Letter: Academic freedom is under threat and needs urgent protection
26 Jun 2015
With threats ranging from "no-platforming", to governments trying to suppress critical voices, and corporate controls on research funding, academics and writers from across the world have signed Index's open letter on why academic freedom needs urgent protection
The summer 2015 issue of Index on Censorship magazine focusing on academic freedom will be available from 12 June.

The summer 2015 issue of Index on Censorship magazine focusing on academic freedom will be available from 12 June.

With threats ranging from “no-platforming” controversial speakers, to governments trying to suppress critical voices, and corporate controls on research funding, academics and writers from across the world have signed Index on Censorship’s open letter on why academic freedom needs urgent protection.

Academic freedom is the theme of a special report in the summer issue of Index on Censorship magazine, featuring a series of case studies and research, including stories of how setting an exam question in Turkey led to death threats for one professor, to lecturers in Ukraine having to prove their patriotism to a committee, and state forces storming universities in Mexico. It also looks at how fears of offence and extremism are being used to shut down debate in the UK and United States, with conferences being cancelled and “trigger warnings” proposed to flag potentially offensive content.

Summer 2015: Is academic freedom being eroded?

Editorial: Shades of McCarthyism as global academic freedom challenged
Open letter: Academic freedom is under threat and needs urgent protection
Fear of terror and offence pushing criticial voices out of UK universities
Table of contents

Signatories on the open letter include authors AC Grayling, Monica Ali, Kamila Shamsie and Julian Baggini; Jim Al-Khalili (University of Surrey), Sarah Churchwell (University of East Anglia), Thomas Docherty (University of Warwick), Michael Foley (Dublin Institute of Technology), Richard Sambrook (Cardiff University), Alan M. Dershowitz (Harvard Law School), Donald Downs (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Professor Glenn Reynolds (University of Tennessee), Adam Habib (vice chancellor, University of the Witwatersrand), Max Price (vice chancellor of University of Cape Town), Jean-Paul Marthoz (Université Catholique de Louvain), Esra Arsan (Istanbul Bilgi University) and Rossana Reguillo (ITESO University, Mexico).

The letter states:

We the undersigned believe that academic freedom is under threat across the world from Turkey to China to the USA. In Mexico academics face death threats, in Turkey they are being threatened for teaching areas of research that the government doesn’t agree with. We feel strongly that the freedom to study, research and debate issues from different perspectives is vital to growing the world’s knowledge and to our better understanding. Throughout history, the world’s universities have been places where people push the boundaries of knowledge, find out more, and make new discoveries.  Without the freedom to study, research and teach, the world would be a poorer place. Not only would fewer discoveries be made, but we will lose understanding of our history, and our modern world. Academic freedom needs to be defended from government, commercial and religious pressure.

Index will also be hosting a debate in London, Silenced on Campus, on 1 July, with panellists including journalist Julie Bindel, Nicola Dandridge of Universities UK, and Greg Lukianoff, president and CEO of Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, US.

To attend for free, register here.

If you would like to add your name to the open letter, email [email protected]

A full list of signatories:

Professor Mike Adams, University of North Carolina, Wilmington, USA

Monica Ali, author

Lyell Asher, associate professor, Lewis & Clark College, USA

Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE, University of Surrey, UK

Esra Arsan, associate professor, Istanbul Bilgi University, Turkey

Julian Baggini, author

Professor Mark Bauerlein, Emory University, USA

David S. Bernstein, publisher, USA

Robert Bionaz, associate professor, Chicago State University, USA

Susan Blackmore, visiting professor, University of Plymouth, UK

Professor Jan Blits, professor emeritus, University of Delaware, USA

Professor Enikö Bollobás, Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary

Professor Roberto Briceño-León, LACSO, Caracas, Venezuela

Simon Callow, actor

Professor Sarah Churchwell, University of East Anglia, UK

Professor Martin Conboy, University of Sheffield, UK

Professor Thomas Cushman, Wellesley College, USA

Professor Antoon De Baets, University of Groningen, Holland

Professor Alan M Dershowitz, Harvard Law School, USA

Rick Doblin, Association for Psychedelic Studies, USA

Professor Thomas Docherty, University of Warwick, UK

Professor Donald Downs, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

Professor Alice Dreger, Northwestern University, USA

Michael Foley, lecturer, Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland

Professor Tadhg Foley, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland

Nick Foster, programme director, University of Leicester, UK

Professor Chris Frost, Liverpool John Moores University, UK

AC Grayling, author

Professor Randi Gressgård, University of Bergen, Norway

Professor Adam Habib, vice-chancellor, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Professor Gerard Harbison, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Adam Hart Davis, author and academic, UK

Professor Jonathan Haidt, NYU-Stern School of Business, USA

John Earl Haynes, retired political historian, Washington, USA

Professor Gary Holden, New York University, USA

Professor Mickey Huff, Diablo Valley College, USA

Professor David G. Hoopes, California State University, USA

Philo Ikonya, poet

James Ivers, lecturer, Eastern Michigan University, USA

Rachael Jolley, editor, Index on Censorship

Lee Jones, senior lecturer, Queen Mary University of London, UK

Stephen Kershnar, distinguished teaching professor, State University of New York, Fredonia, USA

Professor Laura Kipnis, Northwestern University, USA

Ian Kilroy, lecturer, Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland

Val Larsen, associate professor, James Madison University, USA

Wendy Law-Yone, author

Professor Michel Levi, Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, Ecuador

Professor John Wesley Lowery, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, USA

Greg Lukianoff, president and chief executive, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (Fire), USA

Professor Tetyana Malyarenko, Donetsk State Management University, Ukraine

Ziyad Marar, global publishing director, Sage

Charlie Martin, editor PJ Media, UK

Jean-Paul Marthoz, senior lecturer, Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium

Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, King’s College London, UK

John McAdams, associate professor, Marquette University, USA

Timothy McGuire, associate professor, Sam Houston State University, USA

Professor Tim McGettigan, Colorado State University, USA

Professor Lucia Melgar, professor in literature and gender studies, Mexico

Helmuth A. Niederle, writer and translator, Germany

Professor Michael G. Noll, Valdosta State University, USA

Undule Mwakasungula, human rights defender, Malawi

Maureen O’Connor, lecturer, University College Cork,  Ireland

Professor Niamh O’Sullivan, curator of Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, and Quinnipiac University, Connecticut, USA

Behlül Özkan, associate professor, Marmara University, Turkey

Suhrith Parthasarathy, journalist, India

Professor Julian Petley, Brunel University, UK

Jammie Price, writer and former professor, Appalachian State University, USA

Max Price, vice-chancellor, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Clive Priddle, publisher, Public Affairs

Professor Rossana Reguillo, ITESO University, Mexico

Professor Glenn Reynolds, University of Tennessee College of Law, USA

Professor Matthew Rimmer, Queensland University of Technology, Australia

Professor Paul H. Rubin, Emory University, USA

Andrew Sabl, visiting professor, Yale University, USA

Alain Saint-Saëns, director,Universidad Del Norte, Paraguay

Professor Richard Sambrook, Cardiff University, UK

Luís António Santos, University of Minho, Portugal

Professor Francis Schmidt, Bergen Community College, USA

Albert Schram, vice chancellor/CEO, Papua New Guinea University of Technology

Victoria H F Scott, independent scholar, Canada

Kamila Shamsie, author

Harvey Silverglate, lawyer and writer, Massachusetts, USA

William Sjostrom, director and senior lecturer, University College Cork, Ireland

Suzanne Sisley, University of Arizona College of Medicine, USA

Chip Stewart, associate dean of the Bob Schieffer College of Communication, Texas Christian University, USA

Professor Nadine Strossen,  New York Law School, USA

Professor Dawn Tawwater, Austin Community College, USA

Serhat Tanyolacar, visiting assistant professor, University of Iowa, USA

Professor John Tooby, University of California, USA

Meena Vari, Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore, India

Professor Leland Van den Daele, California Institute of Integral Studies, USA

Professor Eugene Volokh, UCLA School of Law, USA

Catherine Walsh, poet and teacher, Ireland

Christie Watson, author

Ray Wilson, author

Professor James Winter, University of Windsor, Canada