Last April, scholars from around the world gathered at a two-day conference at the University of Chicago to assess the progress of the Scholars at Risk (SAR) Network. Founded in June 2000, SAR advocates for scholars threatened in their countries for political reasons. The network has seventy-five member universities and colleges in the United States and abroad.
"Most academics in the United States expect their work to draw comment, criticism, and controversy," says Robert Quinn, director of SAR. "But scholars in many other parts of the world often risk much worse: censure, prosecution, imprisonment-even torture and death." SAR may intervene on behalf of threatened scholars with letters to policy makers, signature campaigns, or other efforts. SAR also arranges temporary research and teaching appointments for scholars forced to flee for their lives or their liberty. "We provide scholars with safety and a way to remain productive until conditions improve at home," says Quinn, "with the hope that they will then return and contribute to rebuilding their society."
Quinn reported to the conference that SAR has received nearly three hundred requests for assistance from scholars around the world. It has intervened in more than fifty cases and arranged positions for nearly three dozen of the most seriously threatened scholars. Many of those assisted received fellowships from the Institute of International Education's Scholar Rescue Fund, which is a partner with SAR in rescuing scholars. "Without the fellowships from the fund, it would be impossible for many colleges and universities to host a threatened colleague," Quinn says.
Jose Portillo-Valdes, one of the conference participants, was an associate professor of history at the Basque Country University in Spain for more than ten years before threats and actual attempts on his life by violent elements of the Basque separatist movement forced him to flee, first to Madrid, then to the United States. …