Academic Freedom Media Review

September 14 – 20, 2019

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.

Unless otherwise indicated (such as in articles written by SAR), the language and views contained in the reports below reflect those of the originating author and/or publication and do not necessarily represent the views of Scholars at Risk or its members, affiliates, board or staff. Subscribe to SAR’s media review.

The growing complexities of international collaboration
Liz Reisberg, Inside Higher Ed, 09/19
Did anyone really anticipate just how complicated internationalization in higher education was going to be? The idealists among us hoped that the flow of talent around the globe would lead to multinational collaborations to speed up innovation and the development of new knowledge that would address the world’s most pressing problems and ultimately improve quality of life everywhere. We certainly underestimated the enduring legacy of political, economic, and military competition and mistrust among nations. Nor had we calculated the resurgence and effect of extremist ideology. Read more.

U.S. orders Duke and U.N.C. to recast tone in Mideast studies
Erica L. Green, The New York Times, 09/19
The Education Department has ordered Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to remake the Middle East studies program run jointly by the two schools after concluding that it was offering students a biased curriculum that, among other complaints, did not present enough “positive” imagery of Judaism and Christianity in the region. The inquiry was part of a far-reaching investigation into the program by the department, which under Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, has become increasingly aggressive in going after perceived anti-Israel bias in higher education. Read more.

A professor’s killing sends a chill through a campus in Pakistan
Ben Farmer, The New York Times, 09/17
Prof. Khalid Hameed’s devotion to teaching often led him to arrive early for work, and the day he was killed was no different. Professor Hameed, a senior English lecturer at Government Sadiq Egerton College in the Pakistani city of Bahawalpur, parked at about 8 a.m. on March 20, signed the staff room register, unlocked his office and walked in. His killer came up from behind, hitting him in the head with a heavy padlock and stabbing him several times. Read more.

Akter, 20, expelled from university for being Rohingya
Sunaina Kumar, Al Jazeera, 09/17
Rahima Akter hid her Rohingya identity to enrol at a private university in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, but her dreams of pursuing higher education were dashed after she was suspended by her university earlier this month. The 20-year-old from Kutupalong refugee camp has become the face of the struggle of Rohingya refugees who want to study, as Bangladesh does not allow Rohingya to enrol in schools or colleges. Read more.

CEU provost: Academic freedom is in crisis everywhere in Europe, not only in Hungary
Alicia Prager, EURACTIV, 09/17
It is the start of a new semester at the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest. But this year, many of its students are preparing to move to Vienna, where lectures will start in October. It’s because CEU, a private US university founded by the Hungarian billionaire George Soros, has been kicked out of Hungary. CEU Provost Liviu Matei explains to EURACTIV Germany how CEU is responding to the political pressures in Hungary and why there is a need for a common European reference on academic freedom. Read more.

Detained Iranian-British anthropologist says charges based on government-approved research
Center for Human Rights in Iran, 09/17
Held in solitary confinement since being arrested in Tehran on August 11, 2019, Iranian-British anthropologist Kameel Ahmady will remain in detention for a minimum of several more weeks, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned. “Kameel could not speak freely [in front of the agents],” Ahmady’s wife Shafagh Rahmani told CHRI. “He said the charges against him are based on his research, even though all his work had been published with permission from the Islamic Guidance Ministry.” Read more.

Academic freedom concerns as Yale-NUS course is scrapped
Yojana Sharma, University World News, 09/16
A week-long university course on ‘modes of dissent and resistance in Singapore’ has been shelved by Yale-NUS College just weeks before it was due to be taught, in a move that has caused much debate in Singapore over whether suspending such an event contravenes the liberal arts college’s claim to uphold academic freedom. The scrapping of the course led to a statement from the president of Yale University in the United States expressing concern at any threat to academic freedom and open inquiry on the Singaporean campus. Read more.

A Uighur professor vanished and may be executed. Yet China expects respect.
The Washington Post, 09/14
When detained in China, political prisoners often disappear for months at a time. Sometimes, they reappear after lengthy interrogation, having made a coerced “confession” that is then televised. Others are less fortunate, reduced to just an announcement that they were convicted without access to family or lawyers. Still others are tortured and denied medical care and die without ever resurfacing. Given this reality, the case of Tashpolat Teyip is particularly murky and worrisome. Mr. Teyip is an ethnic Uighur professor of geography. From 2010 until 2017, he was president of Xinjiang University, the leading institution of higher learning in the Xinjiang region in northwest China. Read more.