On Thursday, August 14, 2014, Bassirou Faye, a student in the department of science and technology at Cheick Anta Diop University of Dakar (UCAD) was killed during riots between students and police.
Protests at UCAD have been ongoing for several months, with students expressing grievances over a nearly year-long delay by the university in making grant and scholarship payments, and demanding an end to the permanent presence of police on campus, which has been ongoing since November 2013. On August 14, following a meeting with Senegal’s Higher Education Minister, in which students unsuccessfully demanded that their grants be paid, student activists called a 72-hour strike. During the demonstrations that followed, students reportedly threw stones at police, while police deployed teargas to disperse the protesting crowds. As the conflict escalated, police reportedly entered campus dormitories, and ransacked and vandalized student property including computers and television sets. Faye was reportedly shot during an encounter with police as he was leaving his dormitory; he was immediately taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about on-campus violence – especially the reported killing of a student – and about arbitrary entry of student living spaces and destruction of student property. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, violent attacks and arbitrary destruction of student property have a chilling effect on academic freedom and institutional autonomy. State and university officials have a responsibility to ensure the security of members of higher education communities and their property, to prevent future attacks, and to hold perpetrators accountable. Moreover, while state and university authorities have a legitimate interest in maintaining order, they must do so in ways that are proportional to the situation, that respect peaceful expression, and that minimize the risk of physical injury. Similarly, while students have the right to free expression, that right does not extend to violence; on-campus expression must be undertaken in a manner that is consistent with university values including social responsibility.