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 26, 2020

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):National Autonomous University of Mexico

Region & Country:Americas | Mexico

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On February 26, 2020, a group of hooded individuals reportedly violently attempted to shut down the College of Sciences and Humanities (CCH) Azcapotzalco of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

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

On February 21, a group of hooded individuals reportedly entered a women’s bathroom at the CCH campus and violently attacked a female student with a knife. On February 24, Mujeres Organizadas de CCH Azcapotzalco, a women’s rights student organization at CCH, began a 28-hour strike to protest the attack and broader gender-based violence on campus.

On February 26, when students planned to resume classes, hooded individuals reportedly arrived on campus and confronted faculty and students. CCH reported that at least fourteen students and faculty were injured. Individuals reportedly threw explosives and stones into campus buildings and broke doors of campus buildings with rods and hammers. The CCH director, Javier Consuelo Hernández, reported that the group included many individuals not affiliated with the UNAM. The exact identities of the individuals are unknown as of this report.

Scholars at Risk is gravely concerned about violent, targeted attacks on students and faculty in apparent retaliation for their nonviolent exercise of the right to free expression and academic freedom. State and university authorities have a responsibility to prevent and respond to such attacks, including by investigating and holding perpetrators responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, violent attacks on campus undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.