On April 3, 2023, the administration of the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP) canceled a planned “Israeli Universities Fair” after a protest by pro-Palestinian activists took place.
On March 17, UNICAMP invited students to participate in the Israeli Universities Fair, an event promoting six Israeli universities. UNICAMP has an agreement to foster academic cooperation in research and teaching with the six Israeli universities, as well as six universities in Arab and Muslim countries. Following the announcement, UNICAMP students shared the invitation with the Palestinian Arab Federation of Brazil (FEPAL), which, on March 24, sent a letter to the rector of UNICAMP demanding that the festival be canceled and that UNICAMP declare itself an anti-apartheid space. The letter contended that going forward with the event equated to supporting Israeli apartheid.
On March 28, UNICAMP’s rector released a statement saying that the fair would go forward. On April 3, the day of the planned event, pro-Palestinian students, labor unions, and other groups gathered at the entrance to the university to protest, carrying Palestinian flags and signs saying “Free Palestine” and “UNICAMP – territory free from apartheid.” Later that day, the rector announced that the event would be canceled, citing security concerns. FEPAL and other pro-Palestinian activists countered that the demonstration had been peaceful.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the cancellation of an event designed to foster international cooperation and engagement based on the content of the event. Where there are legitimate security concerns, the university is obligated to take reasonable available measures to ensure security. In the absence of such concerns, content based restrictions on otherwise legitimate university events undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.