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: June 16, 2016

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Istanbul Bilgi University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On June 16, 2016, Dr. Zeynep Sayın Balıkçıoğlu, a professor in the communications faculty at Bilgi University in Istanbul, was dismissed from her position in retaliation for statements she made about Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a lecture the prior day.   

In a June 15 lecture, Professor Balıkçıoğlu reportedly criticized what she saw as increasing rudeness and vulgarity in Turkey, and argued that President Erdogan was at the center of this trend.  Following the lecture, students reportedly made complaints to the university’s rector’s office, leading to Professor Balıkçıoğlu’s dismissal.  

The University issued a statement following the incident:

“We want to inform the public about Prof. Dr. Zeynep Sayın Balıkçıoğlu, who insulted our President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a lecture on June 15, 2016, which was also mentioned on social media. … She was dismissed immediately after our rector’s office found out about the incident. Our rector’s office also immediately gave instructions to analyze the incident and launch the necessary legal investigations about it.”

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the dismissal of an academic in apparent retaliation for non-violent academic content or conduct. University authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with academic freedom or expressive activity, so long as that activity is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Retaliatory discharge aimed at limiting such expressive activity harms academic freedom and related higher education values including autonomy and social responsibility.