forms to help scholars whose ideas put them at risk
the United States, academics who voice controversial opinions
aren't likely to face consequences beyond the jeering of a newspaper
columnist or vehement disagreement from a colleague. But in
some countries, speaking out can mean imprisonment or torture.
It's an age-old problem, one that last received significant
public attention during World War II, when the Nazis persecuted
such scholars as Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt, who found
refuge at American universities, including the U of C.
attending a 1998 conference where those efforts to help European
academics and public intellectuals came up, U of C associate
professor Katie Trumpener and some colleagues continued the
conversation on campus; Trumpener e-mailed Jacqueline Bhabha,
director of the U of C's Human Rights Program. As e-mails began
to pile up, attesting to the ongoing repression and oppression
of intellectuals around the world, the scholars decided to establish
a modern-day aid effort.
so the Human Rights Program launched the Scholars at Risk Network
at a working conference held June 5-7 in Chicago that drew representatives
from some 50 institutions. By conference's end, participants
had adopted a resolution "recognizing the central importance
of scholarship, academic freedom, and higher education for the
promotion and protection of peaceful, democratic societies"
and "the shared responsibility of all scholars, administrators,
students, and their institutions to join in solidarity in defense
of their colleagues." The group resolved to establish a network
of research and educational institutions dedicated to protecting
the fundamental human rights of the global academic community;
providing sanctuary for scholars threatened by displacement,
discrimination, censorship, harassment, intimidation, or violence;
and raising awareness of their plight.
the two weeks following the conference, says Scholars at Risk
director Robert Quinn, a dozen scholars had already contacted
the network asking for help. With a B.A. from Princeton and
a J.D. from Fordham Law School, where he was the Crowley fellow
in international human rights, Quinn joined the U of C last
October. Over the next year, he hopes to place the first group
of five or so scholars, and to double the number of institutions
in the network to 100. And, although a $250,000 grant from the
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is getting the
network off the ground, he'll launch a fund-raising campaign
toward the organization's long-term viability.
off to a good start on finding placements: by late June, the
U of C, the universities of Iowa and Michigan, Illinois Wesleyan
University, Chicago-Kent College of Law, and Albion College
had made good-faith commitments to host an at-risk scholar.
Of those institutions, the U of C, Michigan, and Chicago-Kent
each agreed to offer a three-year visiting professorship to
a scholar in any discipline, from any world region.
applying doesn't guarantee placement. First the network will
verify that the applicant is both a scholar-defined in broad
terms and including poets and physicists, holders of master's
degrees or multiple doctorates, and academics at all kinds of
institutions-and at risk. The program will work with professional
associations, government offices, and international organizations
to determine the hardships facing applicants.
times a year, Quinn plans to send the network's member institutions
a report on ten or so at-risk scholars, hoping to match them
with the needs of a particular institution; the matching process
will eventually be facilitated by a database. Smaller institutions
will be asked to commit to at least a one-time appointment,
while bigger institutions will be asked to commit one of their
visiting-scholar slots, generally for a period of one to three
a scholar is placed, the network will check up on him or her
regularly and help in finding a post-placement job. "Making
the Scholars at Risk Network an international organization will
make it easier for them to return to their own region," Quinn
says. The network will also work with nongovernmental organizations
on post-placement monitoring.
fully anticipate, 10 or 15 years down the road, you will have
chief executives of companies, university presidents, leaders
of countries who have gone through this program," says Quinn.
"It depends on our ability to keep them around long enough."
and research centers that can't host a scholar can still participate
by designating a liaison to receive and disseminate information
or choosing a representative to serve on an advisory committee.
The network's Web site (scholarsatrisk.uchicago.edu) offers
an on-line Academic Freedom Institute, with a discussion forum
and reports on country and regional conditions. Users can join
a listserv of updates and announcements, browse a bibliography
of relevant books and reports, volunteer as an "academic freedom
monitor" for a country or region, and contribute information
on current or past displaced scholars.
are plans to publish an on-line journal of scholarly works and
profiles of persecuted scholars, as well as provide a virtual
classroom on academic freedom featuring the works of displaced
scholars. Publicizing the scholars may be even more significant
than hosting them in the States, notes Quinn. "A scholar at
the conference said placement isn't as important as creating
an umbrella. If a scholar becomes known as being watched by
the American academic community, that offers a measure of protection."-K.S.