On June 29, 2015, Kendrick White, a United States citizen who served as vice rector of Lobachevsky State University of Nizhni Novgorod, Russia, was terminated from his position, after a report on Russian state television accused Mr. White of harming the country.
On June 28, 2015, a report aired on the television show News of the Week, in which a commentator reportedly suggested that Mr. White’s name be added to a “patriotic stop list,” then circulating in the parliament, of foreigners whose work allegedly threatens the country. The commentator reportedly questioned the presence of an American in the position of vice rector at a Russian university, and suggested that White had replaced pictures of Russian scientists with pictures of American scientists on university walls. The day after the report aired, White’s picture was reportedly removed from the university’s website, and he was terminated. In a statement, university officials stated that White’s termination resulted from “restructuring of the management system.” When asked about White’s termination, the university’s rector, Yevgeny Chuprunov, reportedly stated “These are the times we are living in” and declined to give further comment. White later stated that his termination was a “real shock;” he was subsequently informed that he would be allowed to continue his employment at the university in a different position.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the summary dismissal of a university official, apparently on the grounds of that official’s nationality, or of political loyalties imputed to him by outside commentators. University authorities have a responsibility to adhere to principals of academic freedom and due process, and to observe proper administrative safeguards in making determinations about the dismissal of a university official. Retaliatory discharge aimed at limiting expressive activity or excluding particular viewpoints from the university space undermines academic freedom and related higher education values including institutional autonomy and social responsibility.