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: February 04, 2020

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):National Autonomous University of Mexico

Region & Country:Americas | Mexico

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On February 4, 2020, a group of masked protesters vandalized the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) during a student protest.

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 February 4, 2020, roughly two hundred UNAM students reportedly held a demonstration where they marched from the Parque de la Bombilla near campus to the UNAM rectory to deliver a list of demands relating to the sexual harassment complaints. When university officials reportedly refused to meet the students in person to receive their demands, a group of masked protesters began painting graffiti on the exterior walls of the rectory, breaking glass door panes, setting small fires near the entrance, and closing off some building entrances with padlocks. Reports also indicate that some of those same protesters threw paint on university personnel during the protest.

UNAM officials suspended classes at all colleges for the day. On February 5, the rector of UNAM, Enrique Graue, presented five measures the university would take to address gender violence.

As of this report, authorities have not publicly disclosed the identities of the individuals who vandalized the campus property; some news outlets have reported that they include UNAM students.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about acts of violence and vandalism during a student protest. While students and the public at large have a right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, they must exercise these rights peacefully and responsibly, including by refraining from physical violence on campus. Violence during a student protest endangers the higher education community and undermines academic freedom and institutional autonomy.