On May 4, 2021, Universidad del Rosario law Professor Édgar Ramírez Baquero ordered his student, María Camila Guerrero, to leave his virtual class after she displayed an image supporting the national strike in Colombia.
In Colombia, thousands of people across the country have taken to the streets in a national strike, Paro Nacional, against new tax increases following a year of unemployment and financial hardships amid the COVID-19 pandemic. According to reports, police have opened fire on protesters, killing at least 24 people.
During a virtual class at the Universidad del Rosario law school, Guerrero had changed her profile photo to a graphic that supported the national strike protesters which read, “How difficult to study while my people are being killed.” In a video from class, Professor Baquero can be heard telling Guerrero to remove the profile image, that the student had to learn to respect the professor’s class, and that the image was disrespectful. After scolding Guerrero for several minutes, Professor Baquero ordered Guerrero to log out of the class after she did not remove the image.
After Guerrero posted a video of and complaint about the incident to Twitter, the university reacted on Twitter stating that it rejected “all manifestations of violence and discrimination” and reiterating its commitment to respecting a diversity of opinions and open dialogue. The university later released an official statement indicating that Professor Baquero had been terminated from his position at the law school.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about a scholar excluding a student from the class for their peaceful and responsible expression of political views. University professors should refrain from retaliating against students for political expression, so long as it is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, disciplinary actions aimed at restricting or retaliating against such activity undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.