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News / Restore academic freedom and autonomy: SAR to President of Turkey

News / Restore academic freedom and autonomy: SAR to President of Turkey

Scholars at Risk is protesting the arbitrary dismissal of three “democratically appointed” Deans from a major Turkish university and last month called on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and top university officials to reverse the wrongful dismissals.

Turkey’s Council of Higher Education stripped the three democratically appointed faculty members of their Dean titles on January 18, 2022, in what appears to be retaliation for their advocacy for academic freedom and institutional autonomy.

“With the dismissal of the Deans, we now expect top-down faculty recruitment based on political loyalties, purging of vocal academics, obstruction of research and academic promotions, and an avalanche of disciplinary actions against students and faculty members,” said Mert Arslanalp, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science and International Relations, Boğaziçi University.

The dismissal of the three Deans at Boğaziçi University follows a tumultuous series of events, including Turkish President Erdoğan’s decision to appoint Melih Bulu — a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) — as a new Rector of the University.

Previously, in accordance with Turkish law, rectors were appointed only after being elected by tenured and tenure-track faculty. However, in 2016, following a failed coup attempt, President Erdoğan issued an emergency decree which removed university faculty from the rector appointment process.

Since January 2021, academic staff, students and alumni have organized a protest movement to oppose President Erdoğan’s arbitrary appointment of a hand-picked Rector to run Boğaziçi University.

Hundreds of students have been detained over the course of the protests in recent months, with some facing prison sentences.

Boğaziçi University, located in Istanbul, is a publicly funded English-language university where the teaching focuses on critical thinking, putting the university at odds with authorities. In the late 1990s, for example, the University resisted compliance with the headscarf ban imposed by the government.

 

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