SRF receives MESA’s Academic Freedom Award

NEW YORK, October 14, 2013—On October 11, at its annual awards ceremony, the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) conferred its 2013 Academic Freedom Award upon IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund (SRF) for the program’s “efforts in support of Syrian higher education institutions and faculty in the context of the on-going civil war.” To date, IIE-SRF has provided life-saving support and academic fellowships to more than 30 Syrian faculty (40 total yearlong fellowships) in the humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields. The program has partnered with over 20 colleges, universities, and research centers in 5 countries to support these Syrian academics during the crisis. Since 2002, IIE-SRF has awarded more than 1,500 fellowships and professional development grants to 516 scholars from 50 countries, placing them at nearly 300 academic institutions in 40 countries across the globe. “Without doubt, the Institute of International Education could not carry on this important work of rescuing lives and scholarship, which we began nearly 100 years ago, without the support and commitment of the many thousands of institutional and individual partners we consider part of the Scholar Rescue family,” remarked Dr. Allan Goodman, IIE’s President and CEO.

Mr. Mark Angelson, Trustee and Treasurer of IIE and Chairman of IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund, further commented, “As higher education in Syria faces this severe crisis, we have taken action in the belief that the international community has a singular chance to affect the future of the Syrian national academy and a moral imperative to do so. IIE does this work not only through the Scholar Rescue Fund, but also through the IIE Syria Consortium for Higher Education in Crisis.”

Dr. Laurie Brand, a professor of international relations at the University of Southern California and Chair of MESA’s Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF), presented IIE-SRF with the award. MESA’s press release for the award, which is given in recognition of a “particularly noteworthy contribution to the defense of academic freedom, either in the Middle East and North Africa or in North America,” is below.

IIE-SRF congratulates its fellow awardee, the Scholars at Risk (SAR) Network, and it expresses its gratitude to the Middle East Studies Association and CAF for this tremendous honor.

The Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) has awarded its annual Academic Freedom Award for 2013 to the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund (SRF) and the Scholars at Risk (SAR) program in recognition of their efforts in support of Syrian higher education institutions and faculty in the context of the on-going civil war. The award was made at a public ceremony on October 11, 2013 during MESA’s annual meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana.

MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, MESA publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

MESA bestows its Academic Freedom Award each year on an individual or organization in recognition of a particularly noteworthy contribution to the defense of academic freedom, either in the Middle East and North Africa or in North America. Recent awardees include: for 2012, the Initiative for Solidarity with Detained Students, Tutuklu Ögrencilerle Dayanısma İnisiyatifi (TODİ). TODİ is an organization that was created for the purpose of offering support, legal assistance and advocacy on behalf of the hundreds of students (both undergraduate and graduate) who have been arrested by the Turkish government on the basis of their academic research or exercise of their rights of free speech and association; and for 2011, the faculty, students, and staff of Bahraini institutions of higher education who struggled against a range of brutal assaults by the Bahraini government upon academic freedom and upon the autonomy and integrity of the country’s educational institutions.

The first awardee for 2013, IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund, was created in 2002 to respond to the humanitarian and academic needs of scholars whose lives and academic work are under threat for their research, identity, or beliefs or due to events in their home countries. The yearlong fellowships offered by IIE-SRF permit professors, researchers and public intellectuals to find temporary refuge at universities, colleges and research centers anywhere in the world, enabling them to pursue their academic work in safety until conditions improve in their countries so that they can return to help rebuild higher education and civil societies. Through September of 2013, IIE-SRF had awarded nearly 40 fellowships to Syrian scholars whose fields range from neuroscience to gender studies and whose scholarship has been threatened as a result of factors ranging from political involvement to membership of a minority community. The program has arranged temporary academic positions for these scholars at over 20 institutions in 5 countries.

The second awardee, Scholars at Risk (SAR), is an international network of over 320 higher education institutions in 35 countries dedicated to protecting scholars, preventing attacks on higher education and promoting academic freedom. Scholars at Risk (SAR) protects scholars suffering grave threats to their lives, liberty and well-being, primarily by arranging positions of sanctuary at network-member institutions for those forced to flee. SAR’s Scholars-in-Prison project campaigns for intellectuals facing unjust prosecution or imprisonment, and SAR’s new Academic Freedom MONITOR project works to combat impunity for violent attacks on higher education communities worldwide. Scholars at Risk is currently working with 28 pending candidates from Syria seeking host campuses and other assistance, including many still in Syria and others displaced in Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. SAR has been able to successfully place Syrian scholars at universities in the US and in Europe, with specialties ranging from computer engineering to theater studies.

Receiving the award on behalf of IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund was Ms. Martha Bloem, Assistant Director of SRF, and Ms. Lauren Crain, Acting Director of Protection on behalf of SAR.

About the Institute of International Education

The Institute of International Education, a private not-for-profit organization founded in 1919, is a world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas. IIE designs and implements over 250 programs of study and training for students, educators, young professionals and trainees from all sectors with funding from government and private sources. It has a network of 19 international offices and affiliates around the world and more than 1,200 college and university members. More than 60 Fulbright alumni, IIE alumni, IIE trustees and advisers have received Nobel Prizes.

About IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund

The IIE-Scholar Rescue Fund provides fellowships for scholars whose lives and work are threatened in their home countries. These fellowships permit professors, researchers, and public intellectuals to find temporary refuge at universities, colleges, and research centers anywhere in the world, enabling them to pursue their academic work in safety and to continue to share their knowledge with students, colleagues, and the broader campus community. In its first 10 years, IIE-SRF has provided fellowships to over 500 remarkable scholars from 50 countries, including leading an effort of historic proportion to save the intellectual capital of Iraq. The Iraq Scholar Rescue Project has saved the lives and work of more than 265 of Iraq’s most senior and threatened academics in a wide range of academic disciplines through temporary academic positions at universities, colleges and other institutions of higher learning in the Middle East and North African regions.


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