Dozens of scholarly groups have issued statements condemning the purges in higher education in Turkey that followed the recent coup attempt. In the immediate days after the failed coup, the Council of Higher Education demanded the resignation of more than 1,500 university deans. More than 15,000 education ministry officials were suspended and 21,000 schoolteachers had their licenses revoked. The government also reportedly banned professional travel for all academics.
Twenty-four academic associations, including the American Anthropological Association, the American Sociological Association, the Middle East Studies Association, the Modern Language Association and the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association, issued a joint statement last week noting “with profound concern the apparent moves to dismantle much of the structure of Turkish higher education through purges, restrictions and assertions of central control, a process begun earlier this year and accelerating now with alarming speed.”
“As scholarly associations, we are committed to the principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression,” the statement continues. “The recent moves in Turkey herald a massive and virtually unprecedented assault on those principles. One of the Middle East region’s leading systems of higher education is under severe threat as a result, as are the careers and livelihoods of many of its faculty members and academic administrators.”
The American Political Science Association also sent a letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expressing “our deepest concern and continued alarm regarding reports of purges, punitive measures and other steps taken in a wholesale manner against political scientists and other scholars in Turkey.”
“Like many, we are extremely concerned that the scale and speed of these responses represents a lack of due process and lack of specific evidence of involvement with the coup by the individuals who have been targeted. These steps suggest a broad campaign against intellectuals and intellectual expression, in violation of Turkey’s international and domestic legal obligations to protect institutional autonomy and academic freedom, including under Turkey’s constitution,” association leaders wrote.
Three leaders of the massive 2014 student-led pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have been convicted for their roles in the events, The New York Timesreported. Joshua Wong, 19, and his fellow student leader Alex Chow, 25, were found guilty by a Hong Kong court of unlawful assembly. Another leader of the "Umbrella Movement" protests, Nathan Law, 23, was found guilty of inciting people to take part in the assembly.
The three men have been released on bail pending sentencing scheduled for Aug. 15. They face up to two years in prison.
“No matter what penalty or price we need to pay, we will still continue to fight against suppression from the government,” Wong told reporters on Thursday.
A lawsuit filed in a New York state court on Wednesday alleges discrimination by the American Studies Association in relation to its boycott of Israeli academic institutions. The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiff, a not-for-profit organization that was, according to the legal complaint, “recently organized to educate and promote sharing and criticism of scholarly, religious and academic books … and to advocate for acceptance of Israeli institutions worldwide,” is barred from joining the ASA as an institutional member on the basis of its Israeli national origin. The organization in question, Athenaeum Blue & White, is described in the complaint as an “Israeli not-for-profit organization with a principle [sic] place of business in New York, N.Y.”
David Abrams, the lawyer for the plaintiff and executive director of the one-person Zionist Advocacy Center, said Athenaeum has not attempted to apply for ASA membership and is inferring it would be barred based on the association’s public announcements. The complaint asserts that the ASA has "announced, in substance and effect, that Israeli organizations such as the plaintiff are not welcome."
"It’s like if there’s a bar with a big sign on it that says 'no gays allowed' -- a gay person is allowed to sue for discrimination without formally trying to get in and having himself rejected,” Abrams said. “Or at least that’s how I see the law.”
Abrams described the suit as a “test case.” He said Athenaeum -- which the complaint argues counts as a person under New York City and State Human Rights law -- was incorporated last week. “This organization, while it does have scholarly pursuits, part of its corporate purpose is to advocate for acceptance of Israeli institutions worldwide, and that is what it is doing,” Abrams said.
Robert Warrior, the president of the ASA and director of the American Indian Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said the association’s boycott of Israeli academic institutions wouldn’t prevent Athenaeum Blue & White, as a self-identified Israeli organization, from joining ASA as an institutional member. “If this institution had tried to join before suing us, they would have been accepted and received all the benefits of membership. I just don’t have any doubts about that,” said Warrior. (Note: This article has been updated to include ASA's response.)
Radhika Sainath, a staff attorney with Palestine Legal, described the case as "a meritless lawsuit based on a hypothetical injury that will be thrown out of court in a heartbeat."
"It's brought by an organization which did not exist prior to ASA’s [boycott] resolution, and appears to have been formed for the sole purpose of suing the ASA," she said. "Rather than engage the issue of Israel's human rights abuses on the merits, Israel advocacy groups are attempting to punish speech by enmeshing supporters of Palestinian freedom in expensive litigation. This is quintessential legal bullying."
A separate lawsuit filed by current and former ASA members alleging that the group's boycott falls outside the scope of its charter and that a membership vote on the matter was not conducted in accordance with the association's own procedures is pending in federal court.
The crackdown on Turkish academe following last week’s failed coup continued on Wednesday, when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared a three-month state of emergency, a measure that will expand his powers to pursue suspected coup plotters.
Among the education-related developments reported Wednesday by Turkish and international media:
The Washington Postreported on a blanket ban on professional travel for Turkish academics.
The Hürriyet Daily Newsreported on the suspension of four university rectors, one of whom was detained, as well as the suspension of 95 academic staff at Istanbul University.
At the K-12 level, the Associated Press reported that the education ministry is closing 626 private schools “and other establishments” that the agency said are linked to Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric whom Turkish officials accuse of orchestrating the attempted coup (Gülen denies any involvement).
These developments followed large-scale purges in the education sector on Tuesday, when the Council of Higher Education demanded the resignation of 1,577 university deans. In addition, more than 15,000 education ministry officials were suspended and 21,000 schoolteachers had their licenses revoked in what critics see as a piece of a vast effort to remake state institutions, including educational institutions, in the image of Erdoğan’s party.
The international arm of the state broadcaster, TRT World, reported late Wednesday that about 60,000 soldiers, police, judges, civil servants and teachers have been suspended or detained or are under investigation as Erdoğan has (in the broadcaster’s characterization) “vowed to clean the ‘virus’ responsible for the plot from all state institutions.”
A letter circulating among American academics, expected to be released Friday, calls on the Obama administration “to strongly criticize the Turkish government’s violation of human rights, academic freedom and the rule of law and to refuse to accept anything but a reversal of these authoritarian policies.”
Ukrainian authorities have confirmed that one of their citizens, who matches the description of a student at MacEwan University, in Canada, is among those killed in the terrorist attack in Nice, CBC News reported. The authorities declined, however, to confirm that the victim is Mykhaylo Bazelevskyy, who has been studying at MacEwan and has been missing since the attack. Bazelevskyy was in France, with four other students and a faculty member at the university, for a program at the European Innovation Academy. On Sunday, the University of California, Berkeley, confirmed that one of its students was killed in the attack in Nice.
The University of California, Berkeley, on Sunday reported that one of its students, Nicolas Leslie (at right), 20, has been identified among the 84 people killed in the terrorist attack in Nice on Thursday.
Berkeley earlier reported that three of its students were injured during Thursday's terrorist attack in Nice, and that Leslie was missing. He was a junior in the College of Natural Resources. Leslie was one of 85 students attending a Berkeley study abroad program on entrepreneurship and innovation in Europe connected with the European Innovation Academy.
The three injured students are also participants in the program. The university said Friday that two of the students have broken legs. The third student has a broken foot.
Berkeley's study abroad program has been temporarily suspended for a three-day national mourning period in France, but will continue through its scheduled end date of July 24. Seven students have accepted the university's offer to return to the U.S. early.
Earlier this month another UC Berkeley student, Tarishi Jain, was killed in a terrorist attack at a café in Bangladesh. Jain was doing an internship with Berkeley’s Subir and Malini Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies.
In a statement Sunday, Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks said, “This is tragic, devastating news. All of us in the UC Berkeley family -- both here on campus, and around the world -- are heartbroken to learn that another promising young student has been lost to senseless violence. I join Nick’s parents, friends and the entire campus community in condemning this horrific attack, and in mourning the loss of one of our own.”
Other Students Missing or Injured
MacEwan University, in Alberta, Canada, also announced that one of its students is missing in Nice.
The missing student, Mykhaylo (Misha) Bazelevskyy, is a supply chain management major with Ukrainian citizenship and Canadian permanent residency. He is part of a group of five MacEwan students and a faculty member participating in a three-week program in entrepreneurship, also at the European Innovation Academy.
New final guidance issued Wednesday prohibits universities from issuing I-20 forms -- the legal document that international students need in order to apply for visas -- based on conditional admission.
The guidance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program states that universities can only issue I-20 forms when students have met all admission requirements for the program of study listed, including English language proficiency requirements. This would mean, for example, that a university couldn't issue an I-20 for a degree program for a student whose admission into that program is conditional upon completing an English language program first. Instead the university would have to list the English language program on the student’s initial I-20 and issue an updated form after the student progresses into the degree program.