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Academic Freedom 101 Workshop, time to act for your rights!

What if, as a student, you can’t choose the courses you would like to attend?

What if, your government wants to frame the topic you can teach or not lawfully?

What if, as a university professor, you are threatened with death because of the topic you teach or do research about?

What if you are put in jail as a student or scholar because of demonstrating for your rights?

These situations are occurring in a lot of countries, and not especially only in autocratic political regimes. Academic freedom is essential but threatened in a lot of countries. Therefore, academic freedom is at the heart of a project carried out by European Students Union (ESU) with the support of the Open Society Foundations

It is of utmost importance to address the topic and discuss together the solutions and actions to take to countervail its infringements. In the frame of this project, and to highlight the topic, a three-days workshop has been organized in Cluj-Napoca from the 18th to the 20th of October 2022. It brought 25 participants from 15 different nationalities, all students, and some of them members of students Union or associations and NGOs in students’ rights and academic freedom.

During this event, the participants had the chance to attend different training sessions on academic freedom and related values and their rights as students and scholars. They were able to discuss concrete case examples of breaches of academic freedom in several countries like Hungary, the UK, and France, thanks to the exciting presentation of Pr. Liviu Mattei. They had the opportunity to discuss the topic from students’ points of view and understand student activism in defending academic freedom, especially during the session presented by two students from the University of Padua. This also provided them with key examples of actions they can undertake and get involved in academic freedom protection NGOs like Scholars at Risk, presented by Denise Roche, advocacy manager. They even were invited to write letters to Belarussian imprisoned scholars and students. They were introduced to the breaches against academic freedom in Belarus, thanks to the Belarussian student’s association expert, Sasha Kuzmich.

The debates were intense and rich, and the participants brought home essential knowledge and action for academic freedom protection.

The event was also a unique and vibrant intercultural experience due to the group’s diversity. Moreover, it was a great opportunity to discover Cluj-Napoca, where we were warmly welcomed by the local student union ANOSR (active member of the ESU), whom we thank for their support in the organization of this event.

Within the framework of the ESU’s project on academic freedom, another workshop will be organized soon as a follow-up to this first event. This time, participants will be invited to work together on their own campaign proposal within the academic freedom framework. Three students selected groups with the strongest proposals will each be awarded 750 EUR to implement their campaign at the end of the activity. 

More information is to come on this Ideathon event, so stay tuned and keep fighting for academic freedom!


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