Despite the growing recognition of the importance of academic freedom for free and democratic societies, higher education is under constant threat in the Americas. This includes the political control of higher education institutions, the use of force on campuses and in university facilities, administrative and criminal legislation aimed at silencing academics, ideological censorship of academic discourse and limitations on freedom of research and expression, and impunity with respect to sexual violence in university spaces throughout the hemisphere.
The Second Conference on Academic Freedom in the Americas will feature panels on academic freedom and contributions that highlight challenges and opportunities in protection, advocacy, litigation and best practices in academic freedom and university autonomy. It will also serve as the global launch of Scholars at Risk’s Free to Think 2023 report.
About the Free to Think 2023 Report
Free to Think 2023 analyzes 409 attacks on higher education communities in 66 countries and territories. These attacks occurred in the context of authoritarian entrenchment and democratic backsliding, and governments increasingly used their regulatory power to constrain higher education and limit university autonomy, academic freedom, and free expression on campus.
During the past year, Iranian authorities violently suppressed student and scholar participation in the “Women, Life, Freedom” protest movement. The Taliban took the extraordinary step of barring women from higher education and then brutally repressed the public opposition to those restrictions. Government crackdowns on dissent reinforced cultures of fear and self-censorship in Russia, China, and Turkey. Universities in Myanmar, Sudan, and Ukraine are on the frontlines of conflict as militaries and other armed groups have damaged and occupied facilities. In the United States, lawmakers have sought to restrict teaching and research related to disfavored topics and have undermined university autonomy.
These are just a few of the concerning developments in Free to Think 2023. Together, they document a global phenomenon that not only harms individuals, but also shrinks the space for discourse and sharing ideas. These attacks harm all of society and they must stop.
Scholars at Risk calls for global action in defense of academic freedom and urges states, higher education communities, civil society, and the public to respond: to help protect scholars, students, and higher education institutions; to help protect everyone’s freedom to think, question, and share ideas.
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