Ottawa universities join network
to support threatened scholars
this coming fall, Carleton University and the
University of Ottawa will be home to Canada’s
first jointly hosted Scholars at Risk program.
The Scholars at Risk (or SAR) network connects postsecondary institutions worldwide
that harbour and support scholars whose
work has placed them in danger. Since its
founding in 1999, the network has grown to
include about 400 institutions in more than
35 countries. Nine other postsecondary institutions already belong
to the Canadian section
The event to announce
the collaboration, held at
Carleton in March, featured speakers who
called for direct action to protect and promote
academic freedom, particularly in light of recent threats to free speech.
“Academic freedom and academic honesty
should be the foundation of any education,”
says Baktybek Beshimov, an adjunct professor
at Northwestern University in Chicago and a
scholar-at-risk. In his native Kyrgyzstan, Dr.
Beshimov built his career around the fight for
civil rights, liberal arts education, academic
freedom and government transparency in a
post-Soviet state. He held senior academic
positions, including provost of the American
University for Central Asia, and had led an
opposition faction in parliament for more than
10 years when assassination attempts spurred
him to flee the country.
He was joined on stage by fellow scholar-at-risk Farai Gonzo. In Zimbab we, Ms. Gonzo
worked at a state-run radio station as executive producer of a call-in show that often aired
anonymous grievances of the country’s poor-est citizens. That and her approval of ads for
the opposition party landed Ms. Gonzo in detention, where she was tortured over two days.
While living in a women’s shelter in Toronto,
she was brought into the SAR program by
Centennial College, where she became story-teller-in-residence in 2013. She has since
taught courses on international business, international health and global citizenship. Ms.
Gonzo is pursuing a PhD at the University of
Toronto with funding from Massey College.
The network, she says, “changed my life” at
a time when she was very depressed. “I’m on
my way to becoming a whole person [again].”
Peter Ricketts, provost and vice-president, academic, at Carleton, says academics
have a responsibility to act on their belief in
“the freedom of scholarship beyond our own
boundaries.” The joint program aims to serve
the entire Ottawa region, and the two universities pledged $60,000 to fund their first
scholar, who will be revealed later this spring.
– natalie samson
and academic honesty
should be the foundation
of any education.”
A coupon to help pay for overseas learning
Former director general of the Council of Ministers of Education
Canada Andrew Parkin in Policy Options, March 2015
Education can be improved by improving
the circumstances of the most disadvantaged children in our society. This is a policy
lever the federal government has at its
disposal, and it is shaping up to be one of
the major issues in the federal election.
all students offered admission to Western
University for the 2015-16 academic year got
an interesting item in their information
packages: a “boarding pass” redeemable for
$1,000 to help them finance an international
The new Western International Learning
Award is available to full-time undergraduates
in second year who are planning an international learning experience in their third year
of study. To be eligible, students must have a
cumulative 80-percent average with a full-time course load at the end of year two.
Eligible pursuits include: an academic exchange, summer study abroad (before or after
year three), curriculum-based international
field courses, “Alternative Spring Break” activities, international community service learning, internships, international research, or
other university-led experiences. “They broaden students’ perspective by expanding their
awareness and understanding of different cultures, historical contexts and belief systems,”
says Western President Amit Chakma.
A new report by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada found that
just 3. 1 percent of full-time undergraduates
participated in an international experience
in the 2012-13 academic year, and even fewer
did so for credit. – léo charbonneau
At Western, the world is
Carleton’s Allan Thompson interviews
scholars-at-risk Farai Gonzo (centre) and
Baktybek Beshimov (right).