An Invasion Felt in Academe

Leaders of a number of scholarly associations and research centers speak out against Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

February 25, 2022
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The tweet from Mariia Shuvalova, a Ukrainian literary scholar, summed up the tragedy of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:

“National University of Kyiv Mohyla-Academy suspended all lectures. My students now are joining Ukrainian army. #Ukraineisunderattack #StandWithUkriane.”

In the United States, in Ukraine and in Russia, the invasion is having consequences.

There are thousands of students from Russia and Ukraine enrolled at colleges and universities in the U.S. Academics are issuing statements and holding teach-ins.

According to the Institute of International Education, there were 4,805 Russian students in the U.S. for the 2020–21 academic year, including 2,022 undergraduates and 1,663 graduate students. There were 1,739 students from Ukraine in the U.S. during that same period, 877 of them undergraduates and 529 graduate students.

The U.S. also operates the Fulbright Program in both Russia and Ukraine. In both countries, the program has supported research work by U.S. citizens at the bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral level. Likewise, in both countries, the U.S. supports a “teaching assistant award” for Ukrainian and Russian citizens.

“The objective of this grant category is to develop the English language in Ukrainian educational institutions,” the program announcement says. “One of the main purposes of this award is to increase mutual understanding, to promote cultural and civic dialogue, to communicate new ideas and develop critical thinking, to increase student and youth activism, integrity, and social engagement.”

A fact sheet on the sanctions did not mention Fulbright.

A State Department official said, “We will continue to provide support and assistance to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. The safety and security of our exchange program participants is paramount to our mission. There are no current American Fulbright participants in Ukraine. Ukrainian and Russian Fulbright participants in the United States continue on their exchange programs. We are closely monitoring the situation and communicating regularly with the exchange participants impacted by these developments.”

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The Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, a coalition of over 500 college presidents, called for the government to issue a temporary protected status (TPS) designation and announce Special Student Relief (SSR) for Ukrainian nationals residing or studying in the United States. TPS provides work permits and protection from deportation for those from designated countries who cannot safely return to their home country. SSR would provide additional flexibility and relief for Ukrainian international students, preventing them from losing their F-1 status.

Scholars Helping Scholars

The heads of two organizations that provide financial and employment support to academics who have fled their home countries for political reasons are worried about what may happen to scholars on the ground in Ukraine as Russian troops push deeper into the country.

Prachi Patel, a communications officer at Scholars at Risk, which is based at New York University, said, “We are certain SAR’s network members around the world share deep concern for our Ukrainian colleagues. As requests for support come in, we will be reaching out to our network for opportunities and additional resources as needed to support colleagues affected in the region.”

The Council for At-Risk Academics, known as CARA and based in Britain, said its leaders and members are worried about academics in Ukraine and some in Russia who oppose the war.

“On this grim morning our thoughts are with all the people of Ukraine, particularly with academic colleagues in that country’s universities; and also with Russian academics too, many of whom will be bewildered and horrified at what their leaders have unleashed,” CARA tweeted Thursday.

Scholars Speak Out

Matthew Pauly, associate professor of history at Michigan State University and a historian of Russia and Eastern Europe, organized a teach-in on the campus. He wrote on Twitter, “I am doing an impromptu teach-in between my ordinary lectures this morning. It is meant for a non-expert, undergraduate audience but the general public is welcome. I stand with Ukraine.”

The Executive Committee of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies said in a statement that it “condemns Russia’s military assault on Ukraine and President Putin’s use of historical distortions and cynical lies to justify Russia’s attack on Ukrainian sovereignty. We stand with all the people of Ukraine and Russia who oppose this war.”

At the University of Michigan, the directors of four research centers—the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies; the Center for European Studies; the Copernicus Center for Polish Studies; and the Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia—issued this statement:

“We condemn the Russian Federation’s attack on the sovereign state of Ukraine and stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and its democratically elected government. While our community of specialists represents a wide diversity of political views and policy preferences, we are unanimous in our support of democratic values, including the insistence on the rule of law and multilateral cooperation. Our collective missions and histories as centers that study Europe and Eurasia have led over the decades to strong connections with scholars and institutions across this broad region, and we urge Russian leadership to end this attack for the safety of the Ukrainian people.”

At Harvard University, the Ukrainian Research Institute wrote on Twitter, “Heartbreaking. Russian forces invaded Ukraine on Thursday, assaulting by land, sea and air in the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War Two.”

From Notre Dame

One of the most moving statements on Thursday came from the Reverend John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame. He traveled to Ukraine in 2019 to present an award from Notre Dame to Archbishop Borys Gudziak “for his unceasing commitment to religious and academic freedom.”

“The former oppressors of Ukraine are now known by another name and are waging war under a different flag, but the trauma is no less today than in the past in this nation that has suffered far too much,” Father Jenkins said. “Now, more than ever, our friends in Ukraine are in need of healing and hope. We at Notre Dame stand in solidarity with all peace-loving people worldwide in demanding an end to this invasion of a sovereign nation. This unprovoked war is an international abomination and must stop now. Until it does, may God keep safe all of the innocent men, women and children who are currently in harm’s way. The prayers of the Notre Dame family are with them.”

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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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