Academic Freedom Media Review

June 26 – July 2, 2020

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.

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
Bianet, 07/01
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 “” 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.