Academic Freedom Media Review

April 9 – 15, 2021

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.

GLOBAL: Universities without Academic Freedom Have No Place in Rankings
Carsten A. Holz, International Higher Education, Spring 2021
Carsten A. Holz, a professor of social science at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, calls for the adjustment of well-known university rankings to include academic freedom to account for regime-controlled higher education. Read more.

GLOBAL: Zoom pulls back from blocking controversial academic talks
Paul Basken, Times Higher Education, 4/15
After refusing its service as a platform for Palestinian activist Leila Khaled, Zoom has issued a statement indicating it will leave content moderation to universities. Last year, Zoom was criticized by academic groups for blocking Khaled’s speech after deeming it too politically sensitive. Read more. 

GLOBAL: Universities brace for another wave of anti-Asian attacks
Joyce Lau, Times Higher Education, 4/14
Higher education institutions have set up hotlines amid an uptick of attacks on those of Asian descent on university campuses in western countries. Universities are addressing anti-Asian bias in their research and communications with students. Read more.

POLAND: Polish pressure forces Holocaust historian to self-censor
David Matthews, Times Higher Education, 4/14
Audrey Kichelewski, a professor at the University of Strasbourg currently writing a book on the post-World War II trials of Polish people, said that she would avoid naming defendants in cases amidst mounting pressure on scholars who implicate Poles in the Holocaust. Read more.

CHINA / HONG KONG: Hong Kong university’s guidelines on security law stoke fears over freedoms
Pak Yiu, Reuters, 4/14
The University of Hong Kong’s Vice President for Teaching and Learning, Ian Holliday, sent a letter to senior staff announcing the formation of a committee to protect academic freedom in conformity with China’s National Security Law. Read more.

EGYPT: 74 NGOs urge Egyptian authorities to release Ahmed Samir Santawy
Scholars at Risk, 4/14
Scholars at Risk joins 73 organizations in calling for the immediate release of Ahmed Samir Santawy. Mr. Santawy is a postgraduate student at Central European University in Vienna, Austria, detained in Egypt in apparent connection with his studies and alleged, nonviolent expressive activity. Read more.

UNITED KINGDOM: Brexit red tape endangering vital experiments, says UK laboratory
Jack Grove, Times Higher Education, 4/14
Though UK universities and research institutions had contingency plans before the country exited the European Union, several labs have severe difficulties importing chemical reagents and equipment materials necessary to complete vital experiments. Read more.

HUNGARY: SAR urges Hungary to restore and protect university autonomy
Scholars at Risk, 4/13
In a submission to the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review of Hungary, Scholars at Risk, in collaboration with the Ghent University Human Rights Centre Legal Clinic, expresses concerns over mounting government pressures on Hungarian universities, in particular severe encroachments on university autonomy. Read more.

BELARUS / ITALY: Scholars At Risk Italia appeal to stop violence against the academic community [ITALIAN] Università degli Studi di Parma, 4/12
Scholars at Risk’s Italy section (SAR Italy) signed a letter of petition to Belaus’ President Alexander Lukashenko expressing concern over the attacks on the country’s higher education community. Read more.

UNITED KINGDOM: Involve academics in confronting academic freedom issues
Christopher Hughes, University World News, 4/9
The Academic Freedom and Internationalisation Working Group offers solutions to the dilemmas faced by the academic community when it comes to dealing with the impact of the internationalization of higher education on academic freedom.  Read more.

MYANMAR: Students join armed groups to fight military crackdown
UWN Myanmar Correspondent, University World News, 4/8
University students, who have been at the forefront of anti-coup protests in Myanmar, turn to ethnic armed groups to access training to defend themselves and other protesters from the military. Since the Febilitary forces have killed over 600 people in efforts to repress protest and dissent. Read more.

MOROCCO: Moroccan Academics Protest Plan to Give Ministry More Control
Amr EL-Tohamy, Al-Fanar Media, 4/7
Moroccan academics are protesting a draft law that gives the Ministry of Higher Education power to control public university lecturers’ wages, benefits, to intervene in research, and amend curricula. Read more.