Let free­dom ring: why Schol­ars at Risk has opened a US sec­tion

Rob Quinn is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Schol­ars at Risk

THE (Times Higher Education) - - LETTERS -

The in­ter­na­tional Schol­ars at Risk net­work has es­tab­lished a new US na­tional sec­tion. The move comes at a time of record at­tacks on schol­ars and uni­ver­si­ties abroad around the world – Turkey, Nicaragua, Pak­istan and Ye­men come to mind – and of height­ened ten­sions on many US cam­puses.

Those ten­sions shouldn’t be sur­pris­ing. Higher ed­u­ca­tion in the US is broadly rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Amer­i­can pub­lic in its in­come lev­els, race, na­tion­al­ity, im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus, gen­der, re­li­gion and pol­i­tics. There­fore, many cam­puses ex­hibit the same ten­sions seen in US so­ci­ety.

More sur­pris­ing is the way that these ten­sions have man­i­fested on some cam­puses: sur­rep­ti­tious record­ing of lec­tures and meet­ings in at­tempts to cap­ture out-of-con­text “gotcha” mo­ments; pro­fan­ity-laced so­cial

me­dia posts; protests and coun­ter­protests with and with­out vi­o­lent clashes; shout­ing down in­vited speak­ers; e-trolling of fac­ulty, in­clud­ing racist, misog­y­nist and ho­mo­pho­bic slurs and even death threats; ex­po­sure of per­sonal in­for­ma­tion on­line – even about chil­dren – as a means of in­tim­i­da­tion; cam­paigns to dis­in­vite, de-hire, and deny hir­ing or pro­mo­tion.

Al­though rel­a­tively few peo­ple have par­tic­i­pated in the most egre­gious of these ac­tiv­i­ties, their ac­tions have ex­posed a wider break­down in re­spect for core higher ed­u­ca­tion val­ues, such as eq­ui­table ac­cess, ac­count­abil­ity, aca­demic free­dom, au­ton­omy and so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity.

The new SAR-United States sec­tion will in­vite US uni­ver­si­ties, col­leges and higher ed­u­ca­tion as­so­ci­a­tions to unite in sup­port of those val­ues.

SAR is per­haps best known for its work ar­rang­ing tem­po­rary po­si­tions at par­tic­i­pat­ing in­sti­tu­tions for in­ter­na­tional schol­ars who face threats to their lives or work in their home coun­tries. In ad­di­tion to ar­rang­ing these po­si­tions for schol­ars, SAR also of­fers par­tic­i­pat­ing in­sti­tu­tions a range of ad­vo­cacy and ed­u­ca­tional ac­tiv­i­ties aimed at build­ing un­der­stand­ing of aca­demic free­dom and its im­por­tance not only to higher ed­u­ca­tion but also to demo­cratic so­ci­ety.

The sec­tion will of­fer to US cam­puses a bridge to coun­ter­parts through­out SAR’s global net­work of sec­tions, along with part­ners in the UK with the Coun­cil for At-Risk Aca­demics (Cara) and Bel­gium and the Nether­lands with the Foun­da­tion for Refugee Stu­dents.

US in­sti­tu­tions were among the found­ing mem­bers of SAR and have hosted many SAR-as­sisted schol­ars. And US higher ed­u­ca­tion has an even longer his­tory of ac­tion in sup­port of at-risk schol­ars and stu­dents, from the Sec­ond World War schol­ars flee­ing western Europe to sci­en­tists and dis­si­dents flee­ing the Soviet bloc; from Latin Amer­i­can in­tel­lec­tu­als flee­ing bru­tal dic­ta­tor­ships to stu­dents and schol­ars flee­ing crack­downs in China af­ter the Tianan­men Square protests and the for­mer Yu­goslavia un­der Slo­bo­dan Miloše­vić.

Right up to to­day, US cam­puses have al­ways tried to do their part. I am sure they al­ways will, and this new SAR-United States sec­tion mag­ni­fies that. What’s new is that it of­fers a chance to help even more peo­ple through col­lab­o­ra­tion. And it of­fers a chance to push back against the dis­heart­en­ing con­duct that we have seen on too many cam­puses re­cently, not with tit­for-tat in­tol­er­ance and in­vec­tive, but with a call to deeper mean­ing and higher ground – a call to reaf­firm our mu­tual com­mit­ment to core val­ues.

We in­vite ev­ery US higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tion – large and small, two-year to four-year, pub­lic and pri­vate – to turn words into ac­tion, to join us in this new SAR-United States sec­tion and to stand up for the prin­ci­ples that ideas are not crimes, that crit­i­cal dis­sent is not dis­loy­alty and that ev­ery­one should have the free­dom to think, ques­tion and share ideas.

It of­fers a chance to push back against the dis­heart­en­ing con­duct that we have seen on too many cam­puses

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.