News and Events

The Battle Still Rages: Attacks on Academic Freedom in the 21st Century

By The Scholar Rescue Fund

The Battle of Ideas Still Rages:
Attacks on Academic Freedom in the 21st Century
A symposium of IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund

Hosted by the Center for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University

The Program:
Welcome:   Dr. Lee Bollinger, President, Columbia University
                   Dr. Allan Goodman, President & CEO, Institute of International Education (IIE)       
Introduction: Dr. Henry Jarecki, Chairman, IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund (SRF)
Remarks: HRH Princess Ghida Talal, Board Member, IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund
Moderator:  Peter Ackerman, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Freedom House

Featuring presentations by SRF scholars from:
Belarus, China, Ethiopia, Iraq, Palestine and Zimbabwe

Wednesday, September 24th 2008
Location: Lerner Hall – Rm C-555 – Columbia University – 2920 Broadway at 115th Street
Time: 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
This event is free and open to the public

Academics have long led the battle of ideas.  They are at the forefront of progressive change, political action and social movements around the world.  As they produce and share knowledge, scholars often find themselves facing down forces that would deny the right to education and thwart the free exchange of ideas. 

By its very nature, their work becomes an exercise in confrontation: that of new ideas challenging old ones; disciplines and cultures reaching across boundaries and borders to formulate original methods and theories; the act of student and teacher engaged in an exchange; the researcher examining the results of his study; the scholar reaching out and spreading knowledge in her home country.  While most scholarly communities are aware of such forms of exchange, many do not realize the harsher realities facing their colleagues in countries ravaged by fear, repression and conflict.  For these scholars, the ordinary exercise of their academic activities has led to more severe forms of confrontation: censorship, surveillance, imprisonment, torture and even death. 

In the 21st century, geo-political realities are changing rapidly but the world’s professoriate continues to find itself prey to the whims of militant vigilantes and authoritarian regimes.  Scholars are often the first to suffer under repression and conflict but the last to leave their homelands behind.  For many, the threat becomes too great and they are left with no choice.  Most would sooner give up on life than give up on the free pursuit of science and learning.  On September 24, these scholars will share their experiences and contribute to our understanding of academic freedom as an essential human right- and what we must do to assure its preservation in the 21st century. 

For questions or additional information regarding this event, please contact the
Scholar Rescue Fund at 212-984-5486 or  

Event sponsors:

The Institute of International Education (IIE), an independent nonprofit founded in 1919, IIE is among the world’s largest and most experienced international education and training organizations in the world.  IIE has participated in the rescue of persecuted scholars since its founding. In 2002, IIE launched the Scholar Rescue Fund (SRF) as a formalized response to this ongoing international dilemma.

The Scholar Rescue Fund (SRF) provides fellowships for established scholars whose lives and work are threatened in their home countries. These fellowships permit professors, researchers and other senior academics to find temporary refuge at universities and colleges anywhere in the world, enabling them to pursue their academic work and to continue to share their knowledge with students, colleagues, and the community at large.

The Center for the Study of Human Rights (CSHR) established in 1978 at Columbia University, CSHR is committed to three core goals of providing excellent human rights education to Columbia students, fostering innovative interdisciplinary academic research, and offering its expertise in capacity building to human rights leaders, organizations, and universities around the world.

Biographies of Featured Panelists:

Belarus / Sociology
This scholar is the founding professor of a social communications department at a Belarusian university where he taught for over fifteen years.  He is an active writer with over 170 scholarly articles and chapters in international and regional academic journals. While a full-time professor, the scholar has been actively involved in establishing independent institutions to examine democratic movements, media, market economies, rule of law and civil society.  This public visibility made him a consistent target of the increasingly repressive Belarusian regime which has, in recent years, severely restricted the activities of NGOs, independent media and academic institutions.  His fellowship has allowed the scholar to take up a position where he teaches and researches in the field of communications at a southern U.S. university. 

China / Political Science & Law 
This scholar’s research focuses on democratic reform, liberal theory and republicanism. He holds a B.A. in English and an LLM in constitutional and administrative law from two of China’s most prestigious universities. In China, the scholar was arrested and imprisoned for five years for taking part in a pro-democracy opposition party and for co-founding an independent trade organization.  As a former dissident, the scholar has been unable to hold any academic employment or sign his name to any published works.  Awarded an SRF fellowship in July 2007, the scholar began a joint appointment in January 2008 with the Center for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University and Northwestern University where he is pursuing research on freedom of association, opposition political parties and democratic reforms in China.

Ethiopia / Economics
A former professor of economics at a large Ethiopian university where he taught for over twenty years, this scholar holds a Ph.D. in economics from a European university.  In the early nineties, the scholar was among a group of lecturers who were dismissed from their positions at an Ethiopian university for criticizing government policies.  In spite of government pressure, the scholar continued to lecture and write and became a founding member of a network of academics who joined an opposition political party, believed to have won the national election in May 2005.  Later that year, the scholar was arrested on charges of treason and spent nearly two years in prison until his release in late 2007.  An SRF fellowship will allow him to become the first scholar supported by a newly launched partnership of the SRF with an East Coast institution.

Iraq / Medicine
This scholar is a professor of clinical immunology with over 25 years of teaching and clinical experience in a microbiology and immunology department at a prominent university in Iraq.  She received her Ph.D. in immunology with a focus on cancer treatment in the UK.  She has supervised a multitude of medical board graduates, Ph.D. M.S. students and has had over one hundred research papers published in various Iraqi medical journals.  Various committees at the Ministry of Health in Iraq have also used her services as a consultant.  In Iraq, the scholar suffered from on-going threats and public attacks.  After severe shelling took place near her residence in 2007, she left for Amman, Jordan.  Awarded an SRF fellowship in 2008, this scholar has since commenced a position where she will teach and research in pathology, microbiology, and immunology at a U.S. university in the South.

Palestine/ Archaeology & Islamic Art History
This scholar holds a Ph.D. in archaeology and Islamic art history from a European institution.  He oversaw an extensive effort to document the archaeological history of the Gaza region as it underwent rapid development.  In addition to this work, he continued to teach archaeology and art history and has served as a professor at several Middle Eastern and U.S. universities.  The scholar has published extensively on Near Eastern history and archaeology and collaborates regularly with local and international colleagues.  Owing to his scholarly activities which demonstrate a commitment to intercultural dialogue and collaboration, the scholar’s actions have been met with violent disapproval from groups opposing such efforts.  After receiving repeated threats, the scholar and his colleagues from a Canadian university sought SRF assistance.  With renewed fellowship support for the 2008-09 academic year, the scholar is currently in Canada completing a comprehensive reconstruction of the history and archaeology of the Gaza region for publication in English and Arabic.

Zimbabwe / Political & Social Philosophy
A lecturer of social and political philosophy, a journalist, and a poet, this scholar taught courses on human rights, democracy and distributive justice at a distinguished Zimbabwean university.  She wrote numerous articles critical of the ruling regime.  While lecturing at the university, the scholar emerged as a leader on campus, organizing academic and activist forums.  In response to her campus activism and writings, the scholar was targeted by government agents and suffered physical abuse.  She narrowly escaped the country to take part in a summer fellowship at a renowned university in the U.S. and was subsequently invited to stay on at the university’s center for democratic studies.  In December 2007, SRF support allowed the scholar to remain at the university where she contributed to research on democratic development in her home country.  With a renewed fellowship, this scholar will facilitate a course on South African literature and produce a compilation of her on writings on Zimbabwe.