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 15, 2023

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):University of Belgrade

Region & Country:Europe | Serbia

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On March 15, 2023, the University of Belgrade canceled a panel titled “Academic Exchanges between Kosovo and Serbia” the day before it was scheduled to take place. The following morning, protesters plastered posters outside the venue denouncing as traitors three University of Belgrade faculty members who were scheduled to participate in the event.

The event invited political science faculty from the University of Belgrade in Serbia and philosophy faculty from the University of Pristina in Kosovo. Its announcement received intense backlash from Serbian tabloids because the University of Belgrade Faculty of Political Science (FPN) did not include an asterisk next to Kosovo in the materials advertising the event. Including an asterisk is the standard way to communicate Serbia’s non-recognition of Kosovo. FPN later revised the announcement to include the asterisk, but ultimately chose to cancel the event because of warnings that protesters could attack it.

The following day, March 16, after the event’s cancellation, posters depicting three FPN faculty, Jelena Loncar, Stefan Surlić, and Marko Veković, appeared on campus. The posters included the professors’ faces and accused them of supporting terrorism. In a press release, FPN condemned the posters and stated they asked the authorities to investigate.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the cancellation of an on-campus event due to public pressure and about the intimidation of faculty for their participation in a university event. Members of the public have a responsibility to refrain from interfering in the functioning of higher education. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, intimidation intended to deter expressive activity on campus undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.