Free to Think features conversation with interesting, thoughtful, and inspiring individuals whose research, teaching, or expression falls at the always sensitive intersection of power and ideas. We'll be speaking with those who have the courage to seek truth and speak truth, often at great risk, as well as with those who support them and share their stories.
Free to Think is a podcast presented by Scholars at Risk, where we celebrate people with the courage to think, question, and share ideas. For information on membership, activities, or donating to Scholars at Risk, visit www.scholarsatrisk.org.
“There’s No Way You Did That!”
Free to Think talks with Brian Mello, a professor of political science at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA, where he leads a Scholars at Risk Student Advocacy Seminar. He’s joined by his student, Bhavna Prakash, a biology major and political science minor at the university. “You’re 19,” said Prakash’s friend. “There's no way you got a meeting at the Senate's building.” But she did, joining 30 other students and faculty at SAR’s Student Advocacy Days in Washington DC this April. Prakash and Mello describe speaking with members of Congress to advocate on behalf of wrongfully imprisoned Egyptian scholars, the value of non-traditional classrooms, and their advice for students and faculty interested in getting involved on their own campuses.
“A Virtual Target Painted on my Back…”
Free to Think talks with Colin Harvey, a Professor of Human Rights Law and former Head of the School of Law, Queen’s University, Belfast about what UN experts described as a “smear campaign” against him for his work debating the possibility of new constitutional arrangements for the island of Ireland after Brexit. An expert on human rights and constitutional law and former Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, Harvey references growing up during the ‘conflict,’ achievements under the Good Friday Agreement, and how these are threatened by Brexit. Harvey sees the pressures on him as part of a larger struggle against human rights and democratic values going on around the world and says that academics have a responsibility to robustly defend those values, despite the risks.
“We Lost 20 Years of Achievements.” An Afghan Scholar Resumes Life in Ireland
Free to Think talks with Dr. Aziz Mohibbi, an environmental engineer and former chancellor of Afghanistan’s Bamyan University, about his recent relocation to Ireland following the return of the Taliban, and Dr. Roja Fazaeli, an Associate Professor of Islamic Civilization, Near & Middle Eastern Studies at Trinity College, Dublin, who helped to arrange his visit.
Dr. Mohibbi shares his work building up Afghanistan’s education system, his flight from Afghanistan, and how he and his family are settling into life in Ireland. Dr. Fazaeli shares a behind-the-scenes look at how SAR members Trinity College Dublin and Maynooth University, together with partners at the IIE Scholar Rescue Fund and beyond, raced to create an opportunity for an Afghan scholar, and ended up with a new colleague and new friends.
“No Red Lines?” The ‘KIWi Compass’ Guide For Scientific Cooperation Under Complex Conditions
Free to Think talks with Christiane Schmeken, Director of the Strategy Department of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and Julia Linder, at the Center for International Academic Collaborations (KIWi) at DAAD.
They discuss DAAD’s new ‘KIWi Compass,’ a guide for institutions and leaders navigating complex security, political, economic, and cultural issues within international higher education and research partnerships. They discuss the challenge of engaging with values, whether there are any ‘red lines,’ and if so, who draws them?
“The Lack of Clarity…Creates a Climate of Fear”
Free to Think talks with Mai El-Sadany, Managing Director and Legal and Judicial Director at the Tahir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP). El-Sadany discusses the cases of Patrick George Zaki and Ahmed Samir Santawy, two graduate students targeted by Egyptian authorities. She describes the arbitrariness of such detentions and how the global academic community can stand in solidarity. "It can be extremely helpful for the international community to speak up," El-Sadany notes. "It not only sends a strong message to the Egyptian regime, it also sends a message to these detainees and their loved ones that they're not alone."
“Self-Censorship is Hard to Admit”
Free to Think talks with Elizaveta Potapova, a researcher at the Public Policy and Management Institute in Lithuania. She holds a PhD from the Central European University, where she did her dissertation on academic freedom in Russia. Potapova discusses DOXA, an independent student journal which focuses on the problems of the modern academic environment in Russia and defends student rights and freedom of expression. She describes how DOXA editors have faced criminal investigation for their work, motivations behind self-censorship in academia, and the value of building community among scholars.
Best episode yet…..Loved the idea that today’s youth does not need permission to get involved.
Will share with my college kids!