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: March 26, 2014

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Doğuş University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

In March 2014, constitutional law professor Zafel Üskül, the former Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of the Turkish Parliament, was discharged as the head of constitutional law department post at Doğuş University, reportedly on account of his opposition to institution of an optical finger print detection system, applied to academic staff as well as students, at the gates of the campus, in order to control entry and exit.  

The system became operational on January 2nd, 2014. Professor Üskül responded by bringing a petition to the Human Rights Commission of the Parliament arguing that the practice diminished the environment of academic freedom within the university.  He was discharged in March, ostensibly for insufficient academic credentials, despite having  published extensively in the field of constitutional law and serving as a professor at Doğuş University for over three years and at several other institutions prior to that.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the dismissal of an academic in apparent retaliation for raising objections to campus administration through lawful channels.  Although the institution claims that the professor’s credentials were the basis for his dismissal, the timing and evidence for questioning the stated basis for the action raise significant concern that the dismissal was related to his filing of the petition.  Academic freedom includes the right of members of higher education communities “to express freely their opinion about the institution or system in which they work.”* University authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with such expressive activity, so long as that activity is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Retaliatory discharge aimed at limiting such activity undermines academic freedom and related higher education values including institutional autonomy and social responsibility.

*UNESCO Recommendation on the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel (1997) (para. 27)