Statement to Members by IFUT President, Dr. Anthony Harvey
Irish Federation of University Teachers calls on Irish Universities to do more to protect and assist Scholars at Risk
Around the globe, courageous scholars who debunk baseless theories and false narratives, and who promulgate research-findings that are inconvenient to those in power, are at risk of being silenced, sometimes through violent means. It is no exaggeration to say that some of these researchers and educators face immediate threats, including summary redundancy, prosecution, imprisonment, exile, or even torture. However, this is merely the extreme manifestation of a spectrum of abuse that develops whenever academic freedom as a principle is denied or its value unrecognized. Even in liberal democracies we already encounter the mild end of this spectrum in the form of structural precarity of employment, arguably affecting the academic sector more severely than any other profession.
IFUT’s President, Anthony Harvey, points out that we thus have no excuse in Ireland for saying that the danger has nothing to do with us. Knowing that brave colleagues of ours in various parts of the world are in existential need of refuge or assistance if they are to continue as scholars, it is incumbent upon us to act in solidarity with them. IFUT has long been the most consistent force in Irish society in promoting and defending academic freedom; at this month’s meeting, IFUT’s national Executive Council agreed to take the further step of providing financial support to Scholars at Risk, a global organisation that works to protect teachers and researchers whose livelihoods — and even lives — are most under threat worldwide. At the same time IFUT calls upon the universities of Ireland, for their part, to do more in support of academic freedom by similarly assisting Scholars at Risk, not least in providing practical help such as offering placements to academics and educators exiled from their home institutions.