Link to groups, individuals, and organizations successfully fighting back against attacks to the academy.
Fighting Back for Academic Freedom Globally
In India, there have been attempts to run petitions, collect statements of solidarity and letters of support from universities in other countries, particularly the US and the UK. In some universities in the UK, for example, the response was not prompt which raises the need to promote channels of communication between universities in order to promote more effective responses to such demands. At JNU, which has been under government attack since 2015 and labelled as anti-national and seditious, the student union is very well organised, so any efforts for solidarity could be coordinated with them. The fee hike was challenged in the High Court by JNU with a recent victory.
In Turkey, various initiatives have been taken by dismissed academics who organised themselves in associations, like, Solidarity Academies to pursue independent research and teaching activities. The challenges of this path relate to sustainability given the lack of institutional infrastructure and support, such as access to journals, databases. It is also a big problem that no research funding body recognizes these institutions. Another key challenge is the difficulty of maintaining teaching, both for teachers and for students, without recognized credits.
Also in the Turkish case, there is the experience of the Academics for Peace as an international solidarity network. Part of the group based in the UK organised strategies to support colleagues in Turkey with fund raising and academic events. A charity (Centre for Democracy and Peace Research) was also formed so they could pursue institutional avenues, such as applying for funds and liaise with research councils. The charity’s main activity has been the provision of emergency support for academics at risk in Turkey who were dismissed from their positions and unable to find other work due to their social security number being blacklisted. The charity is also currently running a capacity building project for the civil society organisations and initiatives formed by dismissed academics. The charity also held writing workshops (funded by the British Academy Writing Workshop grants) to assist PhD students and researchers experiencing a loss of research community due to the enormous purge and censorship within Turkish Universities. These workshops have been useful particularly in encouraging work on “sensitive” topics, and in providing international networks by bringing them together with UK-based and other international scholars. The UK Academics for Peace also promotes a boycott campaignand worked with the UCU to get motions of support. Although there were limitations in the UCU structure, it was effective, for example to stop the Turkish government’s investment in events to promote itself in London. A group of scholars from the Academics for Peace network based in Germany, have undertaken this excellent initiative: Off-University. Another worthwhile initiative is the Academy in Exile.
In Brazil in 2018, UK-based scholars met with Brazilian visiting academics in London and formed the Scholars for Academic Freedom in Brazil. The focus is to mobilize people in building solidarity with colleagues in Brazil and the first step has been to work with the UCU. They managed to get the National UCU’s endorsement which potentially facilitates the engagement of local branches and to get a donation to an emergency fund. Additionally, a group of Brazilian postgraduate students in the UK have recently formed a collective Brazil Researchers for Autonomy, Democracy and Solidarity and are soon to circulate their founding manifesto.