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: July 28, 2023

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):South Asian University

Region & Country:Southern Asia | India

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On July 28, 2023, media sources reported that the South Asian University (SAU) began asking that students admitted to the university sign a 13-point pledge to refrain from protesting, agitating, or striking on campus and to declare that they are physically and mentally healthy.

The university included the pledge in the admissions guidelines emailed to students provisionally admitted to the university under the condition that they agree to follow the guidelines. The pledge asks students to commit that they will not join any gathering or activity that has a “tendency to disturb peace and tranquility of academic environment” on the campus. It also asks them to declare that they are not suffering from “any serious or contagious ailment and/or any psychiatric or psychological disorder.

The new policy came as the university cracked down on student protests, and a few weeks after SAU suspended four faculty members for supporting ongoing student protests that had begun in Fall 2022 (see report).

Scholars at Risk is concerned by a university adopting a new policy apparently intended to penalize students for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. While university authorities have a right to make their own admissions decisions, they have an obligation to adhere to university values and relevant human rights principles, including equitable access and the right to education. Discrimination on the basis of political expression harms both individual applicants and the institution more broadly.

Sources:
https://indianexpress.com/article/india/give-undertaking-wont-protest-have-no-mental-disorder-south-asian-varsity-to-new-students-8865772/
https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/south-asian-university-undertaking-student-protest-academic-freedom-8869313/
https://www.thequint.com/news/education/south-asian-university-asks-freshers-sign-undertaking
https://theprint.in/india/education/inhumane-undemocratic-rajya-sabha-mp-slams-south-asian-university-undertaking-for-students/1695958/
https://www.thedailystar.net/news/asia/india/news/wont-protest-have-no-mental-disorder-university-india-wants-undertaking-students-3381616
https://www.freepressjournal.in/education/im-mentally-sound-wont-protest-sau-seeks-undertaking-from-students