one of the symbols of the crackdown on democracy in Turkey. No critical voices are spared in the repression: MPs, journalists, lawyers, human rights activists, students and many others are detained and/or have been prosecuted for their opinions and activities. Read more.
Jailing students was a tactic to crush broader protests
Ali Afshari, Radio Farda, 01/23
Two weeks after the unrest that swept across Iran in late December and early January there is still no reliable report on the number of university students security forces jailed during the protests. Read more.
Academic freedom at risk at Hong Kong’s universities, says report
Benjamin Haas, The Guardian, 01/22
Hong Kong’s universities, long a beacon of academic freedom, bastions of freewheeling activism and discussion, are under threat and risk losing their internationally respected status, according to a report. Read more.
Death sentence against Swedish resident Ahmadreza Djalali under review
Center for Human Rights in Iran, 01/22
Branch 33 of the Supreme Court in Iran is reviewing the death sentence issued to Ahmadreza Djalali, an Iranian-born academic and Swedish resident accused of “espionage” charges. The judge has asked a deputy prosecutor to give his opinion in February 2018. Read more.
A war of words on college campuses
CBS News, 01/21
In the 1960s college students demanded the right to talk about anything on campus, from civil rights to opposing the Vietnam War. All ideas seemed up for debate. But is that still true today? Read more.
Are there signs of hope for higher education in 2018?
Hans de Wit, University World News, 01/19
Last year was in many respects a tense, chaotic and disturbing year both in general and in international higher education. Increasing political tension, rather than economic factors, were responsible for the turmoil. Trends of ever-increasing academic mobility, study abroad, cross-border delivery and of rising interest in global learning and engagement were suddenly challenged, as was academic freedom. Read more.
South Kordofan: Students from Aldalang University arbitrarily arrested after Sudan Armed Forces officer shot two students to death
African Centre of Justice and Peace Studies, 01/18
Students from Aldalang University in South Kordofan have been arbitrarily arrested after joint security forces (National Intelligence and Security Services, Military Intelligence, Sudan Armed Forces and Police) raided the university following a student protest staged after an officer of the Sudan Armed Forces indiscriminately shot and killed two students on the university campus. Read more.
Thai court drops royal insult charges against academic
ABC News, 01/17
A Thai military court on Wednesday dropped royal insult charges against an 84-year old historian who questioned whether a Thai king had actually defeated a Burmese adversary in combat on elephant-back over 500 years ago. Read more.
6 tales of censorship in the golden age of free speech
In today’s networked environment, when anyone can broadcast live or post their thoughts to a social network, it would seem that censorship ought to be impossible. But while the social internet gives everyone a voice, it also has countless ways of punishing people for speaking. Read more.
Mass detention and dismissal of academics continues
Brendan O’Malley, University World News, 01/16
A further 438 members of Turkey’s higher education community have faced criminal detentions, investigations and prosecutions since July. Some 698 have been dismissed or expelled from their institutions and subjected to restrictions on their ability to travel. Read more.
How China infiltrated U.S. classrooms
Ethan Epstein, Politico, 01/16
Even as they face criticism, Chinese government-run educational institutes have continued their forward march on college campuses across the United States. Read more.
The other piece of academic freedom
Matt Reed, Inside Higher Ed, 01/16
Reed: “I don’t know the merits of the Louisiana case of the professor who was fired for cursing. But the idea of it brings up a side of academic freedom that doesn’t get much discussion, although it’s actually much more real in my world than some of the higher-profile stuff.” Read more.
How do we curb racism and anti-Semitism — and protect free speech?
Steven Lubet, Chicago Tribune, 01/14
Controversy over a Rutgers University professor’s personal Facebook posts raises questions about the protection of speech in university settings. Read more.
Belgium tries to save the life of researcher sentenced to death in Iran
Brussels Times, 01/12
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders on Thursday told his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif that he hopes that the death sentence against Iranian-Swedish academic Ahmadreza Djalali will not be executed. Read more.
Student sues community college over free speech rights
Jeremy Bauer-Wolf, Inside Higher Ed, 01/12
An Illinois community college student has sued her institution alleging a free speech violation when campus police detained her and confiscated leaflets she was passing out that were critical of capitalism. Read more.
Police stand guard outside Florida university class on ‘white racism’
Shelby Rose, CNN, 01/11
A Florida university posted campus police outside a sociology class titled “White Racism” after the professor was flooded with harassing emails and messages — some of them openly racist. Read more.
Foreign academics confront Chinese censorship
China Digital Times, 01/11
Increasingly, official Chinese efforts to limit access to information and to guide the narrative about Chinese politics and history are causing friction as they run up against a tradition of academic freedom in the west. Read more.
Ban on book about mass incarceration lifted in New Jersey prisons after A.C.L.U. protest
Jonah Engel Bromwich and Benjamin Mueller, New York Times, 01/08
New Jersey said it had lifted the ban on a best-selling book about mass incarceration after the American Civil Liberties Union called for an immediate end to what it said was an “ironic, misguided, and harmful” instance of censorship. Read more.
Edinburgh University’s new vice-chancellor condemned in staff survey
Benjamin Haas, The Guardian, 01/08
The University of Edinburgh’s new vice-chancellor failed to uphold academic freedom and did not understand the needs of students, according to a survey of staff at his current institution. Read more.
Iran protests: University tracks fate of detained students
Laura Smith-Spark, CNN, 01/06
The University of Tehran is working to track and secure the release of its students who were arrested for taking part in recent protests in Iran. Read more.
Hardliner Viktor Orban has George Soros’s liberal university in sights
David Charter, The Times, 01/05
From the ruins of communism a university has grown up in the heart of Budapest that attracts 1,400 postgraduates from around the world. Yet the studious silence within its five-storey library belies the political firestorm threatening the existence of the Central European University (CEU). Read more.
Turkish government crackdown forces intellectuals to flee
Samantha Raphelson, NPR, 01/04
Intellectuals are leaving Turkey in large numbers amid President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on dissent after the failed coup attempt against his government in July 2016. Read more.
Students among hundreds arrested during protests
Wagdy Sawahel and Yojana Sharma, University World News, 01/04
People across Iran, including university students, have taken to the streets in widespread economic protests initially directed against price hikes of basic food supplies and gloomy economic prospects. They later included criticism of the political establishment. Read more.
Brazilian church leaders condemn attacks on university freedom
Rachael Pells, Times Higher Education, 01/04
The leader of the Anglican high church of Brazil has spoken out against the country’s alleged abuse of police power and attacks on university freedom. Read more.
China’s ‘Long Arm’
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed, 01/03
Two times in Kevin Carrico’s six years of teaching he’s been approached by students from China who told him that things they said in his classroom about sensitive subjects somehow made their way to their parents back home. Read more.
Gülmen, Özakça on 300th Day of Hunger Strike
Academic Nuriye Gülmen and teacher Semih Özakça are on the 300th day of the hunger strike they have gone on demanding that they be reinstated to their jobs. Read more.