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 08, 2017

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Suez University

Region & Country:Northern Africa | Egypt

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On March 8, 2017, Suez University officials reportedly suspended Mona Prince, a scholar of English literature, in apparent retaliation for leading class discussions of religion in literature.

Dr. Prince is a lecturer in English literature at Suez University, and has been a language instructor at Cairo University. She has previously faced disciplinary actions at Suez University. In April 2013, students filed a complaint against Dr. Prince alleging contempt of religion, based on classes she taught about sectarian strife in Egypt and sexual harassment. University authorities responded by suspending her without pay and referred her for investigation the following month.

On February 21, 2017, Dr. Prince was informed by letter that, eight days earlier, her department had reassigned her class to another professor for the first six weeks of the semester, during which she was required to take on administrative duties. After six weeks, however, Dr. Prince was not allowed to return to the classroom. In a letter dated March 8, 2017, the head of the English department reportedly informed Dr. Prince that she was suspended due to non-performance of basic faculty duties, and bringing “controversial” issues to the classroom.

Dr. Prince disputes allegations that she failed to perform basic faculty duties, and alleges that the charges of bringing “controversial” issues to the classroom stem from a seminar she taught on November 3, 2016, in which she asked students to compare the portrayals of God and Satan in John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” with those in Neguib Mahfouz’s “Awlad Haritna” and Amal Donqul’s “The Last Days of Spartacus.”

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary suspension of a professor in apparent retaliation for the peaceful exercise of the rights to academic freedom and freedom of expression — conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.

Update:

On July 5, 2018, Suez University disciplinary authorities formally terminated Dr. Prince.  She was permitted to continue collecting a pension. Sources have suggested that, in addition to the academic conduct described above, social media videos of Dr. Prince belly dancing may have been taken into consideration in the decision to terminate her.

Sources: 
http://mesana.org/committees/academic-freedom/intervention/letters-egypt.html#Egypt20170623
http://www.egyptindependent.com/video-university-professor-faces-legal-societal-backlash-posting-video-her-belly-dancing-facebo/
http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/262323/Egypt/Politics-/Egyptian-university-invetigates-professor-after-da.aspx
http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-39504967
http://english.alarabiya.net/en/variety/2017/04/17/Suspended-Egyptian-lecturer-defiantly-posts-another-bellydance-video.html
http://newsok.com/article/feed/1198878
https://dailynewsegypt.com/2013/05/16/suez-canal-university-criticised-for-not-protecting-professor/
https://dailynewsegypt.com/2013/04/29/university-professor-accused-of-contempt-of-religion-2/
http://www.arabwomenwriters.com/index.php/2014-05-03-16-02-58/2014-05-03-19-08-03/mona-prince
http://www.aucpress.com/p-4896-revolution-is-my-name.aspx
https://www.egypttoday.com/Article/1/51584/Professor-Mona-Prince-ousted-of-her-position-at-Suez-University