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: March 29, 2022

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Nişantaşı University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On March 29 and 30, 2022, Nişantaşı University dismissed as many as 40 members of its academic personnel in apparent retaliation for a petition and protest related to equal compensation.

In late March, research assistants at the private (foundation) university submitted a petition to the university administration calling for equal compensation, as stipulated in a 2020 regulation issued by the Higher Education Council (YÖK), and better working conditions. Afterwards, on March 29, a mediator individually met with 20 research assistants, including petition signatories, and apparently asked them to accept a severance package and resign. If they chose not to resign, they would be dismissed for “other reasons” (quote translated via Google Translate) under Code 22, which would bar them from receiving unemployment benefits, severance, notice pay, and overtime. Shortly after news of this, academic personnel held a demonstration during which they protested Vice Rector Mehmet Ünal.

Sources indicate that the university arrested as many as 30 academic personnel, including faculty who protested the Vice Rector and research assistants who were asked to resign. Campus security guards informed the faculty members to gather their belongings and escorted them off campus.

Following the dismissals, a number of academics filed lawsuits against the university while YÖK announced that it would commence an investigation into the university.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about a university’s dismissal of academic personnel in apparent retaliation for their nonviolent expressive activity, including expression critical of the institution. University administrators should refrain from punishing faculty members for peaceful and responsible expressive activity. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, dismissals aimed at retaliating against such activity undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.