Student Advocacy Seminars

Posted April 15, 2016

Fairfield University students visit the UN and SAR's offices in November 2015

SAR’s Student Advocacy Seminars offer faculty the chance to help students develop research and advocacy skills while investigating attacks on higher education communities, in cooperation with SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project, or alleged cases of unjust restriction, prosecution or imprisonment of scholars and students through SAR’s Action Campaigns.

Omid Kokabee, a post-doctoral student of physics at the University of Texas, Austin, is serving 10-year prison sentence on charges of "communicating with a hostile government."

Omid Kokabee, an imprisoned Iranian post-doctoral student, was released in 2016 following years of advocacy efforts, including by SAR student advocates.

Faculty arrange and supervise a small-group seminar, independent study, or internship workshop for students at their institution. Each group generally adopts one or more scholar cases or one or more countries to monitor. Students gain experience in human rights research, standards and mechanisms; persuasive writing (including case dossiers, letters and appeal campaigns); leadership; and advocacy organizing. Students work to raise awareness of cases or incidents including, as appropriate, undertaking informational outreach to local, national and intergovernmental authorities, and others capable of intervening positively. Learn more about students putting their advocacy skills to use at SAR’s inaugural Student Advocacy Day in March 2017, in Washington, D.C.

“The work that I have done in the student  advocacy programs over the last few years has created a symbiosis of sorts—I have made extremely useful connections in high places, and in doing so have made progress in getting imprisoned scholars released.”


Launch a student advocacy seminar

Student Advocacy Resources

Faculty supervisor’s role:

  • Make administrative arrangements for a seminar, independent study, group internship or other format, including all local academic requirements.
  • Coordinate with SAR staff on scholar selection, guidelines for advocacy and goals for each specific case.
  • Meet regularly with students to discuss the case and coordinate research and advocacy efforts, including supervising any local credit requirements.
  • Coordinate with SAR staff the end‐of‐seminar report and any team advocacy or awareness‐raising visits.

Students’ role:

Students from Roger Williams University advocating on behalf of imprisoned scholar Dr. Hossein Rafiee

Students from Roger Williams University advocating on behalf of imprisoned scholar Dr. Hossein Rafiee

  • Register for the program and understand and agree to all commitments and obligations involved.
  • Conduct research on one or more scholars, their background and circumstances of detention.
  • Set up a monitoring plan for the case (i.e. automated media reviews; regular phone calls to human rights groups and others working on the case; drafting alerts when developments warrant).
  • Advocate on the scholar’s behalf by writing emails and letters of appeal, hosting on‐campus or community events, writing articles for media and approaching local government officials.
  • Participate in any group visit to relevant destination for meetings with relevant stakeholders.
  • Prepare an end‐of‐seminar report on actions taken and recommended next steps.

SAR’s role:

  • Coordinate with faculty supervisor on case selection, strategy, background and advocacy materials.
  • Connect faculty supervisor and students, as appropriate, with persons involved in the scholar’s case.
  • Host periodic conference calls or webinars to discuss progress, share any updates on the scholar’s case, or answer questions about research and advocacy generally.