On December 2, 2017, Brooke Harrington, an American professor of business and politics at Copenhagen Business School (CBS) in Denmark, learned that she faces criminal charges for speaking publicly on topics within her areas of expertise.
Dr. Harrington, who has been at CBS since 2010, is a renowned expert in tax and finance. In recent months, she gave a series of both paid and unpaid lectures off campus, which included invited speaking engagements before the Danish parliament, tax authorities, and a class at the University of Copenhagen law school. In response, Danish authorities have charged her with violating her work permit, which they allege does not allow her, as a non-permanent resident, to work outside of her university without obtaining special permission for the Danish Agency from the International Recruitment and Integration. (Dr. Harrington has noted in response that a separate Danish law requires university faculty to share their research publicly).
Although Dr. Harrington has lived in Denmark for more than eight years, she has only recently been subjected to criminal action for giving lectures off campus; as many as fourteen other foreign academics at eight public universities in Denmark have reportedly been the targets of similar actions. These actions reportedly follow a decision by the country’s Integration Minister to interpret provisions of Danish immigration law in a stricter manner.
In addition to fines of roughly $2,000, the consequences to Dr. Harrington of a criminal conviction may be severe. She has expressed concern that a guilty verdict would likely have a significant impact on her career, affecting her ability to work and research in other countries, and harm future job prospects.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the prosecution of a scholar in retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the right to academic freedom and freedom of expression – conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Denmark is a party. While States have the right to establish reasonable regulations concerning immigration and limitations on work by non-residents, such regulations should not arbitrarily prevent scholars from engaging in public expression within their areas of expertise — a crucial aspect of academic work. Such actions raise particular concern where, as here, they appear to be a part of a pattern of similar actions against the higher education community. Prosecutions aimed at limiting public, academic expression limit academic freedom and harm democratic society generally.