SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: April 16, 2013

Attack Types: Loss of Position | Other

Institution(s):Suez Canal University

Region & Country:Northern Africa | Egypt

New or Ongoing:New Incident

Dr. Mona Prince, a professor of English at Suez Canal University, was investigated by university authorities and suspended without pay following comments she made in early April during a classroom discussion on sectarian tensions in Egypt. Dr. Prince teaches a course on conversation.
The lecture in question was titled “Is there racism and sectarianism in Egypt?,” a topic Dr. Prince stated she and her students had agreed to discuss in advance of the class. During her lecture, Dr. Prince reportedly referred to a poster by Salafist students on campus reading “Shi’a are the enemy,” as an example of sectarianism. Following the lecture, a student complained about her comments to the university’s administration.
As news about Dr. Prince’s class began to spread she started receiving death threats. It is alleged that university officials advised Dr. Prince not to come on campus because they could not guarantee her safety and informed her that she would be subject to a disciplinary investigation. According to reports, university authorities variously accused Dr. Prince of “contempt of religion” and “insulting Islam.” In addition, Dr. Prince’s academic department brought charges stating she had regularly skipped lectures, an accusation Dr. Prince denies. 
At the time of reporting, Dr. Prince has been informally suspended without pay and the final outcome of the investigation remains pending.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the apparent wrongful suspension of scholars in retaliation for the content of their academic work. Retaliatory disciplinary proceedings aimed at limiting a scholar’s academic speech constitute an attack on academic freedom and undermine university values. Scholars at Risk is further concerned about physical threats against university faculty members conducting in-class academic exercises within the area of their professional expertise. University authorities have a responsibility to protect higher education personnel from such threats, and to do so in ways that do not undermine academic freedom or institutional autonomy.  By removing Dr. Prince from the classroom, rather than taking steps to ensure the security of the classroom space from outside intimidation, the university appears to have sacrificed academic freedom.