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: December 09, 2022

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Higher School of Economics

Region & Country:Europe | Russia

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On December 9, 2022 the ethics commission at the Higher School of Economics (HSE) fired Dinara Gagarina, an associate professor and the head of the Master’s degree program in Digital Humanities at HSE’s Perm location, for social media posts that she made about the war in Ukraine.

The dismissal letter provided to Gagarina highlighted several posts that she made opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and pointed to her public use of “obscene language” since the posts used expletives. The dismissal letter also cited letters written by students’ parents expressing concern that Gagarina would “negatively influence” their children during class. Gagarina reported that the university administration had been pressuring her to leave the university for several months. Her firing came after several other sanctions, including her removal as head of the master’s degree program in Digital Humanities. The university later shut down the master’s degree program in Digital Humanities, apparently in connection to Gagarina’s anti-war posts.

Scholars at Risk is concerned by a university dismissing a scholar for exercising her right to freedom of expression. Higher education institutions should respect and safeguard academic freedom and institutional autonomy, including by refraining from appointments or disciplinary actions based on political or ideological considerations. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, these actions undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.