Dec. 12, 2011
Emory Joins International Scholars at Risk Program for Academic Freedom
In the United States, it’s unthinkable that a professor could be exiled, imprisoned or killed for exercising academic freedom. But in an increasingly unstable political world, it happens frequently.
In support of academics whose work, convictions or lives are under threat, Emory University has joined the Scholars at Risk Network. The U.S.-based international program matches at-risk professors with member universities willing to provide temporary teaching positions as sanctuary when the scholar’s home country becomes too dangerous for them.
The organization is an international network of universities, colleges and individuals that pledge to protect threatened colleagues and promote academic freedom.
In countries where oppression is the norm, one of the few ways to get an accurate view of what is occurring is through the work of scholars and teachers, says Emory Law’s Martha A. Fineman, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law.
The Scholars at Risk network is important not only because it protects the lives of professors, but also because it preserves their voice of dissent, she says.
“Scholars and teachers should always question the status quo,” she says. “I’m glad we’re able to provide a refuge for our colleagues who are targeted by their governments for doing so.” Fineman chaired the University’s SAR steering committee.
Emory joins 105 other SAR member colleges in the U.S. There are also 128 member colleges abroad—in Africa, Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe, Mexico, the Middle East, Russia and South America.
In the past eight years, SAR has received roughly 2,000 requests for help from scholars in more than 100 countries. Requests are based upon harassment ranging from surveillance and exile to false arrest, imprisonment and torture. The greatest number of requests come from Sub-Saharan Africa, followed by Northern Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
SAR also organizes formal protests and calls for censure of governments where scholars are abused, imprisoned or go missing. Its website features photos and names of scholars currently imprisoned.
SAR considers petitions from scholars harassed or threatened because of their words, ideas or place in society. As a destination university enriched by a diverse, global faculty, joining SAR made sense, says Emory Provost Earl Lewis.
“The SAR network has done meaningful work for more than 10 years, and we are proud to be a part of it,” Lewis says. “We look forward to supporting our international colleagues who are facing harassment and persecution in their home countries. We are honored to help these men and women through our participation in Scholars at Risk and welcome the opportunity to have them conduct research on our campus and teach our students.”