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 25, 2023

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Boğaziçi University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

In late December 2023, Boğaziçi University (BU) revoked the university ID cards of 16 students who were protesting a decision to restructure the university’s faculties of Science and Literature and of Managerial Sciences.

On December 20, 2023, BU’s senate voted to split the Faculty of Science and Literature into two separate faculties and to close the Faculty of Managerial Sciences. A group of students viewed this decision as an attempt to constrain the university’s autonomy and began protesting. On December 25, the BU Student Representation Board announced a “Democratic University” vigil.

From December 25 to 28, BU’s rectorate revoked 16 students’ university ID cards and banned them from entering the university. This action prevented some of the students from accessing their housing on campus. In addition, BU’s administration suspended the students for a period of one month. The notification came by email, and BU did not give the students an opportunity to defend themselves before a disciplinary committee.

The students subsequently filed a lawsuit against BU. On January 2, 2024, it was reported that a court had issued a stay of execution on the students’ ban, explaining its decision by stating that the ban “is related to the right to education and may cause irreparable damage if implemented.” The court gave BU thirty days to defend its decision.

On January 2, students reported that their ID cards were working again. On January 3, BU informed the students that their suspensions had been lifted.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about a university taking disciplinary action a group of students for nonviolently exercising their right to freedom of expression – conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Turkey is a party. Higher education authorities have an obligation to ensure due process, transparency, and fairness when engaging in disciplinary action. Even when reversed, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.