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 21, 2019

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):University of Costa Rica

Region & Country:Americas | Costa Rica

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On November 21, 2019, police reportedly clashed with students during a protest in front of the University of Costa Rica (UCR) campus.

In October 2019, it was reported that Costa Rica’s Legislative Assembly proposed a nearly fifty percent cut to the budget for the Special Fund for Higher Education (FEES), a national budget for higher education institutions. Additionally, the Ministry of Finance ordered an increase in the percentage of funding from FEES to go to university infrastructure. The decisions sparked protests by students, faculty, and administrators of Costa Rican universities, including UCR, who demanded that the government refrain from cuts to education spending and respect universities’ institutional autonomy.

On November 20, the Interuniversity Autonomous Front (FAI), a student organization, started a demonstration at UCR and reportedly blocked a street in front of UCR’s campus with stones, tires, and other objects. The demonstration resumed the following day, and that evening, police reportedly arrived and began to take down the barricades on the street. Police reportedly fired tear gas at students who sought refuge inside UCR. A few students reportedly started a fire in the street to prevent police from entering the campus. Police reportedly arrested eleven students in connection to the violence.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence during a campus protest. University authorities, campus security, police, and students have a responsibility to maintain a safe university space. While students have rights to freedom of expression and assembly, they have a responsibility to exercise such rights peacefully and responsibly; likewise, state authorities must take measures to maintain a safe campus space and refrain from responding disproportionately to student protests and working to deescalate potentially volatile situations. Violence on campus undermines 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).