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: July 16, 2021

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Boğaziçi University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On July 16, 2021, Acting Rector of Boğaziçi University (BU), Naci İnci, summarily dismissed BU academic Dr. Can Candan for his role in student and faculty protests.

Candan, a lecturer in the university’s Department of Western Languages and Literatures, has taught documentary and filmmaking at BU since 2007. Candan is an advocate for academic freedom in Turkey and was a vocal supporter of protests that began at BU in January 2021 in response to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s controversial appointment of Melih Bulu, a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party. Candan filmed and documented the protests, where police often used force and arrested demonstrators. Candan was also a faculty advisor to the student-run BULGBTI+ group, which the administration derecognized in February 2021 stating that it trampled on “sacred” university values.

On July 16, Candan announced on Twitter that the university terminated his contract, including a photo of the termination notice in his tweet. According to the notice, the decision was made following a disciplinary investigation into Candan. The investigation, which occurred without Candan’s knowledge, found that Candan was guilty of allegedly insulting university leadership. The notification also stated that Candan did not apply for reappointment at the university, and that he could only fulfill “six hours of the 12-hour teaching time a week foreseen by the Article 36/3 of the Law 2547 on Higher Education.” The notification did not provide an evidentiary basis for these allegations. Candan denied the allegations, stating that university leadership did not consult his department or fellow faculty. The BU faculty association issued a statement protesting Candan’s termination.

On August 13, Candan filed a lawsuit against the university for stay of execution and an annulment of the contract termination. As of September 2021, the case is ongoing.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about a university’s termination of a scholar’s contract in apparent retaliation for nonviolent expressive activity, including expression critical of the institution. University administrations should refrain from punishing students and faculty members for peaceful and responsible expressive activity. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, dismissals aimed at restricting or retaliating against such activity undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.