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: May 31, 2021

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Boğaziçi University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On May 31, 2021, Boğaziçi University (BU) reportedly announced the cancellation of classes taught by Feyzi Erçin, who had been teaching cinema courses since 2013.

Beginning in January 2021, students and faculty across Turkey held protests in response to the controversial appointment of Melih Bulu to the position of rector of BU, by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Police used force and arrested demonstrators in many of the protests.

Erçin, a lawyer and part-time lecturer, participated in protests against Bulu, and provided legal advice to student protesters who were subject to arrest or prosecution. In a document sent by Naci Inci, the vice rector of BU, Inci stated that the letter grades given by Erçin were problematic and for that reason, he was not suitable to continue teaching. BU faculty raised concern that Inci’s decision was made without consultation with any members of the BU Senate or formal committee.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about disciplinary actions against a scholar in apparent retaliation for nonviolent expressive activity, including expression critical of the institution. University administrators must not punish students and faculty members for peaceful and responsible expressive activity. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, disciplinary actions aimed at restricting or retaliating against such activity undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.