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 13, 2020

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):University of Turin

Region & Country:Europe | Italy

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On February 13, 2020, students reportedly entered the University of Turin (UniTO) and violently clashed with police.

UniTo held a conference titled “Fascism, Colonialism, and Foibe,” with speakers including Stojan Spetič, a former Senator and member of the Party of Italian Communists, to discuss a series of massacres known the “Foibe” that occurred on the Italian-Yugoslav border during World War II. In 2019, Spetič had written a controversial letter to President Sergio Mattarella about the idea of a Day of Remembrance of the Foibe, leading critics to charge that he had denied they had happened.

Members of Turin University Action (FAUN), a student organization, distributed leaflets around UniTO’s campus that described the conference as insulting to the “memory of thousands of barbarously killed Italians.” When members of another student group, the Autonomous University Collective (CUA), tried to prevent the FAUN members from distributing the leaflets, the opposing groups clashed violently, reportedly prompting police to intervene. CUA members reportedly raided and damaged a classroom dedicated to FAUN. Four police officers and two security guards were reportedly injured as a result of the clashes. Police arrested three students in connection to the violence.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence during a campus conference. While students have a right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, they also have a responsibility to exercise their rights peacefully and responsibly. Violent clashes during a campus conference undermine institutional autonomy and democratic society generally.