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: November 14, 2019

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):National Autonomous University of Mexico

Region & Country:Americas | Mexico

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On November 14, 2019, a group of people destroyed one of the buildings of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) during a campus demonstration against sexual assault.

Beginning on October 2, 2019, UNAM students held protests and strikes denouncing an apparent surge in reported incidents of sexual harassment and gender-based violence by faculty, staff, and students. Students accused UNAM officials of not appropriately responding to sexual harassment allegations, claiming, among other things, that many suspected offenders continued to hold their positions as faculty members and students.

On November 14, students at campuses across UNAM held large demonstrations to denounce alleged gender-based violence, corruption, and sexual harassment committed by faculty against students. The protests were reportedly nonviolent. In one of the demonstrations, students from the Cuautitlán Faculty of Higher Studies of UNAM marched to the rectory building. Later that day, a group of about twenty hooded individuals reportedly threw molotov cocktails at the rectory building, setting its doors on fire; they also set fire to a Mexican flag that they hung from the building, and spray painted the building’s exterior walls. The group also broke into the nearby University Museum of Sciences and Arts of UNAM, where they broke windows and looted items.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the targeted destruction of campus property. While students and other protesters have a right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, they also have a responsibility to exercise these rights peacefully and responsibly. The destruction of campus property harms the ability of higher education communities to safely and adequately conduct research, teaching, and other academic activities. State authorities have a responsibility to protect higher education communities, investigate threats, and hold perpetrators responsible. Such incidents undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.

*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).