Academic Freedom Media Review

September 18 – 24, 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.

AUSTRALIA / CHINA: High-profile Australian academic banned from entering China
Joyce Lau and John Ross, Times Higher Education, 09/24
Beijing has blocked Charles Sturt University professor Clive Hamilton and Alex Joske of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute thinktank from entering China, taking largely symbolic action against two of Australia’s highest-profile critics of the Chinese Communist Party. The state media announcement of the ban on 24 September called the researchers and their work “anti-China”. The report in the official Global Times also mentioned Australia’s decision earlier this month to revoke visas for two Chinese humanities scholars because of a security agency investigation. Read more.

THAILAND: Students defy Thammasat University campus protest ban
Prangtip Daorueng, University World News, 09/24
On Saturday 19 September students cut the small chain that locked the gate into Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan campus in Bangkok, after a short but unsuccessful negotiation with security guards, and led protesters in. A group of protesters brought down a sign that had been hung in front of the gate the night before that said: “The campus is temporarily closed between 18 and 20 September.” Read more.

EUROPEAN UNION / CHINA: EU-China research relationship ‘unbalanced’, policy head warns
David Matthews, Times Higher Education, 09/23
The European Union’s research relationship with China is “unbalanced”, according to one of the bloc’s policy chiefs, who has accused Beijing of failing to open up its scientific data or allow collaboration in fields where it is particularly strong. Jean-Eric Paquet, the European Commission’s director-general for research and innovation, also raised concerns about Chinese internet censorship. Read more.

UNITED STATES: AAUP launches a COVID-19 governance investigation
The American Association of University Professors, 09/21
The AAUP has authorized an investigation of the crisis in academic governance that has occurred in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on seven institutions. The report, to be released in early 2021, will reach findings on whether there have been departures from AAUP-supported principles and standards of academic governance, but it may explore other issues as well, such as the effects of unilaterally imposed mass layoffs on academic freedom and tenure, the enrollment and financial challenges facing many institutions, and the impact of these challenges on higher education, especially the humanities and liberal arts. Read more.

UNITED STATES: ‘Scared to death to teach’: Internal report cites ‘chilling effect’
Tom Bartlett, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 09/21
An anonymous survey of 105 professors at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business suggests that many of them have lost confidence in the dean, and that they feel “livid,” “betrayed,” and “scared of students” after a fellow faculty member was “thrown under the bus,” as several of them described it, following a controversy over his use of a Chinese word. Read more.

BRAZIL: Report points to serious risk to academic freedom in Brazil [Portguese]
Bruno Lupion, Deutsche Welle Brasil, 9/22/20
A study released by the Berlin Institute highlights offensives on several fronts against Brazilian teachers, researchers and institutions. Clear signs of corrosion of academic autonomy have come since the elections. The academic freedom to research and teach, in an environment with didactic and scientific autonomy in public universities, is guaranteed by the Constitution, but is under threat in Brazil. The conclusion is a report prepared by a group of Brazilian researchers and published this month by the GPPi (Global Public Policy Institute), based in Berlin. Read more.

GHANA: University reiterates opposition to ‘dangerous’ universities bill
Graphic Online via University World News, 09/20
The University of Ghana (UG) Legon branch of the University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) has reiterated its stance against the Public Universities Bill currently before parliament, describing it as “an imminent danger to our institutions of higher education”, writes Severious Kale-Dery for Graphic Online. It said the bill, if passed, would have the potential to irreparably damage the country’s global standing as a pillar of democratic governance in Africa. Read more.

UNITED STATES: Trump attacks teaching of racism across US history
Paul Basken, Times Higher Education, 09/18
Donald Trump has castigated US universities for teaching their students about the enduring role of racism in the nation’s history and has outlined new steps aimed at preventing them from doing so. The President demanded that students be given a “patriotic education” that does not cause them “to lose confidence in who we are”, promising a federal commission aimed at revising the teaching of US history and outlined a grant to a conservative advocacy group to sketch out details. The Trump administration also began threatening Princeton University with the loss of millions in federal dollars for having admitted publicly that it was trying to fight racism within its structures. Read more.