Working Groups

Posted April 15, 2016

Scholars at Risk coordinates working groups to convene academics and students from around the world for collaborative research and advocacy on pressing issues related to academic freedom and higher education.

Promoting Higher Education Values (PHEV)

Healthy higher education communities matter enormously. They are engines of knowledge production, discovery, innovation, skills development, cultural preservation, and national progress. But to be healthy, higher education communities must be grounded in core values – equitable access, accountability, academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and social responsibility. PHEV works to frame and facilitate discussion about higher education values and their implementation in a wide range of settings.

The Promoting Higher Education: A Guide for Discussion, a SAR publication, urges proactive examination of values issues and the development of “ritualizing” practices that can build respect and understanding. It suggests frameworks for exploring multilayered values issues and urges the development of a wider range of responses to incidents. Its companion publication, Promoting Higher Education Values: Workshop Supplement, includes sample exercises and questions for discussion, for use by individuals or in guided seminars, workshops, and other public and private settings. To learn more and express interest in joining the PHEV working group, please contact Lauren Crain.

Protecting Student Expression Project (PSEP)

In a number of cases around the world, student demonstrations have turned violent, because of state violence, infiltration by outsiders looking to undermine the movement, or student violence which overshadowed the wider student movement. Because the source of violence and circumstances of each incident can be difficult to verify, especially at great distance, the eruption of violence can make it more difficult for international advocates as well as local political, university and civil society leaders to come to the defense of students.

PSEP seeks to respond to this challenge, with the goal of increasing protection for student expression, student movements and their representatives. By convening representatives from student movements—past and  present, and in different world regions—the group will explore responses to the challenge of violence against higher education student movements with the aim of developing and implementing a public compact or statement on students’ right to expression. To learn more and to express interest in joining the PSEP working group, please contact Clare Robinson.

Wrongful Prosecutions

Counter-terrorism, blasphemy, sedition and similar laws are increasingly used to restrict free inquiry and expression, resulting in a shrinking academic and societal space for dialogue. These laws are often defended as reasonable restrictions on violent or anti-social conduct or as appropriate expressions of national or cultural prerogatives. In practice, they are used to restrict thought, punish expression, and intimidate individuals and society generally. Wrongful prosecutions under these laws not only threaten the well-being of targeted scholars, but also undermine the quality of academic work and public discourse, and deny everyone the benefits of expert knowledge, scientific and creative progress, and free expression.

The Wrongful Prosecutions working group seeks to build upon SAR’s understanding of how these laws are used to shrink the space for inquiry, and aims to develop a report on trends of wrongful prosecutions worldwide, including recommendations for challenging such laws in specific contexts. With the publication of this report, the group will partner with stakeholders to enact the report’s recommendations. To learn more and to express interest in joining the Wrongful Prosecutions working group, please contact Clare Robinson.