In September 2021, Boğaziçi University (BU) announced the cancellation of classes taught by jazz professor Seda Binbaşgil, who had taught at the university for 16 years.
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. Erdoğan eventually removed Bulu as rector of BU and, on August 20, appointed then-acting rector Professor Mehmet Naci İnci to the rector position permanently. This latest appointment triggered additional protests by students and faculty. When an internal poll was conducted over Naci Inci’s appointment, 83% of the faculty turned out, and 95% of those voting opposed the appointment.
Just before the new academic year began, BU cancelled classes taught by Binbaşgil, who had reportedly participated in protests against Bulu and Naci İnci. The decision came a few months after BU dismissed Can Candan, a lecturer in BU’s department of western languages and literature, in apparent retaliation for his role in student and faculty protests (see report).
On September 17, BU academics issued a statement in which they raised concerns that the dismissal of Candan, coupled with the closure of Binbaşgil’s classes, had disrupted BU’s culture and art courses and film studies certificate programs. The academics alleged that the disciplinary actions taken by Naci Inci showed that his administration was attempting to quash the culture and art courses at BU.
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 should refrain from punishing 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.