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: November 11, 2022

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):University of the Cloister of Sor Juana

Region & Country:Americas | Mexico

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On November 11, 2022, the University of the Cloister of Sor Juana (UCSJ) dismissed Melissa Fernández Chagoya, after she reportedly supported a student protest against the university’s handling of sexual assault cases.

In October, a UCSJ student who was sexually assaulted by a classmate the previous month dropped out after the university failed to take action in response to her complaint. As a result, students organized a protest in support of their peer. Among other actions, they hung posters and used chalk to paint the courtyard with messages critiquing university’s handling of the specific case and of sexual assault cases more broadly.

Several professors expressed concern for the protesting students and the university’s handling of sexual assault allegations. This included Professor Alicia Hopkins Moreno (see report) and Professor Fernández Chagoya, both of whom refused to back down when the university told them that the matter did not concern the faculty. The university fired the two without providing an explanation. Another six professors who signed a statement of solidarity for their two colleagues were reportedly not told whether their contracts were renewed, despite the period for renewal having passed.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the dismissal of scholars by a higher education institution for exercising their right to freedom of expression. Higher education officials should respect scholars’ rights and refrain from disciplinary actions that restrict or retaliate against nonviolent expressive activity. In addition to the damage to the immediate victims, disciplinary actions aimed to discourage or punish support for student protests on campus undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy and democratic society generally.

CAFA report (Informe de casos y tendencias sobre libertad académica y autonomía universitaria en las Américas Noviembre 1 de 2022 – Junio 30 de 2023) pg. 24 #44/45