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The fellows–Kamoso Jean Bertrand, M. Niyonzima Chouchou, Adam Mohamed Bashar, and Mulki Mohamed Ali–are also interpreters and refugees living in Kakuma. The team received OSUN Hubs for Connected Learning Initiatives Research Fellowships for 2021-2022, as part of the Hubs’ mission to reflect on the challenges refugees face and to support advocacy efforts and programs that serve them.
Collaborating with anthropologist and OSUN-supported Bard faculty member Laura Kunreuther, who studies the role of field interpreters in global bureaucracies like the UN, the fellows are both subjects of her research and researchers in their own right. OSUN supports the fellows’ efforts to make a fiction film based on their research, while an OSUN engaged research grant allows Kunreuther to follow their progress in making the film.
The fellows are also acquiring filmmaking skills from film advisor John Thomas, director of the refugee-led organization Youth Voices of Kakuma. All of these efforts contribute to Kunreuther’s research on the historical and cultural tensions between UN interpreters' invisible labor and the ideals of transparency and global citizenship that the UN bureaucracy espouses.
The fellows discussed the educational impact of their research, which looks specifically at the difficulty of navigating being both a refugee who receives care from international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) and serving as an “incentive worker” who gets paid to interpret for such agencies. They critically reflected on the problems of interpretation work, noting that humanitarian agencies paying refugees for labor plays a part in impeding the process of decolonization. They also addressed the issue of trauma among interpreters, who must translate and repeat accounts of escape or violence that sometimes resemble their own stories.
As CEDE defines it on its site, “Decoloniality is a way of understanding power in the contemporary world through its connections to historic and ongoing forms of colonialism and imperialism. Decolonial thinkers and activists examine the historical linkages behind the values, beliefs, and forms of violence that produce and sustain present-day systems of oppression and control, such as racism, sexism and patriarchy.”
In the group’s talk, Kamoso Jean Bertrand brought up the idea of the "colonization of the mind" that results from incentive work with humanitarian aid organizations, which he said ultimately devalues the labor of interpreting and creates deep relations of dependence between interpreters and INGOs.
In a simultaneous on-screen chat, one participant responded by writing, "This issue of incentive work is huge and never challenged by INGOs."
The research the fellows are conducting and the film project they are developing are consistent with the Hubs’ mandate to assist refugees as they forge paths to independence. This work also reflects OSUN’s commitment to supporting higher education as a means of exploring the global inequalities related to forced displacement, racism, and the effects of colonization.
A Story That Eye Witnessed, by BRAC University students Nancy Rualzapar Bawm, Tanzil Talat Anonto, Muntaqa NRB Hakim, Bayazid Hossain, and Antara Farnaz Khan won a total of six awards, including Best Editing, Best Script, Best Cinematography, Social Impact, Best Narration and People’s Choice. With mentorship by Dina Hossain and Elizabeth Costa, the video tells the story of two Indigenous artists in Bangladesh who create art that builds awareness of the plight of marginalized communities in the country.
The evening’s other award winner was Surviving the Taliban, by Susan Azizi and Nicholas Andersen, from American University of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan, who were mentored by Nurzhamal Karamoldoeva and Shigofa Jamal. The film features the moving testimony of women refugees who left Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover of the country last summer and cites OSUN’s role in helping many escape to safety. The award was presented from Bishkek by OSUN Vice-Chancellor Jonathan Becker.
Dina Hossain, award-winning filmmaker and lecturer at BRAC University in Bangladesh, served as master of ceremonies for the gala event, presenting excerpts from each of the 19 films. Additional commentary was provided by filmmakers who taught the course, including Adam Stepan, Seamus Heady, Aidan Maloof, Julia Totova, Nurzhamal Karamoldoeva, Shigofa Jamal, Elizabeth Costa and Ulukbek Batyrgaliev, as well as the student filmmaking teams.
OSUN congratulates all the student filmmakers for their outstanding work examining these important issues.
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Hijawi said the course provided him with useful leadership and analytical skills that helped him and his team to find a viable solution to the problems of pollution and a lack of building supplies in Palestine. After much methodical research, experimentation, and peer consultation, the members of CleanPalCo realized they could use discarded rubber tires, stone waste, and water to produce useful household products such as bricks, tiles, and rubber flooring for Palestinian municipalities.
The entrepreneurial competition was sponsored by INJAZ, an independent Palestinian NGO dedicated to enhancing the capacity of Palestinian youth to contribute to economic development. The INJAZ Student Company program runs for a full academic year, during which students from various schools and universities compete nationally to establish and manage genuine companies with limited capital, with the goal of receiving a contract. Successful participants then move on to the regional competition.
OSUN congratulates Hijawi and his colleagues on their outstanding achievement.
Students from across the network can choose from 45 courses offered by 9 member institutions.
Areas of study include Arts and Society, Democratic Practice, Human Rights, Inequalities, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Sustainability and Climate.
Some of the multi-disciplinary courses available are:
- Technology and Human Rights in the 21st Century
- Political Communication
- Data and Democracy
- Comparative Approaches to Race, Class and Gender
- Reproductive Health and Human Rights
- Economics for Non-Economists
- Architectural Entanglements with Labor
- Climate, Ecology, and Common Property
- Beyond Bollywood: Mapping South Asian Cinema
- Introduction to Information Security
- Science in Islamic Culture
- Oral History Theory and Methods
- Environmental Anthropology
Bringing together activists, authors, scholars, local politicians, and students to explore the growing trend of citizens’ assemblies, the conference on the Bard campus in New York’s Hudson Valley attracted over 100 in-person attendees and over 400 online participants.
As explained in an opening panel discussion by author David Van Reybrouck, a specialist on citizens’ assemblies, elections and referendums are inherently divisive, and tend to “deliver one result, two divided communities.” Citizens’ assemblies, on the other hand, can enable local or national communities to work through their differences, providing a sort of “couples therapy” for the polity. Lasting a few days or several months, citizens’ assemblies convene anywhere from 30 to 150 randomly selected people for roundtable conversations that are facilitated by experienced moderators. After a period of deliberation and consultation with experts, the assembly then votes on final policy recommendations.
The tension between existing electoral democracy and more participatory alternatives was a key theme throughout the conference. Roger Berkowitz, leader of HAHN, reminded attendees that the aristocratic founders of the US political system considered elections a tool for maintaining elite control over a public that should not be trusted. Rather than encourage the type of popular participation exemplified by early American town halls, the US Constitution aimed to limit the engagement of ordinary, uneducated people. Berkowitz offered that citizens’ assemblies might instead be able to revive those “lost spaces of citizen freedom.”
The audience learned of multiple national assembly initiatives and their varying degrees of success. Jane Suiter, of Dublin University, reviewed the history of the Irish citizens’ assemblies on abortion rights and marriage equality, which led to major changes in the Irish Constitution. Helene Landemore, of Yale University, provided the additional example of France’s National Climate Assembly, which demonstrated the power of ordinary citizens to deliberate and even draft new laws, but which also lacked an effective enforcement mechanism. Landemore explained that while President Emmanuel Macron promised that the French Parliament would vote on the assembly’s 146 recommendations, the proposals were instead whittled down to a handful of legal changes, ultimately considered by citizens to be a betrayal of the process.
Akuno, co-founder of Cooperation Jackson, an emerging network of worker cooperatives in Jackson, Mississippi, warned against romanticizing early American democracy and citizenship, both of which deliberately excluded and exploited enslaved Black Americans. The American settler-colonial project had slavery as a key economic feature, and much of its anti-democratic design (e.g., the Senate and the Electoral College) continues to shape American politics, he said. Akuno traced the history of the Black assembly tradition in the American South, from the Reconstruction to the Council of Federated Organizations during the civil rights movement of the 60s and on to groups such as the Jackson People’s Assembly, founded in the 90s. Akuno stressed that democracy is something that needs to be practiced, and that without free time and economic resources, ordinary people would inevitably be excluded. Put in starker terms, he said that American democracy not only needs to be revitalized, it needs to be reborn.
Journalist, author, and activist Masha Gessen argued that even in so-called totalitarian societies, there always exists a parallel space where citizens can imagine and create pockets of a democratic society that might later blossom into larger movements. Gessen told the inspiring story of the Workers Defense Committee in Poland under communism during the 1980s, who, rather than retreating into internal exile, sought instead to convene in secret. There they assembled the underground publishers, councils, and independent universities that would later help seed the Solidarity workers’ movement.
In one of the conference’s more provocative moments, Van Reybrouck asked the audience to reflect on the roots of the extremism that led right-wing insurgents to raid the U.S Capitol in January 2021 in an attempt to overturn the 2020 Presidential election. He asked if one of the agitators had been given the chance to speak their mind at a citizens’ assembly, “a place where he could express himself and feel respected,” would such a person still storm the capitol? Referring to populist anger as a “gift wrapped in barbed wire,” Van Reybrouck asserted that “instead of running away from the barbed wire, we might try to disentangle it.”
Watch a recording of Revitalizing Democracy and find out more about the Hannah Arendt Humanities Network.
In his introductory remarks, Christof Royer, of Central European University, pointed out that the concepts of “open society” and “enmity” remain rather underdeveloped in Popper’s text. Reviewers of the Cambridge Companion to Popper have noted that scholarship on Popper resembles a “closed society,” as it is characterized by a “near total failure” to bring Popper and his concepts into conversation with current thinkers and ideas. Even OSUN founder George Soros, who was a student of Popper, recently admitted that “It is fair to say that I have placed greater weight on the concept of open society than Karl Popper did.”
While Popper, Hannah Arendt, Judith Shklar, and Isaiah Berlin all wrote in a common tradition of anti-totalitarian thought, their works also diverge in important ways. Aside from initiating a conversation between the four thinkers, the panel sought to link the discussion to the present moment, harnessing the ideas and insights of these theorists to address contemporary problems.
In a wide-ranging and vibrant discussion, panelists broadly agreed that Popper's text continues to be a rich source of philosophical and political insights. For Allison Stanger, of Middlebury College, there are three reasons why the book remains topical and relevant: it allows readers to better understand the global challenges that Big Tech poses to democracies and open societies; it focuses on the elementary question of how to avoid cruelty; and it helps us to deal with the challenges of contemporary identity politics.
Oseni Afisi, of Lagos State University, emphasized how Popper’s commitment to rational conversation and deliberation is so crucial today, noting that Popper’s demarcation between an “open” and “closed” society is useful when applied to African societies and politics. Roger Berkowitz, of Bard College, emphasized that the book stands as a warning against the contemporary retreat from democratic openness and the shift toward totalitarianism. Like Stanger, Berkowitz also identified Big Tech as a serious contemporary threat, as increased reliance on Artificial Intelligence and algorithms diverts influence from the political realm. Despite their different interpretations of the book, all three speakers agreed that one of its greatest strengths is its eloquent critique of historicism – a mode of thought that embraces following prophetic laws of history as means of solving problems in the world.
Stanger pointed out the striking parallels between Popper’s and Shklar’s thinking: both developed a non-utopian conception of liberalism that seeks to avoid cruelty and to protect the liberty of the individual. Yet Shklar’s important distinction between the “politics of memory” and the “politics of hope” is one not found in Popper, Stanger said. According to Shklar, the politics of memory, cognizant as it is of crimes and atrocities committed in the past, should inform both contemporary politics and liberal education as an antidote to moralistic and hubristic attitudes.
Liberalism has long been accused of harboring an individualist conception of liberty that threatens to erode the “glue” that holds societies together. Afisi, who focused his comparative analysis on the notion of freedom in Berlin and Popper, insisted that this critique cannot be levelled against Popper. While Berlin famously preferred a “negative” conception of freedom over “positive freedom,” Popper drew on a “relational” conception of freedom–one that is exercised through critical engagement with others. This approach opens new avenues for thinking about the open society that are based on carving out a middle-ground position between individualist and collectivist notions of liberty.
Berkowitz noted a crucial difference between Arendt and Popper: while Popper clings to a notion of “truth” in politics, Arendt rejected this explicitly and saw the political realm as one of “meaning making.” Moreover, while Arendt celebrated plurality, Popper did not take human plurality seriously enough. As a consequence, Popper’s conception of open society creates a tension between its putative “openness” and its supposed ability to generate particular moral, social, and political values, according to Berkowitz.
The panelists sketched out a comparative conception of open society that shares Shklar’s aversion to cruelty and respect for the individual but which also benefits from Shklar’s emphasis on the politics of memory. This echoes Berlin’s warnings against “the pursuit of the ideal” as a dangerously utopian political program, but points to the need to explore how Berlin’s “value pluralism” shapes open society in theory and practice. Finally, the critical conversation with Arendt brought to the fore the question of plurality in all its urgency.
For advocates of open society, the challenge is formidable: On the one hand, open society is neither a relativistic nor an anarchistic idea. Freedom, plurality, and openness cannot be unlimited, and certain lines have to be drawn. Yet if freedom, plurality, and openness are indeed fundamental values of an open society, it is crucial not to draw these lines too narrowly. The question for advocates of the open society, then, is not whether but where to draw these lines. And while this question poses difficult methodological, theoretical, and practical problems, advocates of the open society can no longer afford to avoid them.
This fall, IWT/CLASP offered eight concurrent Writer as Reader Workshops on October 1 and will offer another ten workshops on Friday, November 5. Each workshop section has its own core text that serves as a springboard for new approaches.
Lynn Clausen, a faculty associate at OSUN partner Black Mountains College (BMC) in Wales, has enrolled in several of the workshops, including “Reading Climate, Writing Change,” which she took in October, focusing on climate-related works by Octavia Butler, Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac. Clausen, who has sometimes found aspects of the curriculum she works with to be “prescriptive and limiting,” found the workshops to be extremely helpful in discovering new ways to understand and discuss texts in the classroom. She also looks forward to seeing how things pan out with the new national curriculum being planned in Wales.
In the sessions, instructors were prompted to consider a challenging issue and then write freely about it, first focusing on their personal viewpoints and then contrasting that with what they might teach their students. The two, usually divergent, responses induced each writer to crystallize their own thinking so they could engage more authentically with the effort to address societal challenges.
“A light sort of switched on,” recalls Clausen, flipping the pages of a notebook she filled during a week’s worth of writing-as-reading exercises. “I was suddenly given the permission and the space to sit down and engage in my own thinking.” Immediately inspired, she began using the new techniques with the young people she teaches online.
“I want to share it as far and wide as I can,” Clausen says excitedly of the practice. Also a teacher-trainer, she anticipates sharing the intentional pedagogy with a multidisciplinary set of colleagues at BMC.
She hopes that her fellow educators from a wide pedagogical spectrum can work together, sharing tools and techniques to more effectively discuss issues such as global warming. “That's where the magic can happen,” she says. “You put a musician with a mathematician, a horticulturalist with a writer and something is going to happen that wouldn't have happened before [...] Finding solutions to problems happens when you allow the space for possibilities to be explored, and already, just with the workshops I have attended, I can see how and where this could be applied and be of great value.”
Historically, Writer as Reader workshops have been rooted in the humanities. In response to feedback gathered from OSUN faculty and administrators, IWT CLASP has also developed several new offerings that delve more specifically into multidisciplinary practices and texts, including STEM-focused workshops on “Science and Disenchantment” in October and “The Fractal Nature of Our World” in November.
Meem Arafat Manab, a lecturer in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at BRAC University—an OSUN partner in Bangladesh, says they were also hopeful about the results of sharing the CLASP/IWT pedagogical techniques with their students in STEM. Manab enrolled in the “Science and Disenchantment” workshop, which explored the writings of Max Weber and other scientific and political philosophers.
Manab says that while students of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics might be adept at successfully learning and carrying out a technical procedure, such as building a database or a website, they are often less skilled at discovering new solutions or understanding the thought processes that lead to such solutions. Manab claims that this is due to the way STEM students are trained to think.
“I've seen people in the humanities and social sciences—they can explain what they're doing—but when it comes to my students, they are almost taught not to think for themselves...That's what motivated me to take the workshop,” they say.
While Manab found the workshop enlightening, they struggled to pass the techniques they learned on to their students; a challenge many faculty encounter given the radically different ways of teaching these workshops present. For example, in a class on software modeling of economic trends, they found students were less interested in creating a model of the Bangladeshi stock market, which has been crashing steadily for the past twenty years.
Manab asked their students to consider and discuss the problem, hoping further engagement would inspire them to explore potential solutions to Bangladesh’s perpetual economic slump, but the students claimed there was little point in modeling something that seemed hopelessly broken. This moment of disengagement is one that IWT CLASP workshops aim to address—to offer writing strategies that help students reflect on their own thinking in order to push past resistance to a topic or task.
Manab says one thing that might help them to better address their students' needs would be to associate subject matter more closely with the personal experiences of the students. “The techniques that CLASP/IWT employs are always student-centered and they make this task easier, especially for students finishing up their undergraduate studies.” Through the regular use of informal writing, IWT/CLASP practices offer all students a pathway into course materials with which they might not easily or readily connect.
Despite working with very different students and teaching different subjects, both Manab and Clausen found the CLASP/IWT workshops inspiring, even if the challenge of successfully applying their techniques in some academic areas was evident. Both agree that for education to be truly transformative, it must engage students authentically so they can think and solve problems on their own. For this to happen, educators must first get reacquainted with their own thought processes, which is the ultimate goal of any IWT CLASP workshop—to engage faculty experientially as they question and reflect on their own thinking.
As Clausen admits, “We don't give ourselves the space or time to actually sit down and develop a reflective, evaluative practice and yet we expect our students to. As educators and course facilitators, we're not always necessarily walking the talk.”
CLASP/IWT will offer ten more Writer as Reader workshops on Friday, November 5, 2021. Find out more and register here.
OSUN held its inaugural Virtual Student Leadership Conference on October 9-10, giving attendees an opportunity to learn about and develop leadership skills, as well as connect with a global network of like-minded colleagues. Over 140 Students spanning the network, from 21 institutions in 68 countries, attended the online event, participating in workshops devoted to helping them learn more about themselves as leaders and as human beings. (See a map representing the global spread of attendees here.)
Speakers at four workshops focused on different aspects of leadership, including self-care, resilience, goal-setting, teamwork, networking, and time management. On the first day, Jonathan Becker (Vice Chancellor of OSUN) asked students about the meaning of leadership and William J. Barber III (Director of Strategic Partnerships, The Climate Reality Project), asked students to reflect on what is their personal philosophy as a leader and the importance of being a student of history. Barber also focused on leadership as it relates to education, action, struggle, and success within the climate justice and racial justice movements. The last speaker of the day was Jovanny Suriel (Dean for Civic Engagement, Bard College), who discussed goal setting and time management.
Speakers during the second day of the conference focused on students’ well-being and the importance of intercultural communication among leaders. Kahan Sablo (Dean of Inclusive Excellence, Bard), Annia Reyes (Director of Health & Wellness, Bard), Erin Cannan (Vice President of the Center for Civic Engagement at Bard), Sonita Alizada (rapper, activist, and Bard student), Zarlasht Sarmast (Global Fellows Program Coordinator, American University of Central Asia [AUCA]), Nurzhamal Karamoldoeva (Executive Director, CCE AUCA), and Zhamal Dzhumashova (Program Coordinator, CCE AUCA) discussed self-care, teamwork, resilience, and intercultural communication. These sessions successfully taught participants how to deal with the pressures of being a leader.
Many of the students in attendance expressed a strong dedication to improving their leadership skills so they might help solve problems affecting their home countries. Many spoke passionately about their current projects and what they needed to learn so they could reach those goals.
Organizing and participating in the conference gave me an opportunity to reflect on my own leadership skills and to check in with myself. I learned new ways to manage my time, my work, and teamwork and I appreciated that the guest speakers we gathered drew people deeper into the issues being discussed.
Seeing students actively attend conference events and participate in the exercises was a powerful reminder that there are many people who want to see positive global change. These students and future leaders hail from countries all over the world that have complex human rights problems that need to be resolved. To successfully address these issues, leaders are needed–individuals who can motivate those who seek positive change to organize, build movements, and become leaders themselves.
Overall, students who attended the conference reported learning new skills such as how to use SMART goals to manage their time and how to work effectively with teams. Many were excited to meet other students from the OSUN Network and looked forward to new opportunities to connect. Serving on the editorial team of the OSUN Global Commons publication is one of many opportunities currently available.
OSUN’s network collaborative courses, co-designed by partner institutions and offered simultaneously at multiple campuses, connect higher education students worldwide so they can share fresh approaches that make a difference in finding viable solutions to pressing social and environmental problems.
“The class had a great impact on helping me gain leadership and analytical skills, specifically in brainstorming solutions for the problems we wanted to tackle,” says Hijawi. Hijawi found that the methodical research, experimentation, and consultation with classmates in different countries helped his team find a solution that was both viable and innovative. Ultimately, the course’s collaborative processes contributed to the team realizing they could chop up discarded rubber tires then combine them with polluting stone waste and water to produce useful household products such as bricks, tiles, and rubber flooring.
“We not only solved a pollution problem but also produced something useful that could serve as safety padding in parks and playgrounds,” he says.
CleanPalCo, the recycling venture Hijawi and his colleagues consequently launched, won the Best Student Entrepreneurial Company Competition for Schools and Universities in Palestine in 2021 and is about to compete against entrepreneurs from 14 other Middle Eastern countries on the regional level. The company is also meeting with many municipalities throughout Palestine who are agreeing to use its services.
Hijawi says RebelBase, the web-based software platform used in the course to provide structured steps for learning entrepreneurial skills and to connect practitioners, was another key element in the project’s success.
Eliza Edge, one of several Bard College instructors teaching Social Entrepreneurship, agrees that the globally networked structure and the platform supporting the course were invaluable. “Getting comments and feedback from global peers can help others understand models that might already exist in other parts of the world,” she says. “Knowing that we don't want to recreate, say, a food delivery app everywhere in the world, our system allows us to share examples and ideas from our own lives and worldviews that can be very helpful for thinking outside of the box.”
In its second year, the course is connecting over 100 students from countries across the globe, including Bangladesh, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Taiwan, and the US, creating a brain trust of multicultural interactions that is not available in most classrooms.
Empowering students with the skills they need to develop practical solutions to problems, like those Hijawi and his team successfully tackled, is a hallmark of OSUN’s network collaborative courses. Multidirectional sharing of knowledge and ideas across boundaries and experiences is the glue that makes it possible.
The forum consisted of 130 sessions running nearly 24 hours a day, conducted in nine different languages. Organized by eight prominent women scholars, Democratizing Work featured leading economists, such as Jayati Ghosh, Thomas Piketty, Dani Rodrick, Jean Dréze and OSUN EDI’s Director, Pavlina R. Tcherneva.
Echoing the Democratizing Work op-ed turned manifesto that was published one year ago in over 40 newspapers, in 27 languages and 36 countries, the forum established that the central lesson of the COVID crisis is that working people are much more than resources destined to feed rapacious markets.
According to the manifesto, "Human health and the care of the most vulnerable cannot be governed by market forces alone. If we leave these things solely to the market, we run the risk of exacerbating inequalities to the point of forfeiting the very lives of the least advantaged. How to avoid this unacceptable situation?"
The Global Forum provided the answer: democratize, decommodify, and decarbonize work by involving employees in workplace decision-making, guaranteeing useful employment for all, and marshaling collective efforts to preserve life on the planet.
A proposal for job guarantees was a central theme throughout all three days of the event, with an emphasis on connecting the right to employment with economic policy. Advocates argued that the guarantee provides a direct approach to securing economic rights by offering a genuine public employment option driven by local communities.
“The job guarantee is one of the very powerful ways to contribute to the decommodification and the decarbonization of the economy,” said Thomas Piketty, author and Professor of Economics at the Paris School of Economics, in a key conversation with Tcherneva. Pointing out that a “package of solutions” was necessary to tackle inequality, Piketty said that both a job guarantee and a basic income are needed but that the guarantee is “more ambitious” as it offers full-time work with at least a minimum wage. “It also comes with the process of empowering local actors and associations to redefine what economic value is and redefine our priorities.”
On the subject of unpaid or underpaid labor that involves helping people who have particular problems or special needs, Jayati Ghosh, Economist at UMASS Amherst, noted "To remedy the problem of care work, there is no other solution but public employment–decent, well-paid public employment on a massive scale.”
“I think there’s a great opportunity now,” said attendee Jean Dréze, economist and social activist, regarding the event. “Judging from the discussions in this forum, there’s an enormous interest in employment guarantees across the world that didn’t exist ten years — maybe even five years ago — except in specialized circles.”
Watch the conversation with Thomas Piketty here and watch the EDI site for more forthcoming videos from the forum.
The overland road trip from Kabul, the capital, to the eastern-border crossing into Pakistan at Torkham, posed dangers as the students journeyed from September through early this month. Students passed through territories where undisciplined and armed Taliban fighters, smugglers and drug traffickers roamed.
The evacuation of students from Kabul was planned and carried out in consultation with the US and Kyrgyz governments. It was led by a team coordinated by Jonathan Becker, OSUN vice chancellor and interim president of AUCA.
Jalil boarded a plane for the first time in his life and left the country. Sleeping on the ground in refugee camps, he made the journey from Afghanistan to Qatar, then Germany, and finally to the United States. When he arrived in Washington, D.C. he reached out to a Bard professor with whom he'd taken online classes as an AUAf student, and asked for help. “Seeing how people are willing to help—it's amazing,” Jalil says. He thinks about his family back in Kabul every moment of the day, and stays in close touch with them. “There is all that feeling of guilt at times ... because of the fact that I'm safe, I'm here, and my family is not.”
In August, Bard pledged to help Afghan students find safe havens to continue their studies and committed to taking in as many as 100 students at its campuses in Annandale, Berlin, and Simon’s Rock. OSUN has helped nearly 200 Afghan students depart Afghanistan and reach OSUN campuses, most of whom are attending the American University of Central Asia, and more students are expected to arrive at other OSUN campuses in the coming weeks.
Last week Bard also signed an agreement with the American University of Afghanistan to develop dual-degree programs for Afghan students in collaboration with OSUN, facilitate student and faculty exchanges, and further support AUAf students who continue to arrive in the US. “The AUAF community is proud to undertake this powerful affiliation with Bard College, and we are grateful to Bard and OSUN for stepping forward with immediate, meaningful aid to the young women and men of Afghanistan who deserve to pursue their studies without fear,” said AUAf President Ian Bickford.
Learn more about the program for refugee students and scholars here.
October marks six months since the launch of the Review of Democracy–RevDem for short–an intellectual and academic online journal founded by the Central European University Democracy Institute with support from the Open Society University Network. At RevDem we set out to provide an open platform for discussing and debating the ongoing processes of re-democratization and de-democratization, as well as offering analyses, reflection, and opinion pieces on such developments in Europe and around the globe. This was a challenging task, as there are mixed sentiments about the current need for another intellectual journal. Ultimately, we at RevDem felt there still was a hunger for reflection on what’s happening in democratic societies. Indeed, the fact that the journal’s readership has grown in the last six months from 20 viewers per day to 200 provides some confirmation of that need.
As a platform for exploring and debating democracy, RevDem gathers the intellectual resources of several European universities and research centers (European University Institute in Lithuania, London School of Economics, Oxford University, and The Delors Centre in Berlin) and shares them within OSUN’s lively network. Five editors and 15 assistant editors manage five sections within the journal, focused on growing intellectual connections and fostering dialogue among researchers, practitioners, and activists worldwide.
RevDem looks at democracy in a comparative perspective fueled by ongoing dialogues with historians of ideas and practices. The staff organizes debates on hot issues linked to de- and re-democratization, conducts interviews with key scholars and practitioners, offers reviews of major new publications, and commissions op-eds and longer essays that explore relevant new research initiatives linked to democracy. A large number of younger scholars and practitioners of democracy play a significant role in the editorial work: hailing from Europe’s top universities, they not only assist editors but also record podcasts, suggest relevant topics, and organize debates on select issues and publications.
RevDem explores democracy through five key lenses. The history of ideas section (the richest one so far) explores various theories of re- and de-democratization, probing the relationship between democracy and liberalism at the heart of current populist crises and pursuing debates about citizenship. Contributors and interviewees include Jan Werner Mueller on how to strengthen the critical infrastructure of democracy, Carlo Invernizzi Accetti on the Christian Democrat alternative to far-right Christian populism, LaTosha Brown on Black Votes Matter, and Lilli Rutai on the state of feminism in Hungary.
Cross-regional dialogue provides a comparative and transnational perspective, establishing new connections by reflecting on democratic processes around the globe. Hot topics include the Constitutional Convention in Chile and the discontent and possible unraveling of democratic institutions in Tunisia.
Political economy and inequalities are two issues central to democracy surviving and flourishing. This section analyzes the interplay between socioeconomic pathways and political change, examining the ways European integration and other forms of shared sovereignty regimes shape democracy at the national and supranational levels. Gabor Scheiring regularly reviews key texts in this area, giving readers a thorough orientation in the field.
The Rule of law section reinforces the fact that the most recent processes of de-democratization are based less on physical coercion or violence, but more on new ways to instrumentalize law to diminish political rights and neutralize democratic institutions. This section re-examines theories of Europeanization that have largely failed to forecast or properly address democratic backsliding in the region. Writers such as Petra Bard, Gabor Halmai, Laurent Pech, and Dimitry Kochenov provide key analyses of the regional instances of backsliding that are currently eroding the rule of law.
Finally, the section on the future of democracy in Europe provides a forum for rich debate on innovation and what lies ahead for the continent. New ideas and practices of democracy are crucial to the flourishing of the European project, which is currently threatened by democratic deficits. Right now, the editors are closely watching the Conference on the Future of Europe, an online platform for citizens to debate Europe’s challenges and priorities, with the hopes of formulating strategies for strengthening European democracy.
The foundation of an online journal always involves learning by doing, especially when it operates on a global level. At RevDem we are therefore gradually learning who is reading our pages and what their expectations are. So far, we have been surprised to learn that beyond Europe, RevDem is also read in the US, South America, and India and not only by academics but also by social activists. This information alone inspires confidence that a live intellectual platform is not only needed but could potentially grow audiences in areas that were previously overlooked. Please join the many debates and conversations now taking place at RevDem.
The Worldwide Teach-In is a project of the Graduate Programs in Sustainability at Bard College in conjunction with partners worldwide and the Open Society University Network. For the past three years, OSUN’s Solve Climate by 2030 has been supporting globally coordinated education about the climate crisis. The project has engaged hundreds of colleges, universities and high schools– from Malaysia to Minnesota, and from Austria to Alabama– in discussions of climate solutions, across the curriculum.
Targeting participation by a million students across the planet, the Worldwide Teach-in on Climate and Justice event on March 30, 2022 is perhaps the most ambitious component of the project yet, advancing a three-hour teach-in model that maximizes student involvement through faculty leadership.
“As educators, there is nothing more important than engaging students across our campuses in this extraordinary moment in which we are living,” says Eban Goodstein, director of Bard Center for Environmental Policy and director ofr the Solve Climate by 2030 Project.
Lever for Change is a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation affiliate, whose mission is to unlock significant philanthropic capital and accelerate social change around the world’s most pressing challenges. In May 2021, Lever for Change introduced the Swift Grants fund, aimed to provide small grants to Bold Solutions Network members for collaborative projects. This fund provided an outlet for the world’s top problem solvers to leverage expertise and join forces to find creative solutions in their fields.
“Sortition, or the choosing of citizens by lottery to vote on key issues, was central to Greek democracy and democratic theory for more than 2,000 years” explains Berkowitz. “It then fell out of favor in the 1700’s, and was replaced by our current representative democracy. It is now getting new attention as a mechanism for democratic inclusion, often combined with the contemporary tools of digital democracy.”
On October 14-15, the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College will host its annual conference, this year focused on “Revitalizing Democracy: Sortition, Citizen Power, and Spaces of Freedom,” giving people from around the world access to informed debate around sortition and its surrounding issues.
“We decided to look into ways we could reach a larger audience that can be physically present for our annual event at Annandale. We had experimented in 2020 with Zoom, but we knew we could do more, and we knew that the OSUN network could be key in these efforts,” says Berkowitz.
As they planned the 2021 conference, Berkowitz was introduced to OSUN partner and digital education leader Adam Stepan by Jonathan Becker, Executive Vice President of Bard College and Vice Chancellor of OSUN. “OSUN is expanding its digital presence and looking for new ways to connect thinkers across the network,” explains Becker. “Roger Berkowitz is an important leader in these efforts; he has travelled across the network to deliver in-person talks and has led many online conferences. We felt the sortition project was a great opportunity to pilot new digital tools we are already implanting in network classes and events.”
Adam Stepan is an Emmy-award-winning filmmaker and the director of the Picker Center Digital Education Group at Columbia University, where he spearheads Columbia’s collaboration with OSUN. Since 2020 he has worked with OSUN students and faculty on digital storytelling projects, video case studies, and pre-recorded “flipped class” videos.
“Sortion is an issue that has levels of complexity and nuance, so we felt it would naturally lend itself to a series of ‘TED Talk-style’ lectures,” explains Stepan. “Zoom is a powerful tool, but we all are all facing Zoom burnout. We need to find ways to create high-quality content that can be used to make online digital events more engaging for participants and to help create real online communities around key issues.”
The team decided that the conference would feature a new interactive website, with pre-conference videos on key issues that could be watched before live debate begins. During the actual conference, visiting scholars would also record new “TED-style” presentations, so that the post-conference website could become a platform for ongoing learning and debate.
Since most people don’t have enough time to watch many hours of post-conference debate, shorter, more focused presentations in the TED style are the most practical solution, says Stepan, because these are assets that people can view and engage with more easily.
“During the conference we will invite some of the world’s leading scholars to create and present short video presentations,” explains Berkowitz. “We will then post all the videos to the website post-conference for the general public, and host an ongoing moderated discussion forum, encouraging other thinkers from around the world to join and add their own contributions to the debate.”
Masha Gessen, Russian-American journalist, author, translator and activist; Kali Akuno, co-founder and director of Cooperation Jackson; and David Van Reybrouck, renowned cultural historian, archaeologist and author, are among the forty prominent intellectuals who will speak over the two days of the conference.
“If the idea of sortition is to be democratic and engage citizens, we cannot do this by small in-person events that only a small number of people can afford to attend,” explains Berkowitz. “The in-person interaction and debate at the conference is vital – but we felt we needed to share it widely and offer paths for inclusion of remote scholars and students. We feel these tools can help achieve this.”
The 2021 Revitalizing Democracy Conference takes place October 14-15 at Bard College in Annandale, New York. In-person registration is now closed but virtual participation is still open. Pre-conference videos, a list of speakers and registration links can be found at www.sortition.academy.
“With the Socrates Project we are serving the local communities around our institution in that we're both expanding what an educational institution offers to the wider public and dissolving the boundary between the university and the broader community,” says Socrates Project Director Aaron Lambert.
Then in the summer of 2021, Goodstein and OSUN invited Columbia University filmmaker and digital education innovator Adam Stepan to run an open-to-the-public version of their OSUN “Visual Storytelling” class that focused specifically on training environmental activists in video production.
“We had great success in the fall of 2020 running a social justice digital production class across the OSUN network, and had created pre-recorded video lessons that showed each step of the filmmaking process,” explains Stepan. “We felt sure that today’s media-savvy young activists could make fantastic films on climate issues if we provided the needed support and framework.”
Stepan invited a team of other filmmaker/activists to co-teach the class with him, including Kynan Tegar, the award-winning 16-year-old indigenous filmmaker from Borneo; Paul Redman, from the activist filmmaker organization If Not Us Then Who? and Julie Tumasz, of Build.org.
“I thought climate activists might really appreciate having experienced activist filmmakers as mentors. I know Kynan, Paul and Julie from other projects, and we thought it would create a great dynamic to have cohorts of ten or more students, each mentored by different filmmakers,” Stepan explains.
The class built on the OSUN Network Collaborative Course model and changed it up to use pre-recorded “flipped class” videos which students watched outside of class, followed by intense weekly large group sessions on Zoom, and then smaller Zoom breakout rooms dedicated to discussing individual projects.
Instructors decided to run the six-week class as a competition and all films were screened and voted on at an online festival held at the course’s end. After commentary from a panel of hosts and judges, four films were awarded $500 prizes, funds that could be used to benefit local climate campaigns.
Students from a diverse set of backgrounds took the course, ranging from teenagers in high school to climate activists in their 70’s. Some had limited film or photography experience, but most were new to filmmaking. Students joined from over 12 different countries.
New filmmakers included Helena Robinson, a high school teacher from New Orleans, who made New Orleans Flash Floods – Wading Through, a personal film about flooding and climate change, featuring her family and neighbors. Her neighborhood was once again flooded in the wake of Hurricane Ida in August of 2021.
Topics ranged from activist music videos, such as the powerful Carbondale is On Fire; to stories of political activism, such as The Eyes Behind Frontline Resistance, by Lina Salas from Colombia; and personal stories such as Noe: Saved or Developed by Cassie Danton, which profiles the battle to save a New Jersey pond from housing development. All the videos and filmmaker bios can be seen on the project website.
Rashid Shahriar won the Climate Activism in Media Award for his video The Story of Bottle Light, about a Bangladesh-based research and innovation social enterprise that supports the creation of solar lights and street lamps using recycled bottles.
“It was thrilling to see such a diverse group of activists and filmmakers come together,” says Stepan. “Over six weeks, the group formed a real community, viewing and commenting on each other’s projects, and providing great support. The pre-recorded video training allowed key learning to take place offline, so class sessions were dedicated to interaction and active peer-to-peer interaction. We feel it’s a strong model for collaborative learning, and look forward to running new versions of the class using this format.”
Mentors are MAT graduates who have been trained in advising and guidance practices as well as teaching methods. Cross-campus mentorship is a crucial part of the ENTEC project, which also supports partnerships between Bard MAT alumni and MAT candidates at the American University of Central Asia (AUCA) in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
The aim of the mentoring component is to increase capacity and help teachers improve learning outcomes where such progress is needed most. In the Bethlehem session, participants learned from mentors about the practical applications of cultivating advanced thinking skills, such as analysis, evaluation, critical thinking, and creativity.
Mentees have found that such collaborations allow them to successfully situate their analysis of their own classrooms within a broader perspective of research on action interventions, such as teaching methods and lesson plans, designed to enhance learning environments and results. Often they wind up being mentors themselves.
Maram Da’boub says her experience being mentored while she worked on her MAT has nurtured in her enough self assurance so she can now mentor three English language teachers. “The ongoing capacity-building opportunities AQB offers to its graduates, alongside our former MAT professors’ trust in us as teachers, has helped me develop self confidence so I too am capable of mentoring other teachers,” she says. Da’boub, who has instructed teachers for eight years, says “sharing this experience is awe-inspiring and rewarding.”
Da’boub says the program has allowed her to help mentees engage with more modern teaching strategies, assessment tools, and different research methodologies that will equip them in their M.A. studies. “I am looking forward to sharing more experiences with my mentees and witnessing the awesome progression they will achieve in the rest of this mentoring journey.”
Mentor Fatima Mafarjeh says that mentoring and directing new or previously under-qualified teachers toward professional training is fundamental in preparing them for their careers.
“In my ENTEC mentoring experience, I have encountered teachers who are super passionate and excited about their role as educators; however, they often lack a background in teaching methods or they might just be inexperienced,” says Mafarjeh. “And in an online and blended teaching experience, even greater intervention and guidance is needed. As one year of mentoring has already passed, I feel proud that I have been helpful to my mentees.”
“As educators, there is nothing more important than engaging students across our campuses in this extraordinary moment in which we are living,” says Eban Goodstein says, director of the project and of Bard's Graduate Programs in Sustainability.
For the past three years, Solve Climate by 2030 has been supporting globally coordinated education about the climate crisis. The project has engaged hundreds of colleges, universities and high schools– from Malaysia to Minnesota, and from Austria to Alabama– in discussions of climate solutions, across the curriculum. The March 30, 2022 event is perhaps the most ambitious component of the project yet, advancing a three-hour teach-in model that maximizes student involvement through faculty leadership.
Kyaw Moe Tun, OSUN project leader and president of the Parami Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences, published an article in Times Higher Education discussing the need for authoritarian-proof higher education models in Myanmar. Following the military coup, faculty and students fear the end of a budding modern higher education system. Bard is an OSUN cofounder and partner of the Parami Institute
The letter asks that the United States fulfill its promise to "provide safety and security to Afghans who have stood alongside us for the past twenty years" in the war against the Taliban and "ensure that our Afghan allies do not languish in legal limbo abroad waiting for an opportunity to restart and rebuild their new lives."
The letter explains how the small number of US allies that did manage to escape Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover face a web of bureaucratic and punitive legal processes that will greatly delay entry into the United States.
"Our allies are exhausted and traumatized, and many are separated from family and friends who are anxiously waiting to welcome them. We cannot further abandon them by leaving them in limbo abroad, at risk of having to wait for years to enter the United States—or, worse, be returned to Afghanistan," explains the letter.
Many evacuees are being held in dire conditions on military bases in Qatar, Bahrain, and Germany, while others wait in third countries such as Albania, Rwanda, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan that will soon close their borders.
The full letter recommends that:
1) All evacuated Afghans and those with pending immigration applications be paroled by US Customs and Border Protection into the United States within a maximum of 30 days.
2) The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services commit to the creation of a designated humanitarian parole program to guide and expedite the review of parole petitions for additional at-risk Afghans. This program should include pro-democracy activists, journalists, women’s rights activists, human rights activists, children, and LGBTQ persons.
3) The administration pay specific attention to expediting the reunification of separated Afghan families.
Through Bard College, OSUN is now accepting scholarship applications from students from Afghanistan who are experiencing displacement.
Heartbreak and What You Can Do: How Higher Education Can Aid Afghanistan
An Afghan student studying abroad fears for the safety of siblings still at home. A university president works to evacuate students from Afghanistan and find them places to study. Higher-education groups raise emergency funds.
As the precipitous and tragic crisis in Afghanistan unfolds, students, scholars, and researchers are vulnerable. For years, the Taliban has targeted academics and universities in its attacks. In particular, it has opposed the education of women and girls.
Some American colleges are erasing any mention of past collaborations with Afghan colleagues from their websites or social media out of fear that such western ties could make them Taliban targets.
Jonathan Becker, the acting president of the American University of Central Asia, has been scrambling to try to get endangered students out of Afghanistan. “The stakes are high for all students but especially for young women who won’t be able to pursue higher education under the Taliban,” he said. “These are women who are smart, who are empowered, who are extraordinary.”
Working with the Open Society University Network and Bard College, where he is also vice president for academic affairs, Becker has persuaded universities to host displaced students and raised tens of thousands of dollars to pay for chartered airplanes. Bard will take as many as 100 students as well as threatened scholars. But a big challenge remains: how to get visas for the students to go to other countries.
In recent days, Becker got some good news: The government of Kyrgyzstan, where AUCA is located, has pledged to issue 500 visas to students from Afghanistan. Now, he hopes other countries will do the same. “It’s a sprint to get these students out.”
I’ve also been in contact with Afghan students who have shared heartbreaking and harrowing stories. One student who is studying abroad told me how much she worries about her sisters who are still in Afghanistan; they have lost their chance to study, to work, to live their lives, she fears. Another told me that her family has gone into hiding. “We are not sure about tomorrow,” she said.
I hope to tell you more about these amazing students, but for now, they worry that revealing even minor details could put their families at risk.
One of them asked me to appeal to you: Urge your elected officials to advocate for the presence of troops in Afghanistan, she said. Lobby the U.S. government not to recognize the Taliban government unless it guarantees human rights and women’s rights and refrains from persecutions based on ethnicity, gender, language, and religion. Ask humanitarian and media organizations to remain in Afghanistan.
Through Bard College, OSUN is now accepting scholarship applications from students from Afghanistan who are experiencing displacement.
Mingo has served the greater part of a 50-year sentence at Great Meadow Correctional Facility in New York State for a crime he maintains he did not commit. In fall 2020, Heady and other students enrolled in a Bard College course on human rights advocacy worked with CUNY Law School and the human rights organization WITNESS to create a short video that was filed with Mingo’s official application for clemency. Heady then went on to create a second video with his own production crew that served as a "digital case study" for the OSUN workshop. “Bring Them Home: The Fight for Clemency” provided a less clinical take on the case, including emotional interviews with Mingo and members of his grassroots advocacy group of family, friends, and carceral justice activists.
Heady says the second video allowed him to humanize the arduous process of the appeal for clemency, “giving some of the perspective of Mingo’s family while they were going through this fight and struggling with bureaucracy and feelings of loss and grief.”
Heady says it is difficult to put into words the feelings that the pardon has stirred up, particularly after Mingo's bid for clemency was at a dead end as recently as last winter. When he found out last December that Mingo’s appeal had been denied, “my heart sank at that moment.” When he got the news this time around that Cuomo had granted clemency, he was “overwhelmed, overjoyed” but found it "difficult to process the emotions in such extremes.”
Heady has since gotten some emails from members of Mingo’s advocacy team that included brief comments from family members, who are all struggling to articulate their feelings. “For the family this is something greater than anything they could imagine.”
The OSUN Visual Storytelling Workshop, cotaught by filmmakers Adam Stepan and Sean Steinberg, trains students across OSUN to use inexpensive tools, such as smartphones, to create “digital case studies” of the research and civic engagement projects they undertake for OSUN network courses.
As explained in the appeal, signers, including the Scholars at Risk Network (SAR), the PAUSE program in France, and the Philipp Schwartz Initiative of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany, are racing to offer assistance to researchers, scholars and civil society actors in Afghanistan whose lives and livelihoods are now at risk due to the Taliban takeover of the country.
These groups and organizations are asking European governments and EU institutions to continue evacuation flights from Afghanistan for as long as possible and to increase resettlement quotas to help those in need of international protection. Among other measures, they also ask for dedicated EU and national fellowship schemes for scholars and expedited complementary legal pathways for candidates who demonstrate an existing host institution, job, or sponsor.
“The eroding situation in Afghanistan poses a threat not only to the lives of our colleagues still in Afghanistan, but to the future of that country,” reads the appeal. “The European higher education community is ready to do its part, but we need your help. If we move quickly, we can go a long way towards mitigating the worst of the threats and demonstrate continuing commitment to the future of Afghanistan and its people.”
Read the full appeal and list of signers here.
OSUN Summer University is a great opportunity to work as a team on developing and piloting new curricula, bringing together students, scholars, practitioners and community advocates in an intensive collaborative learning experience. OSUN provides funding for SUN courses, covering the costs of development and delivery of the courses, tuition waivers, stipends and travel support for OSUN affiliates.
Learn more about submitting a proposal for the 2022 OSUN-CEU Summer University. The OSUN-CEU Summer University 2022 course proposals deadline has been extended to September 1, 2021.
BG: Let me start by asking you, because you've been doing this for a long time, how did the CEU Summer University get started?
EG: I've been with the program since 1997 so it's quite a while. It was started just a year before I came to CEU and the reason it started was really to enhance CEU’s mission through this outreach program. The original idea was to generate more knowledge and research projects. The program originally targeted the former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe and then the effort was expanded to enhance access to existing knowledge and scholarship, which many of these countries had been deprived of. There was even a book donation program because people were starving for knowledge and books.
The original idea was to meet the existing scholarship, which was largely one-directional from Western to Eastern scholarship. As time went on, it became more of an experimental ground for research and cooperation and the outreach was more global, where people applied from every corner of the globe. It’s the same today.
BG: Many universities have summer programs. What makes this one different?
EG: It’s really an extension of CEU into the larger community. We want to give other people a taste of CEU. The program also helps faculty to connect and work more intensively on a project during the summer school or to forge new relationships.
What makes it different is exactly this team element, it’s not one faculty offering a course. It's a real team approach. So there can be a group of five or six or seven people working and teaching together. That’s rather different from the model of most summer schools. Very often, because it's a team, there's a chance to be multidisciplinary so it's not just one narrow discipline but a multidisciplinary union with a 360-degree look around the world and within those fields. And that's exciting.
CEU SUN is typically one or two weeks of intense work so, as one student said, “it’s an incubator of ideas.” It can be very stimulating because you hear ideas and perspectives from a lot of people, which sparks new ideas and deep critical thinking.
BG: This past year, everyone has had to make a transition to online teaching due to COVID. How has that impacted the experience for the faculty and for the students?
EG: That’s where OSUN has really been instrumental. If it hadn't been for OSUN, I don't think we would have been successful in making this transition. OSUN helped faculty to see that they could do this and also provided the extra funding for the preparation. It was a big jump in the first year but by the next summer the whole world had learned what Zoom is. Everyone is so much more proficient but the support gave us the resources to train faculty and to realize that despite the loss of being together in the same physical space, we can do even more than we realized.
No doubt, that act of being together, of continuing a conversation at a bar or over dinner, has always been an important part of the SUN learning experience. But we can see that so many people who would not have been able to come to Budapest because of the cost have been able to participate online. So that is something we have to consider for the future. We had a very successful online mediation course this summer, for example, where there were deep emotional ties that developed during the breakout rooms. They did a lot of simulation exercises with rich discussions and developed strong bonds.
BG: You've had a big transition during this time but also experiences that sound like they were incredibly powerful and really speak to the original mission of outreach in a way that you had never envisioned. So what are you hoping for in 2022?
EG: Well, we are hoping to become more aligned within the OSUN network and with other projects. Perhaps a SUN course can be an exploratory phase of a larger project or as a pilot to test an idea and see how it works before developing it into a larger project. A SUN course could also be the dissemination phase of a larger project.
BG: That sounds like a great opportunity. So if I'm a faculty member at an OSUN partner and I have an idea I'm incubating, what should I be thinking about if I want to submit a proposal for a course next summer?
EG: We’re really happy to help nurture an idea, discuss it together, and identify possible partners and, where appropriate, a CEU faculty member to contribute to the team. Faculty members can contact me directly.
BG: Terrific. Anything else you wanted to share?
EG: So many of our students have talked about how they are not only learning from the faculty but from each other. That's very exciting. We have these very mature students and professionals in the same group. What they learn from each other is unique because the students are very diverse in terms of geography, age, experience, and disciplinary background. And there's a lot of exchange going on. They tend to hang out after classes – including the faculty. No one flies in, teaches the course, and flies out. They are here for a week or two and spend almost 10 hours a day together in each other's company. The learning that takes place outside the classroom is very powerful.
As Becker's letter points out, while some progress has been made, OSUN continues to work to assist its colleagues and friends in Afghanistan, and continues to express solidarity with Afghan scholars across the globe during this troubling time.
Dear American University of Central Asia Community:
While we all watch with concern the quickly evolving situation in Afghanistan, I want to express on behalf of the AUCA community our deep concern for our Afghan students and their families and friends and Afghan students across the Open Society University Network (OSUN), particularly at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAf).
We are working now to find safe havens for students and graduates. I met with more than 80 Afghan students yesterday, and we have active communications going through various forms of media. Several weeks ago, we opened a special scholarship program for Afghan graduates of AUCA, and we have offered to host many AUAf Embassy Scholars through an academic exchange program. Bard College has offered to take in as many as 100 students, as well as threatened scholars.
We are heartened by and thankful for the bold decision of the Kyrgyz government to extend visas to 500 Afghan students across the country. We want to salute this generous humanitarian initiative, which stands in stark contrast to the tepid steps we see some others taking. Numerous commentators in the U.S. and Europe have praised the Kyrgyz initiative, and have held it up as a shining example for others to follow.
We have informed our students still in Afghanistan that we will honor their scholarships whenever they can make it to Bishkek.
Herculean efforts are taking place through the Open Society Foundations and other NGO partners to arrange for planes out of the country, but conditions in Afghanistan, and in particular surrounding the airport in Kabul, have made our efforts far more difficult. We are working day and night on this issue, liaising with governments, NGOs and anyone we believe can help our students. AUCA’s vice presidents, the international student office, the alumni affairs office and many others have worked tirelessly on this issue and I wish to thank them here.
AUCA will continue to work to support its students in Bishkek and through OSUN, the Open Society Foundations, and other partners to find ways to welcome to Kyrgyzstan the students to whom we have made scholarship commitments.
What is taking place now in Afghanistan is a tragedy. It affects students and colleagues we have educated and worked with over many years. We stand with the Afghan students from AUCA, AUAf and across the globe.
As part of the Enhanced Network Teacher Education Capacity project (ENTEC), supported by OSUN and led by Bard MAT, alumni of the Bard MAT program are advising candidates in the AUCA MAT as they research and write their capstone projects. The collaboration not only enhances capacity through a cross-campus sharing of human resources, but it also enriches the projects and the work of students and faculty alike.
Having taught for many years in K-12 settings, and having completed doctoral level studies in education or their discipline, Bard alumni involved in the project during 2020-21 are eager for the opportunity not only to guide teacher research, but also to benefit from the cross-cultural experience that the OSUN setting offers.
“It was great to see [my advisees] deepen the questions they investigated and use their own research to improve education in Kyrgyzstan,” says John Shekitka, Assistant Professor at Manhattanville College in Harrison, New York. “The OSUN collaborations are definitely a model for future educational partnerships in our increasingly globalized world.”
Peter Joshua Hatala, Director of Curriculum and Innovation at the Emma Willard School in Troy, New York, also noted the value of “connecting our two worlds through this cross-cultural exchange.”
Bard MAT alumni got a glimpse into the reality of schooling in the Kyrgyz context; while the AUCA MAT candidates were able to situate their analysis and articulate their insights within a broader perspective of research on interventions (teaching methods, lesson plan, other activities) that teachers design and implement in their own classroom to improve the learning environment and learning outcomes.
Like their advisors, the AUCA MAT candidates appreciated the opportunity to work across campuses and cultures. Many of them spoke enthusiastically about the guidance they received. Zalina Satylganova wrote, “Thanks to the questions (my advisor) asked regarding some ideas in my findings, I could better analyze, unpack, and make them accessible to readers.”
Versaviia Gura attested to the ways her advisor’s modeling allowed her to learn to “look at pedagogy with a critical eye,” a central goal of the capstone project. Nazima Abdybekova described her advisor as a “lighthouse” that kept her from “drowning” in the information that she had to navigate, and Aiperi Arystanbekova wrote that “cooperative work with my advisor made my research paper interesting, original, and academically strong.” Altogether, fourteen AUCA candidates worked with Bard alumni and faculty in 2020-21.
The project will continue with a new cohort of AUCA candidates in ENTEC’s second year. Based on feedback from the first year, candidates and advisors would benefit from a longer engagement that brings the Bard advisors on board earlier in the process. Tamo Chattopadhay and Derek Furr, MAT directors at AUCA and Bard, respectively, are currently working on a timeline that will start the next round of projects in the fall of 2021.
Can you explain what the Center for Liberal Arts and Sciences Pedagogy is and what it does?
CLASP is an OSUN project established by the Institute for Writing and Thinking (IWT). IWT offers professional development workshops for faculty around the world with a focus on writing-based teaching and critical reading and writing practices. What CLASP does is slightly different: it makes available regular workshops, which are usually quite expensive, to an international network of faculty who might not normally have access to pay for them. CLASP also offers a full spectrum of pedagogical workshops beyond writing that focus on teaching in the liberal arts tradition; student engagement and motivation; how to hold classroom discussions; and ways to design syllabi and assignments, so students feel like they have a choice in their own education.
Can you tell us how the fellowship came about and some of its goals?
The Fellows Program has always been intended to be the core of CLASP’s work; however, OSUN and our project began in the midst of a pandemic so we had to shift gears pretty quickly to assist faculty who were suddenly teaching online. The fellowship was postponed and that was actually great because it gave us a chance to hear more from our partners about what they needed.
The program will produce two results. First, it generates trained fellows with expertise in liberal arts and sciences pedagogy and embeds them in campuses across the network. Second, the fellows themselves will be researching the kind of liberal arts pedagogical practices that succeed in their own classrooms at their own campuses. So we'll both be training faculty to increase support across campuses and we'll be generating new research and scholarship on the pedagogy that we practice. The program also prepares the fellows so they can continue to facilitate workshops on their own campuses and collaborate to develop new workshops that bring OSUN faculty together around pedagogical topics.
What can educators expect from engaging with the fellowship?
We hope the fellows who apply will be faculty who are not brand-new to an institution, who are maybe early to mid-career. We are particularly interested in faculty who are in positions where they're committed to their OSUN partner institution and will be there for a while. We are also excited to welcome faculty from across all disciplines, so this is not something that's just focused on the humanities.
The nuts and bolts of the program revolve around the monthly online workshops that are spread throughout the academic year and cater to what the fellows want. We hope to convene in-person at an OSUN partner site in Europe in January and then at Bard in Annandale in July, pending COVID.
The first year is really the training year and the second year is the content year, when we begin to move towards a mentoring, research, and experimentation model. Fellows will be intentionally trying out strategies in their own classrooms, identifying a research project that they're exploring, and then bringing that to our sessions for feedback.
In the second year we will also bring on a new cohort of fellows, so there will be a mentoring opportunity for the already experienced fellows. And we're going to use Brightspace (a cloud-based learning platform) which will allow us to build up a collaborative archive of materials that can be used for future online modules.
The mentoring aspect of the fellowship is really interesting and innovative–sort of a built-in model of sustainability.
OSUN adds a whole new range of different kinds of institutions and faculty expertise to the conversation. We really feel it's important to collaborate with our partners and offer them the support they need to be thinking seriously about what it means to teach in an interactive, student-centered way in different contexts.
It seems collaboration is key in that the program welcomes educators from many different disciplines and it is also collaborative across institutions.
Our workshops are best when we're learning from the people in the room and I think that ethos is represented beautifully by all that OSUN stands for and does. Let’s say a Spanish-speaking university is interested in learning more about writing-based teaching. My hope would be that through the fellows program we have people within the region or school who could create and lead the workshops themselves.
I feel context is so important. One of the goals we have is to really build this contextual, intercultural knowledge and begin to think about what are best practices in liberal arts education that is intentionally and authentically global and culturally sensitive. I'm not interested in bringing any particular pre-made model to a new context. Instead, we want to build something new with the faculty we work with.
The call for the fellowship says the commitment is intense. So it’s important that fellows be able to commit to contributing to this project going forward.
The thing that I’m increasingly fascinated by is that in the field of writing-based teaching there is little research on how these practices work on a global level and beyond English-language learning. So it seems everything that we're doing as a network should be written up because it represents a significant contribution to the field of writing studies. That’s something I feel incredibly excited about.
From my experience, doing this work and teaching myself, I know that the growth that students experience when faculty move from a more faculty-centered to a student-centered teaching model is really significant and really surprises faculty. So I feel like the capstone research project and year two is something that can have a real impact on the field of thinking about global higher education.
Do you see the program as a workshop of sorts for establishing a “COVID-era” way of learning?
Absolutely. I think that being pressed to teach online very quickly invited faculty to perhaps pay more attention to what they do in the classroom. Teaching online is really very hard sometimes as there are so many wild cards in play. Now you have to sit down and plan and really think about the practice of teaching intensely. And we’re obviously very lucky in that we have a network of educators who care deeply about their students and about what it means to teach in a college or university environment.
I also think that, as faculty are returning to in-person classes, there's going to be a ton of excitement. And so I'm hoping that this will enable us to really build and create a stronger collaborative bond across campuses by virtue of the fact that we're all doing this thing that we care so much about.
Accepting applications until August 30, 2021, the CLASP fellowship runs on a cohort model with 20 fellows joining each year. Fellows come from a range of disciplines and institutions across OSUN’s global network. Educators who have completed the fellowship will be equipped to offer their own intensive workshops in pedagogy, cultivating future generations of OSUN faculty so they can in turn lead blended workshops and collaborate with colleagues at partner institutions.
Pierre-Louis examined the mass protests against state corruption and repression currently taking place in many countries across the globe, discussing how students and other individuals living in such distressed countries can still effect political and social change. With students attending the virtual class from Haiti, Myanmar, Swaziland, and Albania—all places that have recently experienced political turmoil amidst other ongoing social challenges—Pierre-Louis’ valuable insights focused on students’ agency and the benefits of renewed civic engagement.
Pierre-Louis said that in places such as Algeria, Belarus, Brazil, Hong Kong, Sudan, and the US, mass mobilizations had been triggered by corrupt governments, systemic inequalities, authoritarianism, racism, and the denial of minority groups’ rights. Such problems motivated activists to emerge from their private spheres and enter public spaces to speak out collectively against injustices.
“Collective interests and the collective risks taken to defend them are key in the mobilizations,” Pierre-Louis pointed out. Mostly younger protestors, emboldened by shared experiences of physical, institutional, or political repression by their governments, have taken to the streets to demand their civil and political rights. In this way, the sense of mutual responsibility that is the hallmark of civic engagement has been translated into citizens assembling on a purely voluntary basis to bring about the social transformations they desire.
Another factor in the surge of public protests is the popular conception that traditional politics is synonymous with crime and corruption. As this opinion pervades public consciousness, civic engagement can act as a process to restore confidence in politics as a legitimate tool for transformation.
“Civic engagement challenges authoritarianism,” stated Pierre-Louis, while the opposing phenomenon of “political disimagination” discourages citizens from envisioning and building a more positive future together. Pierre-Louis explained that disimagination occurs when a centralized government power restricts civil and political liberties and a deceptive, homogeneous narrative begins to permeate public discourse. Social inequalities also feed into these trends, abrading the social fabric and coercing the public into apathy and withdrawal from political involvement.
Despite this “vicious circle” where social inequalities can lead to weak political culture and polarization of society, such adverse conditions can also cause civic movements to emerge, sometimes taking the form of civil disobedience.
“Civic engagement is a way to rescue the political imaginary,” added Pierre-Louis. The audacity of students and other young activists who espouse direct political action surprises government officials, creating a ripple effect on the streets and online. These phenomena spark greater numbers of citizens to engage in collective actions aimed at regaining their capacity to participate and recover the right to a political future.
Pierre-Louise made it clear that while civic engagement can act as a catalyzing agent for political renewal, it requires citizens to believe in a shared human condition. This sense of a common interest spurs citizens to take the risk of transforming a belief into action, with the hope that reentering the public sphere might eventually lead to improved living conditions.
During the award ceremony at CEU in Vienna, Nowotny delivered an insightful keynote lecture that was livestreamed to a global audience, addressing the ambiguities surrounding the rise of artificial intelligence and predictive algorithms.
Watch video of the lecture here.
The lecture was followed by a four-day workshop on artificial intelligence and the digital humanities that drew on Nowotny’s forthcoming book, In AI We Trust: Power, Illusion, and Control of Predictive Algorithms. Scholars attending the workshop hailed from a wide array of network institutions, including CEU, Asheshi University in Ghana, Bard College in the US, Birkbeck College in the UK, BRAC University in Bangladesh, The Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory in Belgrade, the Institute for the Human Sciences in Vienna, and American University of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan.
Nowotny’s address and the workshop discussions focused on a series of paradoxes regarding the limits of human certainty. Nowotny and the scholars established the fact that people have always yearned to know the future and master their fates. AI and predictive algorithms offer people the uncanny knowledge that gives useful insights on phenomena as diverse as the weather, the economy, and human behavior. With this unprecedented ability to predict the future, the demand for certainty grows, even though human life itself remains irrational and unpredictable. While artificial intelligence is deployed to simplify and master the world, artificial intelligence also makes the human world more complicated.
Nowotny and the scholars agreed that what people too often neglect to ask is: How does the desire and conviction to know the future–and the increasing ability to predict the future–affect humans? What happens to humans–fallible, passionate, unpredictable beings–when they put their trust and faith in AI and algorithms to predict and plan the future?
Several of the scholars warned against overestimating the power of artificial intelligence; they also worried that misplaced faith in and over-reliance on AI could foreclose future possibilities instead of creating new ones. One common theme was the concern that AI predictive algorithms might become self-fulfilling prophecies. In contrast to the yearning for certainty that is promised by AI there also exists the need for celebrating human fallibility and embracing uncertainty.
The scholars discussed the fact that new advances in machine neural networks allow machines to make judgments and explanations at the same capacity as humans. This raised the question of how to nurture human values in a world where ever-more corporate, social, and political decisions will be made by or alongside artificially intelligent neural networks.
The scholars also examined the question of what it means for humanity to retain meaningful control over the world, which led to yet another paradox: as people seek more control over their environments, the more they find that is beyond their control. For example, as expectations of safety rise, the desire for an ever-more complicated reliance on artificial intelligence emerges. As people turn to machines to regulate behavior and thus provide more security, they inevitably discover new and greater risks tied to the very tools at their disposal.
Nowotny’s central theory of the human desire to gain certainty and security through the use of artificial intelligence and the ever-more complicated relationship with technology provided rich fodder for the workshops building on her digital humanities research. Scholars drew on a wide range of knowledge and experience to address the paradoxes she introduced, clarifying some of the human impacts of technological advancement.
Teaching the Power to Make Changes in Everyday LifeBy Nathan M. Greenfield
As if to dramatise one of the central points he would make – how poor infrastructure complicates the efforts of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Africa to implement digital technologies in production and marketing – and before introducing himself to the virtual audience and other panel members, Decent Mutanho explained that he was not on screen “because we have no electricity at all, so I’m trying to improvise”.
While using his smart phone to make the best connection he could from Johannesburg, South Africa, he was participating in the 12th episode of the webinar series, “Adapting to the New Reality: Civically engaged universities offer strategies of hope,” on 8 March 2021.
That same day, half a world away in New Jersey, Andy Saunders, another of the six winners of the Communities of Virtual Alliance and Inter-Dependence (COV-AID) mini-grants, woke to the New York Times carrying the report, “The Officers Danced at a Black Lives Matter Rally. Then They Stormed the Capitol” (during the 6 January insurrection). This story exemplifies the inequitable actions and racist actors that the police departments that have partnered with Saunders’ New Blue Project would not tolerate.
Established by the Open Society University Network (OSUN) in partnership with the Talloires Network of Engaged Universities (comprising 417 university presidents from 79 countries), the COV-AID Student Engagement Award (administered at Tufts University in Boston) provided grants to assist student-run projects that were already running or created to help communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Out of 306 undergraduate and 117 graduate applications from countries around the world, 10 undergraduate and six graduate student proposals were chosen. Each winner received a US$2,500 grant.
The awards were administered by Lorlene Hoyt, executive director of the Talloires Network, and Erin Cannan, vice president for civic engagement at Bard College (in upstate New York). Speaking of OSUN’s and Talloires Network’s activities before the pandemic, Cannan says: “We’re teaching students the power of education and the power to make changes on an everyday experience.”
When the pandemic struck, she added, “It was important for us to step up and support students who are asking themselves the questions: ‘How can I make a difference?’ and ‘How can I act?’”
The six graduate student winners hail from Kenya, Chile, South Africa, Nicaragua, the United States and Bosnia.
Rose Macharia from Mount Kenya University used her prize to help fund Light & Empower, which provided solar-powered lights to 200 homes, kiosks, roadside stalls, and communal toilets and washrooms in the Kiandutu slum (near Thika, 40 km north east of Nairobi), as well as solar-powered flashlights to community security officers.
The lights will allow workers, such as vegetable cutters, to work longer hours – which means, says Macharia, who is pursuing a masters in information technology – they will earn more money. Further, she told the 8 March panel that it is important to replace the kerosene lamps that are the main source of light in the homesteads because they produce soot that damages eyes and leads to breathing problems.
“And, if you fall asleep and your son or daughter knocks it over, then you have no house the next day because the house burns to ashes,” a reality that seemed so out of kilter.
One of the aims of the COV-AID mini-grant project was to help support graduate students whose efforts at civic engagement were endangered by loss of income during the pandemic.
As Freddy Yanez Cerda, a masters student in human scale development at Universidad Austral de Chile (in Valdivia in west central Chile), explained in a short video prepared for COV-AID, because of a drop in his family’s income, his efforts to provide safe drinking water in Chile’s southern zone on the country’s west coast could not have continued were it not for the US$2,500 grant.
In addition to being a masters student, Cerda is the co-founder of Universal Project, an NGO that links technical experts with local groups needing expertise and which has operated in Kenya, Haiti and Chile. Cerda used the grant to access safer transportation, purchase supplies to maintain sanitary protocols and pay for water quality analysis.
Across the South Atlantic, COVID-caused lockdowns prevented Mutanho, a PhD student in marketing at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, from moving on with research for his thesis, “Digital and human touchpoints; trade-offs in consumer purchase process and shopping experience research.”
The proposal he made to COV-AID was to develop a series of online workshops that help SMEs (of similar size to his family’s peanut butter manufacturing company) use digital technology to market their products. Despite the problems with the electrical infrastructure, he believes that local SMEs can use digital marketing to compete successfully with multinational companies, and thus keep the profits in South Africa.
“Most people in South Africa have smartphones,” he told University World News. “They use them as phones, to access social media platforms and to do their banking.” What they are not being used for by SMEs is marketing, he says.
Funding from COV-AID allowed him to design a series of workshops to teach SMEs how to:
• Price their product.
• Showcase it on the website so that “the customer has almost physically experienced it”.
• Ethically inform the customer about the product.
• Inform the customer where the product can be purchased and if there are any promotions.
“I tell the companies that they are in niche marketing. And in a niche market, you have to service your customers before you can think of expanding into larger markets,” he says.
The products of the companies he trained (including a restaurant and vegetable oil manufacturing company) are now “well known and are competing with bigger companies”, he said with pride.
Socially sustainable business model
Saunders’ project in New Jersey, and the one that Sol Rodriguez, a masters student in applied science (forestry) at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, has undertaken in Nicaragua, are parts of significantly larger and better-financed organisations.
In 2017 Rodriguez co-founded Casa Congo, a non-profit dedicated to building community-based conservation programmes and employment in El Astillero, on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast.
In 2020 partners and donors contributed US$65,000 that funded programmes in agroecology, community development and conservation, which saved 28,500 sea turtles and planted 150,000 trees.
What most impressed Hoyt, she told University World News, was that Rodriguez “had not only developed an innovative design for sustainable housing but, also, a socially sustainable business model that includes a supply chain that supports the building of ecologically sustainable housing and provides jobs to build the local economy”.
The sustainable project Hoyt refers to is Casa Congo’s “Ku Na,” which means "house of nature" in Mayan Yucatec. The COV-AID grant allowed Ku Na to engage the community of El Astillero in the design process that, instead of gathering people together, consisted of a house-to-house survey.
Using US$200,000 raised elsewhere, this year Ku Na has constructed a treatment facility for the bamboo that will be used for the houses and a workshop where the houses will be prefabricated; both facilities will be community-owned. Rodriguez’s aim is to produce 20 homes this year, which will be given to people whose homes were destroyed in November 2020 by Hurricane Iota, and the scaling up of production to 125 next year.
Saunders’ New Blue Project was founded in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020. Saunders is an African-American from New Jersey, who is studying for a masters in public administration at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
After graduating from East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, with a degree in criminal justice, Saunders attended the police academy in Pitt County, North Carolina, and then served as a police officer in Wilson, North Carolina, for several years before returning to teach in a low-income school in Newark, New Jersey.
Designed with his one-time police partner, Brittany Nestor, New Blue is not a defund-the-police project but, instead, focuses on training equity-minded decision-makers.
Noting that on the day we spoke, 5 July 2021, a police chief in Ohio was forced out after leaving a Ku Klux Klan note on a black officer’s desk, Saunders says: “For us, it is less about power than about the next generation of police leadership. We are interested in creating the sergeants, the sheriffs, the police system leaders that are making decisions. What you see right now are some, not all, of the decision-makers without an equity mindset.”
COV-AID funds helped support the design of an online training programme that will enroll its first group this fall, aiming for 100 officers per year by 2025. Far from being a COVID-enforced compromise, Saunders says being online will help build a community of police officers from across the country who want reform but feel they are isolated.
“You might work for a small rural police department and you might see something you feel is unjust, but you don’t have the resources or the network to be able to process what just happened in front of you – much less know what’s needed to change it,” Saunders says.
Among the courses are mental health, ethics of our democracy, social skills and interaction, ally building and communities, and police history. This last is vitally important, he says, because in the police academy, cadets are taught that policing began with Sir Robert Peel’s creation of London’s Metropolitan Police in 1829 or the one in Boston nine years later.
“But that’s just not true. The first policing in America was done by men on horseback that were hunting down runaway slaves.”
For police in North Carolina, Georgia or Alabama to understand why the Black community responds to them the way it does, equity-minded police officers need to know about the generations of trauma that runs through American history, he says.
“We are not looking for officers that want to create a neutral zone,” Saunders adds, while discussing ally-building, another key component of what New Blue aims to teach police. “We are looking for officers who are actually willing to identify community problems and use their institutional power and leadership to advance the needs of the community,” as Saunders himself did when he was a police officer, in addition to arranging for youth who were incarcerated for non-violent crimes to be brought to school instead of to the juvenile magistrate.
Hoyt recalls that when she read Saunders’ proposal, “the need for us to elevate the work that he’s doing felt very important to me, given the racial reckoning moment we were in when doing the applications [during the Black Lives Matter protests following Floyd’s murder].”
Adnan Schubert’s project, the production of a 30-minute film that will document the discrimination against his ethnic group, the Roma, in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, is the most political.
Schubert, a public policy masters student at the Central European University in Vienna, will stay behind the camera, as "Voicing the Voiceless" features the faces and voices of some of the 300 remaining Roma in Banja Luka, telling their own stories of being discriminated against in employment (most are unemployed), education and social welfare.
The film will include stories of how discrimination against the Roma has increased during the pandemic; coincidentally, a month after the 8 March panel, the Open Society Foundations, the parent organisation of OSUN, published Roma in the COVID-19 Crisis: An early warning from six EU member states, which highlights, among other threats to the Roma, how “disinformation by members of the far right and others ... frames the Roma as a public health threat, reinforcing and politicising hatred."
Schubert hopes to show the film, which he calls “a lobbying instrument," to Banja Luka’s new mayor, the 28-year-old Drasko Stanivukovic, who in 2020 replaced a mayor who “was openly racist towards the Roma," Schubert said in a video prepared as part of his proposal.
“COVID represents both a tremendous challenge to universities as well as an opportunity for universities and a university network to demonstrate the characteristics which we so prize: creativity, adaptability, and resilience,” says Jonathan Becker, Executive Vice President and Vice President for academic affairs at Bard College, New York, who is also Vice-Chancellor of OSUN.
“The prizes are drawing attention to this, but are part of a larger project between the Talloires Network and the Open Society University Network to underline the importance of civic engagement for student learning and development and universities as important social actors,” he says.
In May, the newly created Open Society Research Platform (OSRP), held a talk on “Does Open Society Travel Beyond the West?”– the first in a series addressing the concept of “open society.”
Panelists Achille Mbembe (University of Witwatersrand), Hagar Kotef (SOAS University of London), Prem Kumar Rajaram (Central European University) joined discussant Christof Royer (OSRP) to unpack and explore the political and philosophical concept of “open society,” which plays a pivotal role in the missions of both OSUN and founding partner Central European University (CEU).
One underexplored aspect of "open society" is the question of whether it “travels beyond the West.” Advocates of open society often confront criticism that this “Western” concept must not be imposed on “non-Western” societies that have different traditions and value systems. Taking this counter-argument very seriously, the workshop sought to explore if the concept of “open society” is indeed haunted by the spectre of Western neo-imperialism or if it has the potential to be a powerful tool in decolonial struggles. Might “open society” even pave the way for the development of a decolonized, truly global universalism?
Unsurprisingly, the panelists had diverging views on these questions and, more generally, on any potential of “open society.” On the most basic level, all three presenters agreed that as an aspirational category, political philosopher Karl Popper’s juxtaposition of “closed” and “open” societies prompts the question of how concepts like “open society” circulate and are translated into specific contexts. One panelist warned that if we do not pay attention to these processes of circulation and translation, the value of political and philosophical concepts will remain limited, and can easily become a tool of exploitation and domination.
Nonetheless, at least one panelist saw considerable potential in employing the concept of “open society” in the quest to decolonize. Since a colonial society is by definition a closed society, a truly open society would reflexively address structures of subjugation and exploitation. A more sceptical presenter argued that the key elements of an open society – democracy, rationality, and individualism – have served as tools of colonial domination in the past. Instead, they said, solidarity and unobscured social conflict were actually more beneficial in advancing social justice.
While some speakers were highly critical of the concept of “open society,” they did not suggest jettisoning it altogether. Rather, they stressed the importance of remaining cognizant of the frequent historical abuses of philosophical and political concepts that have made them tools of colonial domination and exploitation. Thus, the underlying risks and dangers of the concept of “open society” should primarily be approached as historical and not philosophical questions.
Two panelists argued that the very question “does open society travel beyond the West?” is itself reminiscent of the European colonial project because it takes the largely imaginary concept of “the West” as its point of departure and main focus. This argument was rejected by the discussant, who said that the question instead expresses an awareness of the potential limitations of open society, challenging its assumed universality and thus confronting colonial logic. There was broad agreement that many of the fundamental values associated with the concept of “open society” (diversity, plurality, toleration) could be found in societies around the world and that such values are certainly not limited to so-called “Western” societies.
While OSRP’s first workshop encompassed a wide range of critical exchanges, it made clear that OSUN is the ideal platform for examining such questions. Ideally, the workshop served as a fruitful jumping-off point for further conversation within and beyond OSUN.
Read about the second discussion in the series, “Conflict and Polarization in Open Societies,” here.
In June, OSUN’s Open Society Research Platform (OSRP) hosted a panel discussion on “Conflict and Polarization in Open Societies,” the second in a series examining the concept of “open society” from theoretical and practical perspectives. The talks, robust spaces for critical discussion and reflection, not only focus on “open society” as a concept but also seek to conduct discussion in the spirit of “open society” as a critical attitude.
The second talk featured panelists John Thrasher (Chapman University), Giunia Gatta (Bocconi University), Adam Ramsay (openDemocracy), Renáta Uitz (Central European University), and discussant Christof Royer (OSRP).
The discussion used as its starting point the critical argument that the concept of “open society” does not actually allow for social conflict and transformative change, thus making it unclear how the idea of “open society” can contribute meaningfully to social justice. While open societies are inextricably linked to the existence of legitimate spaces for dissenting voices, controversial opinions, and the clash of different worldviews, the talk wrestled with the paradoxical fact that open societies also depend on political stability, social solidarity, and respect for democratic institutions.
Panelists examined the role of conflict and polarization in open societies and asked whether they provided existential threats or productive and progressive phenomena in such societies. They also asked if a reengagement with the concept of “open society” might help to assess conflict and polarization and their role in what is often called the “contemporary crisis of democracy.”
Each panelist approached these questions from rather different perspectives but there was broad agreement on two fundamental points: while conflict and polarization are inevitable phenomena within open societies, they can also be destructive and dangerous. Speakers expressed that the challenge, in both theory and practice, is to distinguish between productive and destructive forms of conflict. Apart from agreement on these basic points, they diverged on the drivers behind conflict and polarization.
One speaker portrayed economic inequality as the root cause of democratic backsliding. Throughout Europe, citizens have been disillusioned with politics, disappointed with its unwillingness to tackle rampant material inequality, and have, as a result, turned away from political participation. The major task, then, of an open society is to confront the problem of economic inequality and to defend open societies against those with power, while welcoming those without power. Another speaker shared this sentiment but emphasized the potential dangers of political order and stability. Arguing from a more radically democratic perspective that established a link between conflict and justice, this panelist asserted that while stability, social solidarity, and respect for democratic institutions are important values, interlocuters must be aware of who pays the price for such ideals. In many cases, the already marginalized members of a society must bear the brunt of dominating impositions of order imposed by the majority, they said. A major function of an open society, then, is to provide channels for participation and struggle for oppressed individuals and groups.
Another speaker focused on the high levels of affective polarization in the US, where an “us vs. them” mentality proliferates and a discourse of stigmatization pits one political camp against the other, inflaming healthy disagreements until they become explosive conflicts. In such an environment, the concept of “open society” can play a particularly important role by foregrounding procedural and structural elements rather than substantive values. Emphasizing the importance of preserving openness over political aims can help to harness disagreement and deescalate dangerous forms of polarization.
As with OSRP’s inaugural panel discussion, “Does Open Society Travel Beyond the West?” “Conflict and Polarization in Open Societies” elicited cautious optimism: There are good reasons to be critical of the concept of “open society” and its discourses, yet the concept also has considerable potential to be harnessed for progressive purposes.
The goal of the fellowship program is to support outstanding engagement in human rights and the arts by scholars, artists, and activists. Fellows are appointed for a one-year period to pursue their own research projects while contributing to the curriculum of the new M.A. program in Human Rights and the Arts.
Both Fattaleh and Pedraza Vargas will be in residence at Bard during the 2021-22 academic year. In addition to teaching, they will offer lectures and organize workshops at the Bard campus in New York’s Hudson Valley as part of OSUN. The fellowships further CHRA’s mission of supporting multidisciplinary and collaborative knowledge production on the intersection of human rights and the arts.
“The fellowship program allows our MA Program to complement the course offerings of our permanent faculty,” said Ziad M. Abu-Rish, the program’s director. “Nadine and Oscar are talented young researchers with daring intellectual, political, and aesthetic practices. They will explore with our students a range of investigative and documentary strategies, theoretical frameworks, and case studies that will bring the frontlines of the struggle for rights into our classrooms.”
Nadine Fattaleh is a writer and researcher from Amman, Jordan. Her work focuses on spatial practices through cartography and film. She received a B.A. in Middle East, South Asian and African Studies from Columbia University, and a M.S. in Critical, Curatorial and Conceptual Practices in Architecture at Columbia GSAPP. She previously worked on projects at Columbia’s Center for Spatial Research and Studio-X Amman, as well as the MMAG Foundation, Amman. Fattaleh describes her practice as “using the map to render visible structures of oppression in flagrant contradiction with human rights,” while also “remaining attentive to the realities of everyday life and the need to listen to the voices of activists and advocates that are inevitably silenced by the abstractions of data and visual representation.” Her research at Bard will concern issues of food sovereignty and agrarian rights in the Arab World.
Oscar Humberto Pedraza Vargas is a historian and anthropologist with a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from CUNY Graduate Center and a BA In Anthropology and MA in Social Anthropology from Universidad de Los Andes. He has worked extensively with grassroots movements associated with indigenous, farmer, labor, and victim communities in Colombia and Latin America. Pedraza Vargas specializes in the analysis of transnational human rights institutions, discourses, and practices that define the value of life and death in cases of coal-related violence in Colombia, Germany, and the United Kingdom. He has also served as a main researcher for a collaboration between Forensic Architecture and the Colombian Truth Commission. During his fellowship at Bard, Pedraza Vargas will produce work for a book and an exhibition on the Truth Commission. He will also write several articles addressing technological and aesthetic approaches to producing evidence of environmental violence and war in situations where information is missing or difficult to detect. His courses will be informed by his experience mediating between a justice institution and an academic/artistic research group.
“Nadine and Oscar embody the scholar-activist-artist nexus. Their research and praxis on spatial justice, truth and reconciliation, and food justice are of particular relevance to CHRA’s programming. We are pleased to support their research while they inspire our students, faculty, and the public,” said Tania El Khoury, Director of the OSUN Center for Human Rights and The Arts at Bard College.
Details on the MA Program in Human Rights and the Arts and other CHRA activities can be found at www.chra.bard.edu.
Hubs partners work to expand access to higher education for students in areas affected by crisis and displacement through the delivery of contextualized and technically innovative connected learning opportunities.
Rebecca Granato, Director of the Hubs and Associate Vice President for Global Initiatives, Bard College, gave the introduction and Arash Bordbar, Associate Education Officer, UNHCR, moderated the panel of five students. Panelists included Simon Rutarondwas, of the OSUN Hub in East Africa; Olivia Issa and Miriam Cing, co-chairs of Student Voices for Refugees (SVR); and Ella Ininahazwe and Ehab Badwis, Global Leads for the Tertiary Refugee Students Network (TRSN). Over 70 participants from across the network tuned in.
Citing the alarming statistic of only 3% of refugees being able to access higher education, as compared to the global average of 37%, panelists highlighted the urgent need for more college-level opportunities for displaced youth. The speakers from TRSN and SVR discussed their institutions’ response to the crisis and how they used global advocacy to identify pathways for refugee learners to successfully navigate access to higher education.
Students on the panel spoke in depth about the unique barriers refugee youth face in accessing higher education. These include practical obstacles, such as lack of access to a strong internet connection, laptops, or mobile phones, as well as a dearth of information on higher education opportunities. Panelists explained that these factors contribute greatly to a high dropout rate among refugee learners.
Speakers also pointed out how important it is for better-served students from across the globe to mobilize in support of expanding refugee access to higher education opportunities. Sharing information about higher education opportunities with refugee students is helpful, as many lack an understanding of the relation of education to the improvement of their livelihoods, they said. The speakers also emphasized that student groups could advocate with faculty and administration to promote opportunities for refugees at their institutions.
Miriam Cing, of SVR, explained that college students across the globe could support refugees who have settled in their institutions by helping to orient them culturally so they might better understand challenging new academic environments. Cing, a refugee herself, emphasized that culture shock is a leading factor in refugees not succeeding as students.
Panelists not only explained the diverse challenges many refugee students face in connecting to higher education but also provided practical examples of what students in less precarious situations could do to improve access for all.
Global Engagement Fellows are undergraduate students from across the network who are selected for their interest in and commitment to civic engagement. Fellows promote and coordinate civic engagement projects with other students on their campus, lead workshops in project management and development, and help to coordinate the annual Get Engaged: Student Action and Youth Leadership Conference.
This talented and ambitious set of fellows was chosen based upon their leadership skills and the development of their own community-based projects.
Welcome to the new Global Fellows:
Ahmed Omar Abdi (Dadaab Refugee Camp, Kenya)
Amina Ahmed (American University of Central Asia ’23)
Sundus Al Fararja (Al Quds Bard College ’23)
Abdul Walid Azizi (American University of Central Asia ’22)
Nelo Dlamini (Central European University ’25)
Mohamed Omar Farah (Dadaab Refugee Camp, Kenya)
Wisdom Tochi Kalu (Ashesi University ’22)
Lorraine Makuyana (Ashesi University ’22)
Several of the outgoing Global Engagement Fellows shared words of wisdom for the incoming class. Most discussed how the program helped them to elicit and nurture the skills needed to transform their aspirations into actions benefiting their communities. Their guidance centered on meeting inevitable challenges by remaining flexible and drawing on the support of their fellow travelers.
Viktar Filipenka (European Humanities University ’21):
“I'll quote Samuel Beckett: ‘Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better.’ Communicate and cooperate; that's the way.”
Oceanne Fry (Bard College Berlin ’21):
“Take your time planning, budgeting, and scheduling before diving in. At the same time, once your project or event gets going, don't be afraid of last minute changes and necessary adaptations to unexpected factors.”
Adeeb Hadi (Bard College Berlin ’21):
“My advice is to remember that the limit of creativity is the sky and the road is long. Do not expect your path to be easy, but your persistence will lift you up.”
Wisdom Tochi Kalu (Ashesi University ’22):
“The journey of civic engagement will not be smooth and there will be times when you'll doubt everything. Don't be scared when those days come because resilience, like an anchor, will hold you firm.”
Shadin Nassar (Al Quds Bard College ’21):
“In a world where the issues are clear but the solutions are not, my advice to this diverse group of leaders is to see challenges as opportunities. Strive to establish an environment of continuous improvement by putting new ideas into action and working together to empower others so they can cultivate civic engagement projects that are crucial for societal development.”
Our thanks and congratulations go out to all of the 2020–21 Global Engagement Fellows, who exhibited unwavering determination and commitment to civic engagement during a very challenging year. Not only did their efforts produce real community impact, but they set the bar high and inspired a new group of Fellows who will build their own impressive collaborations.
Solve Climate by 2030, led by Eban Goodstein, Director of the Bard College Center for Environmental Policy, is an initiative focused on globally coordinated climate education. The project creates and promotes templates for educational initiatives, highlighting ambitious local and regional climate solutions, and ways in which students and other citizens can engage with communities to support these solutions.
At the AESS event, educators from Universidad de los Andes (Colombia), Central European University (Lithuania), BRAC University (Bangladesh), University of Rhode Island (US), and the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (Thailand), will discuss their participation in the Solve Climate project and how it enhanced efforts to expand teaching about climate solutions and climate justice. The opening plenary panel will be followed by a virtual discussion where all conference participants can communicate with the speakers.
During the panel, Goodstein will describe how the initiative organized more than 110 Global Dialogs that reached more than 15,000 students across the globe in April 2021. He will also talk about the #MakeClimateAClass campaign, which enlists faculty to assign their students to watch local Global Dialog webinars and then follow up with a class discussion using subject-specific teacher guides.
Goodstein also plans to inform AESS members on how they can get involved in the Worldwide Teach-In on Climate and Justice on March 30, 2022, where over 1,000 colleges, universities, high schools, and K-8 schools around the world will engage over half a million people in a 24-hour seminar on climate solutions and justice during the transition.
The list of OSUN speakers participating in the June 28 panel includes:
Solve Climate by 2030 overview – Eban Goodstein, Bard College Center for Environmental Policy, New York, US
Solve Climate by 2030 in Latin America – Felipe Castro, Carla Panyella and Sofia Garces, Centro ODS para América Latina y el Caribe, Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Solve Climate by 2030 in Central Europe – Michael LaBelle and Dora Almassy, Central European University, Vienna, Austria
Solve Climate by 2030 in the US - Ann Salzarulo-McGuigan and Norbert Mundorf, Harrington School of Communication and Media, University of Rhode Island, US
Solve Climate by 2030 in Bangladesh - Philipe Foret, Masnoon Khair and Ayesha Abdullah, BRAC University, Bangladesh
The central question the Council of Europe asks in the study is “What role do the fundamental values of higher education play in the framework and practice of quality assurance?”
The inquiry involves case studies of 49 European Higher Education Area (EHEA) member states, investigating the regulatory frameworks and practices of external quality assurance agencies that have been included in the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education, along with a meta-analysis at the overall level of the EHEA.
The country case study approach will enable a precise understanding of the concrete consequences of quality assurance procedures where fundamental values are and are not respected. The approach will also look at interconnectedness between the overall national policies towards higher education and quality assurance procedures.
Questions to be addressed include “Are there concrete provisions sanctioning the lack of respect of academic freedom by the institutions that are being evaluated? How is the participation of students and staff reflected in the evaluation procedures? Is accreditation affected by the lack of respect of fundamental values?”
The fundamental values of higher education are understood as being those outlined in the 2020 Rome Communiqué of the EHEA: institutional autonomy, academic freedom and integrity, participation of students and staff in higher education governance, and public responsibility for and of higher education.
The interconnectedness between higher education and democracy has been gaining importance in the last few years, in the midst of a burgeoning crisis of academic freedom throughout the EHEA. Identifying the existing and potential links between the quality assurance processes and fundamental values will help establish the status of those values and also help generate a variety of possible approaches for challenging them.
GOAF’s commitment to the fundamental values of Higher Education and the Yehuda Elkana Center’s extensive record of research on and evaluation of quality assurance will all greatly enhance the study, which is expected to be finalized by the end of 2021.
On May 9, 2021, the newly established OSUN Executive Education Hub at Central European University launched an innovative and comprehensive program for university administrators to explore precisely how to tackle these issues. The ExEd Hub was founded and launched by the Open Society University Network and CEU in 2021, inspired by their open society mission.
The Global Professional Development Program for University Administrators seeks to improve the management capacity and practices at universities in the OSUN network and beyond, while promoting OSUN values among the higher education administrators and institutions. The courses are designed for students and practitioners across multiple campuses to ensure educational opportunities regardless of geographical location.
The professional development program for university administrators offers a total of four courses tailored for staff in managerial roles in OSUN member institutions: Strategic and Inclusive Management of Higher Education Institutions, Advancing the Frontiers of Knowledge: Building and Supporting Research Excellence at Universities (started June 2021), Managing Community Engagement of Universities (starts Fall 2021), Managing International Cooperation in a Global Classroom: Maximizing the Impact of Mobility Programs for Universities, Researchers and Students (starts Fall 2021).
The first intensive course offered in this framework was Strategic and Inclusive Management of Higher Education Institutions, led by Dr. Pusa Nastase. Throughout the course, participants developed a critical understanding of advanced contemporary theories in higher education administration, access policies, diversity, and the expansion of university mission and reflected on how these can be applied to their own contexts.
Participants received a Certificate of Professional Development after successfully completing the course. At a later stage, the Certificate can be counted towards the comprehensive Certificate Program for University Administrators, which aims to fill a gap in training opportunities for this professional group.
The course received high ratings from participants, who commended the blend of lectures with internationally renowned guest speakers in each module, enriching each lesson with the learnings of experienced practitioners.
Reflecting on his experience in the course, Stephen Mucher, Director of Teacher Credentialing at UC Berkeley and Senior Education Advisor, Bard MAT, stated that “I came in really wanting to know about OSUN and to actualize project ideas coinciding with a semester spent in Nairobi and in Rwanda while working on refugee workshops for teachers. The course helped me process my on-the-ground learning experiences and introduced me to colleagues from other institutions asking similar questions. I very much enjoyed the course.”
Find out more about the course series here: Overview | ExEd Hub (ceu.edu) and for further information, contact Pusa Nastase, the Global Professional Development Program Lead.
In the final year of their undergraduate studies, students from universities and colleges connected to the OSUN global network produce senior projects and theses. During the last week of May, a number of these students came together for panel discussions about particular themes their projects shared. Students from institutions ranging from BRAC University in Bangladesh to Bard College Annandale and from American University of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan to Ashesi University in Ghana presented in-depth research and potential solutions for a diverse set of issues focused on the areas of arts and society; global public health; democratic practice; inequalities; sustainability and climate; and human rights.
One virtual panel discussion on May 25 focused on human rights projects and was moderated by Kerry Bystrom, Associate Professor of English and Human Rights at Bard College Berlin. Students discussed case studies based in their countries of origin, ranging from immigration in the US and domestic violence in Belarus and Lithuania to anti-Black racism in China and longstanding human rights abuses in Israel-Palestine. Each presenter made illuminating insights on the ways in which restrictive national legal regimes can be used to institutionalize domestic hierarchies that encroach upon the rights of groups defined by race, gender, migratory and health status, or other categories. Remedies for breaking down such hierarchies were also provided. Watch an edited video of the panel here.
“The Geographical and Spatial Transition of Arab Palestinian Land to Jewish-Israeli National Land,” by Shadin Nassar from Al-Quds Bard in Palestine, focused on the protracted military occupation of Palestine by Israel. Nassar's study drew a detailed account of how Israel manipulated pre-occupation era land laws and then enacted additional laws to legalize the appropriation of Arab land for the creation of an ethnic Jewish state. Nasser said that this legal shift constituted a violation of international human rights law and that acknowledgment of the settler-colonialism at the heart of such “land grabs” was necessary before Palestinian sovereignty could be restored.
“The Myth of Immigrant America and the Federalization of Immigration Control,” by James Kim from Bard College Annandale, focused on the false narratives surrounding immigration to the United States. Kim claimed that the US does not really have an “immigrant crisis” but such a perception has been fostered by the federal government so it could create massive immigration bureaucracies for the purpose of acquiring and centralizing power.
“Personal Data Protection Under EU Law: Special Categories of Data,” by Katsiaryna Pushkarova from the European Humanities University (EHU) in Vilnius, Lithuania, gave an in-depth analysis of the evolution of national data protection in European Union nations. Pushkarova said that in an era of unprecedented flows of digital data to government centers, some categories of data, such as information on race, political opinions, sexual orientation, and health are vulnerable to rights exploitation. Legal protections in the EU are highly effective but additional laws are needed to safeguard the collection of such sensitive data, she said, adding that the COVID crisis has exacerbated this problem.
“International Legal Standards for Combating Domestic Violence against Women and their Implementation in the Republic of Belarus and the Republic of Lithuania,” by Konashava Viktoryia, also from EHU, highlighted domestic violence as an immense national and international problem. She emphasized the importance of applying international legal standards to domestic laws to effectively combat gender-based abuse.
“No One Cares: African Migrants’ Lives in Cultural Discrimination. Misrepresentation of Blacks in China,” by Jijun Emily Chen from the American University of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan, examined the systemic biases African migrants face in China. Chen said that anti-Black racism in China is upheld by discriminatory government messaging and media representations. She did a content analysis of Chinese social media and government resources and found many examples of negative depictions of Africans, including portraying them as criminals or undocumented migrants. Chen said potential solutions should include enacting anti-racist regulations and using social media messaging to catalyze public support for such measures.
“Corrupted Credibility and Asylum on the Systematically Overwhelmed Aegean Hotspots,” was presented by Océanne Fry from Bard College Berlin, who worked as a translator on the Greek islands of Lesbos and Samos, assisting asylees who migrated from the Middle East and Africa. Fry's research revealed that the high volume of rejected asylum seekers at the EU border were due to EU governments’ systemic mistrust of such migrants and disbelief in their individual stories. In order to support migrants’ rights, she advocated for a massive reconsideration of the flawed EU-Turkey deal, which pays Turkey to relocate migrants, as well as giving applicants advance notice of the criteria necessary for asylum.
Each project used thorough research and convincing arguments to successfully demonstrate how national legal systems can be used to restrict human rights and enforce domestic biases. Students also proposed valuable and insightful potential solutions for correcting such abuses. OSUN congratulates the human rights panelists and all the senior project presenters in the series for the high levels of rigor and scholarly analysis they committed to their projects.
Sofia Sapega is a Russian citizen studying International Law and European Union Law at EHU. Sapega was returning to Vilnius from a holiday break in Athens with her boyfriend Roman Protasevich, an exiled dissident journalist from Belarus. As a result of a special operation by Belarusian authorities targeting Protasevich, Sapega was also taken into custody.
EHU reports that Sapega was detained by the Administration of the Investigative Committee for the city of Minsk on baseless charges.
EHU and OSUN call on international partners, donors, and human rights defenders to appeal to the government of Belarus to cease the unjustified detention of Sapega. EHU and OSUN also call on Belarusian authorities to honor Belarus’ international human rights obligations ensuring the rights and freedoms of citizens, rights which are also guaranteed by the Constitution of Belarus.
OSUN stands in solidarity with all illegally detained Belarusians and those under unprecedented political persecution.
Read EHU’s full statement on the detention of Sofia Sapega here.
Summer courses in 2020 proved to be popular, so the number of new courses on this year’s roster has increased, with classes offered in four OSUN thematic areas of Democratic Practice; Inequalities, Global Public Health, and Sustainability; Human Rights and Global Justice; and Arts and Society.
Courses range from “Economics: Democratizing Work after the Pandemic” (Bard College Annandale); “Nations, Nationalism, and Rights” (Al-Quds Bard College) and “Extractive Industries Law, Environmental Protection, and Sustainability” (American University of Central Asia) to “Surveillance and Privacy” (Central European University); “Global Policy Making” (Ashesi University) and “Global and Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Disability” (McGill University).
Additional courses are also offered at the CEU Summer University (SUN) program and many courses have extended the deadline to apply. The CEU courses are geared toward advanced undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and junior faculty, as well as professionals, policymakers and civil society activists seeking to build their knowledge, skills, and cross-sectoral global networks in a variety of areas across the social sciences and humanities.
Apply by May 26, 2021
Access the 2021 OSUN Summer Course Listing here.
Find out about extended deadlines for CEU Summer University courses here.
“As a center focused on exploring and advancing the intersection of human rights and the arts, we add our voice to the international mobilizations among human rights organizations, art institutions, and practitioners to call for an end to the decades-long systematic violations of the Palestinian people’s human rights,” said Ziad Abu-Rish, Director of the MA Program in Human Rights and the Arts at Bard College and moderator of the discussion. Abu-Rish was joined by Munir Nusseibeh, Assistant Professor of Law, AQU; Rana Hajjaj, Program Manager, AQB; and Saida Hamad, Head of Media Studies, AQB.
“Palestine is at the heart of debates and advocacy about human rights as well as the arts, so it was only logical to invite colleagues from AQB and AQU to share their perspectives and to amplify their voices,” he added. “We see them and we stand with them.”
One speaker explained how local Palestinian activists are “reclaiming the Palestinian narrative” by centering human rights terminology and comparative historical frameworks, drawing attention to the recent reports by Palestinian, Israeli, and international human rights organizations that have claimed Israeli government policies toward Palestinians amount to apartheid.
They also pointed out that the broad reach of social media platforms greatly magnified these activists’ messaging, allowing solidarity movements around the world to amplify their voices and narratives. Accordingly, a new generation of digital activists in Palestine and globally are actively refuting traditional Western mass media messaging on Israel-Palestine. The speaker highlighted the politics of terminology, a key terrain of struggle between traditional and social media, such as choosing between “evictions” and “ethnic cleansing” or “conflict” and “settler colonialism.”
Panelists also provided legal contexts and historical background, including that of Israel’s occupation and annexation of East Jerusalem since 1967, pointing to the forced removal of Palestinian residents. One speaker explained the particular context of Sheikh Jarrah, the East Jerusalem neighborhood that has become a focal point of such dynamics and international media attention. Another speaker pinpointed the role of international actors, most notably the British Empire and the US government in facilitating first, the establishment of Israel, and then, Israeli policies toward Palestinians.
Upon closing, panelists asked the more than 100 attendees to further educate themselves and their students in order to actively ally with the faculty and students of AQB and AQU.
Matei, a professor of higher education policy who has taught at universities in Romania, Hungary, Austria and the US, co-leads OSUN’s Global Observatory on Academic Freedom with Milica Popović, Visiting Researcher at CEU’s Yehuda Elkana Center for Higher Education, CEU. Matei says that the worldwide reach of OSUN’s institutional partnerships is the defining feature that enables its education, research, and civic engagement opportunities to speak to the most urgent concerns about open societies in today’s rapidly shifting academic and political landscapes.
As contemporary challenges to the freedoms and responsibilities of universities expand and contract across the globe, the Observatory engages in global research and advocacy activities that promote academic freedom. It also publishes an annual report documenting both the positive and negative trends in the field.
Importantly, the Observatory seeks to promote a new, up-to-date and adapted conceptualization of academic freedom that institutions and influential actors worldwide are embracing. While it examines empirical practices and intellectual understandings of the concept, the Observatory also scrutinizes the range of political and institutional interpretations of it, with the goal of locating or building consensus.
How academics and governments understand academic freedom is a major question the project pursues, according to Matei, with a focus “not just on China and Russia, but also on France, the EU and the US.”
“Whether one looks to higher-education policies or within universities themselves, there simply is no shared definition of the concept (of academic freedom), nor any common recognition of why it is currently needed,” writes Matei in a recent article in Project Syndicate on “The West’s Crisis of Academic Freedom.”
Alarmingly, that lack of an intellectual consensus on academic freedom within European higher education institutions has created “a situation that is used and abused by political powers,” said Matei recently during the project’s first public event, a roundtable discussion with several leading academics and human rights specialists at the Yehuda Elkana Center for Higher Education, CEU.
Politicians in the EU, UK or the US are increasingly condemning and attempting to stifle research in academic fields that challenge their own agendas, writes Matei. He gives the example of France’s minister of higher education, Frédérique Vidal, who has accused French universities of promoting “Islamo-leftism.” He cites as further evidence of governmental overreach Vidal’s arguably disingenuous claim that an official probe into the academic field of postcolonial studies in France was necessary to protect against potential acts of terror.
One remedy Matei suggests is the formulation of a common regional reference for academic freedom that draws on prior human rights standards, such as the 1975 Helsinki Accords. He also supports a shift from approaching European higher education as purely a scientific or rational practice to seeing it more as a social practice that is open to the influence of many different types of people and experiences.
With the launch of the OSUN Global Observatory on Academic Freedom, and its rigorous standards for academic research, analysis, and documentation, Matei and his colleagues are striving to map the various interpretations of academic freedom that are embraced by educators and governments across the globe. Equipped with this knowledge, they hope to lay the foundation for an allied “intellectual resistance” against forces that would erode open societies and the free flow of ideas worldwide. Judging by the caliber of the Observatory’s recent efforts, the project is fully equipped to meet the challenge.
The Best Film Award went to “Sirens” by Alina Asylbekova from American University of Central Asia and the Audience Award went to “8 de Marzo” by Ariela Madera from Bard College Annandale.
“Sirens” is a graphic retelling of the Greek myth about the supernatural creatures with bewitching voices whose vanity led to their downfall. “8 de Marzo” is an experimental documentary combining footage of the March 8, 2021 Women’s March in Quito, Ecuador with commentary from various women describing experiences where they felt most vulnerable and most empowered.
Filmmakers had the opportunity to screen their films for a broad international audience and hailed from several OSUN partner campuses, including American University of Central Asia, European Humanities University, and American University in Bulgaria. All of the films can be viewed here.
A small team of students from Bard College Berlin organized the festival, including Adeeb Hadi, who served as festival director; Maya Abdulqader as festival coordinator; Khalil Hamood as communications director; and Shana Shabazz as social media manager. OSUN congratulates all of the student filmmakers and organizers for their impressive efforts.
Thinking About the Intersection Between Human Rights and the Arts
In early 2021, Tania El Khoury and Ziad Abu-Rish relocated from Beirut to spearhead the Center for Human Rights and the Arts at Bard College.
by Katie Kheriji-Watts
The artist Tania El Khoury has written that she is “on a constant quest to find political meaning in the artistic form.” Her installations and performances — many of which are collaborative, interactive, and site specific — have focused on a wide range of subjects, including the refugee experience, state violence, and the long history of power outages in her home country of Lebanon. She groups her multifaceted work under the label of “live art,” which the Live Art Development Agency describes as a framing device (rather than an art form or discipline) for a wide variety of experiences that embody new ways of thinking about “what art is, what it can do, and where and how it can be experienced.”
In early 2021, El Khoury and her partner, the historian Ziad Abu-Rish, relocated from Beirut to New York’s Hudson Valley to jointly spearhead a new master’s program and the Center for Human Rights and the Arts at Bard College, in collaboration with longtime faculty members Thomas Keenan and Gideon Lester. Since mid-March, the team has premiered their first digital commission, launched a series of virtual talks, and begun actively recruiting its first cohort of international graduate students.
The two-year, interdisciplinary MA plans to host in-person classes at Bard’s Annandale-on-Hudson campus and welcomes “current and aspiring activists, artists, and researchers” who are committed to “understanding, exploring, and furthering the growing encounter between human rights and the arts.” The center, part of the Open Society University Network, aims to explore how today’s artists, especially those who work outside of hegemonic institutions, can impact contemporary politics. Its initial month of public programming featured the Congolese choreographer Faustin Linkyekula; Emily Johson, a performer, director, and land protector of of Yup’ik ancestry; and Lorenzo Pezanni and Charles Heller, a research duo behind the project “Forensic Oceanography.”
I recently spoke to El Khoury and Abu-Rish about their aims for the center and master’s program and how their work over the last 15 years has led them to this point.
Katie Kheriji-Watts: You two moved from Beirut to upstate New York in early 2021, after a year that was particularly traumatizing in both Lebanon and the United States. What was that like?
Tania El Khoury: We arrived just after the American presidency changed and we felt hopeful, especially related to border policies that would affect us and our friends, families, and colleagues.
It was a massive change for us. In Beirut, the situation continues to deteriorate drastically. I feel relieved that we survived last year, especially the explosion, because a lot of people didn’t. But I also have a sense of guilt, knowing that some people close to us, who would like to leave the country and see a brighter future, are stuck.
Ziad Abu-Rish: Things are very bleak in Lebanon right now and many are feeling hopelessness and despair. The political, economic, and public health situation is increasingly uncertain. There’s no trust in the government.
TEK: And a total lack of accountability and justice.
KK-W: Speaking of institutional accountability, the new center and master’s program you are co-directing seeks to look “beyond art institutions and nonprofit organization industries.” Why is this so important?
TEK: We want to look beyond institutionalized venues — like universities, museums, and galleries — to support and be inspired by art that happens elsewhere. Not to exclude people who work in a traditional setup, but to not to be lazy with our curation. Same with activists. We want to look at a community level that’s rarely taken seriously in academia or in the art world.
ZA-R: A lot of scholarly research, teaching, and funding ends up reproducing existing institutions. And so, in thinking about the intersection between human rights and the arts, we want to look for it in places that rarely get a light shone on them, and to highlight and better understand them. There’s no naïveté about our own position as an institution funded by the Open Society Foundations, but there is an awareness of how to be more critical and not reproduce certain dynamics.
KK-W: Tania, how does it feel for you to go from being an independent artist to, quote unquote, become the institution?
TEK: So far it feels like an extension of my work, like one of the many collaborative art projects that I’ve been a part of. I enjoy bringing the point of view of an artist, which is often not fully understood by institutions when they don’t have artists in leadership roles. I’m trying to create an ethical environment in which artists feel comfortable and supported.
ZA-R: We’re very fortunate that we’re not integrating a pre-existing institution where there are constraints that are not of our own making. We’re building this institution from the bottom up in terms of who’s involved, who it targets, how it uses its money, and what we want to do with it.
KK-W: Speaking of what you’re building, I was wondering if each of you could point to a defining moment in your lives that really brought together for you, in a concrete way, how the arts and the principles of human rights interact with each other.
TEK: I’ve realized that the research I do is not just for sharing with my audience, but to produce knowledge that can be (and has been) used by journalists and activists to shift power dynamics. I’m inclined towards work that not only shares political opinion, but is also a research engine and tool to change narratives.
I’m part of a collective in Beirut called Dictaphone Group, which does a combination of live art and multidisciplinary research on urban space. We’ve done site-specific performances about, for example, the privatization of the seashore in Beirut, which wasn’t really understood before. And we’ve noticed that the conversation shifts when people change their relationship to public space and learn new information.
In my solo work, I made an interactive installation, “Gardens Speak,” based on 10 oral histories from people in Syria who were killed at the beginning of the revolution and buried in their gardens. A book was also published as part of the project, and it can be used to remember ordinary people’s stories of how the Syrian civil war started.
ZA-R: The turning point for me was really my encounter with Tania and her work. As someone who researches the social, cultural, and political history of Lebanon, I saw that Dictaphone Group was able to unearth histories that scholars had no idea were in existence, or were barely able to touch the surface of, because they had a very particular way of trying to approach their topic or subject matter.
I went to a festival in which Tania was performing her show Jarideh. It’s a one-on-one performance in public space that brings up questions of state surveillance, counterterrorism policies, and racial profiling. I saw how audience members were embodying issues that I might be able to write about or lecture on, but it was through the artistic encounter that they were able to get a visceral understanding of some of these dynamics. That, I thought, was much more powerful than what a text or a lecture could deliver.
KK-W: Ziad, you’re a scholar of the modern Middle East and North Africa and, Tania, a lot of your research explores the intertwining of art and politics outside of the West. How have these positions and topics informed your joint vision for the center and the master’s?
TEK: The center is targeted to a worldwide audience because it’s sponsored by the Open Society University Network, the aim of which is to find ways for various organizations, the majority of which are in the global south, to collaborate together. To me, it feels natural because I’ve always worked in and with people from different contexts.
ZA-R: Tania’s experience touring internationally has given us real knowledge of many artist and activist networks, which has been helpful in making sure that we don’t gravitate towards the “usual suspects” when we think of who to study, commission, or invite. So this has been at the core of our vision: to bring together, elevate, and better understand the practices of activists and artists in different parts of the world at the intersection of human rights and the arts.
We held a virtual information session for prospective applicants and we had people from Venezuela, Russia, the UK, South Asia, and different parts of the US. Some of them are artists, some are activists who have never created a work of art, and others want to be scholars and eventually enroll in a PhD program. I think this shows that our vision of how to bring together different types of practitioners around a single theme or topic is starting out successfully.
KK-W: You plan on commissioning digital work and curating a public program that highlights technology as a “creative tool of resistance.” What does this mean for you in the context of surveillance capitalism?
ZA-R: Your question makes me think, for example, of the fact that Facebook is collecting data left, right, and center, and using it to shape our political discourse and silence certain people while elevating others. So, while we will post announcements on social media, we don’t hold events on those platforms, which a lot of organizations do.
We’re still thinking about how to be digitally accessible without reinforcing problematic dynamics. It’s important because, in certain places, participating virtually in some of our events is safer than participating in-person would be.
TEK: We’ve also been inspired by the fact that, because of the pandemic, experiencing art online has become more accessible to people who would have been otherwise excluded because of geography, money, and even language. We don’t want to focus only on programming that can be seen by people who can travel and who are mobile.
KK-W: What is the single most important thing you want students to graduate from the master’s program having learned or understood?
TEK: For me, it’s two things: taking the multidisciplinary seriously as a tool for social and political change and taking your practice seriously.
ZA-R: I want them to understand that there are many different ways that advocacy for human rights and artistic practices intersect and to not simplify that encounter.
Tania always says that “it’s not enough to have a political opinion.” You have to take seriously the political potential or effect of your work, and that requires intentionality. Just because you claim to be doing human rights and the arts, doesn’t mean that you’re doing good. In fact, you could be doing harm depending on how you’re conducting yourself, producing work, or engaging communities. And that means taking seriously that it’s not enough to want to do good. You also have to make sure you’re not doing harm. Because there are ways in which human rights frameworks and discourses and practices have exacerbated violence and vulnerabilities. And there are ways in which art has not been emancipatory, but has actually been silencing, repressive, and deeply problematic.
Bard College student Sonita Alizada has been awarded the 2021 Freedom Prize in recognition of her international advocacy to end forced marriage. Alizada is a 24-year-old rapper and human rights activist from Afghanistan and a sophomore at Bard College. She was chosen by 5,683 young people from 86 countries to receive the prize, which carries an award of €25,000 to support her work. The Freedom Prize, organized by the Normandy for Peace Initiative in the Normandy Region of France, recognizes an inspiring young person committed to an exemplary fight for freedom. Alizada is the third Freedom Prize laureate. The prize was awarded in 2019 to Greta Thunberg for her fight for climate justice and to Loujain Al Hathloul in 2020 for her fight for women's rights in Saudi Arabia. Normandy for Peace will present the award at the Normandy World Peace Forum in Abbaye-aux-Dames in Caen, Normandy, June 3–4, 2021.
An international panel of judges selected three Freedom Prize finalists from 251 applications in February. The panel comprised 30 young people of 17 different nationalities. Alizada was selected in addition to Agnes Chow, Hong Kong pro-democracy leader, and Omar Radi, a Moroccan investigative journalist. The Freedom Prize then invited young people aged 15 to 25 to vote for their favorite finalist by April 25.
Sonita Alizada was born in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. At the age of 10, her family sold her into forced marriage, but the contract fell through. Her family fled the war in Afghanistan for Iran, where they lived as undocumented refugees. In Tehran, an NGO provided Alizada with access to education and a cleaning job. Her family tried again to sell her when she was 16, but she resisted. When Alizada stumbled upon a song by the rapper Eminem, she had an artistic breakthrough. She began writing to tell her story and to speak out against forced marriage and the plight of millions of children around the world. Her first single, “Daughters for Sale,” garnered worldwide attention. Having moved to the United States, she is now a Human Rights major studying law at Bard College. She plans to become a lawyer and to return to her country to defend Afghan women and children.
Alizada’s story is the subject of the award-winning documentary Sonita, directed by Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2016. Alizada has addressed the United Nations and other global forums to advocate against the practice of forced child marriage. She has been named as one of Foreign Policy Magazine’s Global Thinkers of 2015, the BBC’s 100 Women of 2015, an Asia Societies Game Changer of 2017, a 2018 MTV Generation Change Award recipient, Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2019, and has been featured by CNN, NPR, BBC, Buzzfeed and over 150 publications in 20 countries.
About the Freedom Prize
The Freedom Prize is an educational initiative that aims to raise awareness of freedom, peace, and human rights, inspired by the values of the D-Day landings of June 6, 1944 in Normandy, France.
The Freedom Prize invites young people aged 15 to 25 from France and around the world to choose an inspiring person or organization committed to an exemplary fight for freedom. What makes the prize unique is that it involves young people at each stage: from the proposals submitted to the international panel of judges, to the final selection of the winner.
Organized by the Normandy for Peace Initiative, implemented with the International Institute of Human Rights and Peace, in partnership with the academic authorities of Normandy and the Canopé network, the Freedom Prize pays tribute to all those who have fought and continue to fight for this ideal.
Over half of the webinars were international—streaming from Argentina, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Palestine, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Rwanda, South Africa, Serbia, Singapore, Taiwan, UK, and Uruguay—with another 48 streaming from the US. Over 350 student and faculty volunteer organizers were engaged worldwide, along with over 50 university media professionals and over 300 climate experts.
While OSUN provided vital support for the project’s co-director, web design, video production, translation and internship roles, its regional coordinators in Latin America (Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá), Central Europe (Central European University in Vienna), the Middle East (Al-Quds Bard in Palestine), and South Asia (BRAC in Bangladesh) successfully organized multiple events in each area, attracting a myriad of viewers.
Universidad de los Andes reported that over 450 people attended its dialog on interdisciplinary climate courses while Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla, Colombia logged over 1,000 viewers on YouTube. Network partner the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, had 100 attendees for its webinar and Universitas Indonesia reported that over 650 people tuned in to hear a panel discussion by Indonesian government and civil society climate experts. Al-Quds Bard’s dialog with speakers from Palestine, Iran, and Turkey attracted viewers from throughout the Middle East and as far as Europe and the US.
The Social Media for Climate Activism online internship greatly expanded Solve Climate’s virtual imprint, with over 100 students participating, representing 25 countries and collectively building more than two-dozen social media accounts on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok. Regional accounts in Latin America, the US, Bangladesh, and Russia produced a large quantity of engaging digital content, driving sign-ups for the #MakeClimateAClass pledge, which encouraged faculty to devote one class period to discussing climate change solutions.
Eban Goodstein, project leader and director of Bard College's Center for Environmental Policy, aims to greatly augment the project next year. “As COVID recedes, we hope to expand beyond webinars, to a WorldWide Teach-in on Climate and Justice involving students at hundreds of universities and high schools across the globe. Our OSUN partners are leading the outreach to make this possible.”
If the positive response that occurred this year under COVID constraints is any indication, Solve Climate by 2030 has a promising decade ahead.
What does it mean to be civically engaged? At the beginning of the eighth annual Get Engaged: Student Action and Youth Leadership Conference last weekend, Jonathan Becker, Vice Chancellor of the Open Society University Network (OSUN) and Director of the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) at Bard College, posed this simple yet powerful question to over 150 undergraduate students from sixteen institutions.
Over two days, student leaders explored the question by attending a jam-packed weekend of workshops, presentations, and activities sponsored by OSUN and CCE and offering a range of ideas and experiences to help develop their community leadership skills. The large group of students in attendance drew on a wide variety of backgrounds, experiences and interests, representing OSUN’s broad global network of institutions that stretch from Berlin to Taiwan.
This year’s theme, “Learning Resiliency and Unity Beyond Borders,” was particularly apt, as the conference took place remotely for the second year, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Despite interactions being limited to Zoom sessions, student leaders and innovators still managed to strengthen connections among their colleagues, all who work with community partners to develop solutions to local and international challenges.
Abdul Walid Azizi from American University of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan spoke about his project, Camp Afghanistan, which enables students in Ghazni to engage in English language studies and leadership-building courses.
Nguyen Thanh Phuong from Fulbright University Vietnam presented on Mathlish, which promotes youth engagement in Bac Lieu Province, Vietnam, to support the education and mental wellness of over 100 formerly homeless children now living in orphanages. Phuong discussed the struggles of organizing during COVID-19 and taught students how to advocate for their project’s future.
Ahmad Denno from Bard College Berlin presented her work with "Go Vote: Mobilizing Refugees and New Germans for the German Elections 2021,” which provides an information and activation platform to support broader participation in federal elections.
Dariel Vasquez, a Bard College Annandale graduate and conference alum, led a workshop on making projects more sustainable. The co-founder and executive director of [email protected], an organization that seeks to mentor young men of color, Vasquez shared details of developing a successful project, including the importance of keeping records and building long-lasting relationships. He challenged his students by asking “If you were to leave your project tomorrow, would your project succeed without you?”
At the conference’s conclusion, Becker displayed a “word cloud” made up of the diverse set of participant responses to his initial question, illustrating the variegated definitions of civic engagement that arise in a broad community network. While each student had a different interpretation of what it meant to be civically engaged, the graphic conveyed the fact that all benefited from coming together to learn from one another’s experiences.
This article was originally published in Der Tagesspiegel on April 6th, 2021
"To Begin Anew in Exile Continues to be Difficult"
A chance for researchers in exile: the Philipp Schwartz Initiative marks its anniversary by switching from grants to temporary employment contracts. Yet, concerns remain.
By Amory Burchard
English translation by Ty Holtzman (Bard College ‘21)
If, however, it had been up to President Erdogan and his power apparatus, her career would have ended there three years ago, without income and the very real threat of arrest, trial, and imprisonment.
Things went differently thanks to Kölemen’s academic standing, her international network, and her language skills—which include, after a stay in Heidelberg, German as well as English. Thanks to the Alexander Humboldt Foundation, she received a grant from the Philipp Schwartz Initiative after being nominated through Bard College Berlin.
The program was founded five years ago with funds from Germany’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in reaction to refugee emigration from Syria and other countries in which academic freedom and the lives and work of researchers are threatened. Since then, 280 academics have received or are receiving grants through the Philipp Schwartz Initiative.
The Namesake of the Program Helped his Colleagues in Exile During the Nazi Era
175 grantees come from Turkey, 65 from Syria, six from Iraq, six from Venezuela, five from Yemen, and 17 from other countries. The grants, a minimum of 2,650 euros a month plus plenty of fringe benefits for family members travelling with the recipient, have a two-year limit with the option for a one-year extension.
The Initiative is named after the Frankfurt pathologist Philipp Schwartz, who emigrated from Germany in 1933. He formed the Emergency Association of German Scientists Abroad and taught at the University of Istanbul. After 1945 he was denied return to his former teaching position in Frankfurt, so he emigrated once again—this time, to the United States.
On the Initiative’s five-year anniversary, there is much for the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to celebrate, including the Bundestag's decision in 2018 to offer permanent funding for the program—up to 10 million euros per year. It is also an occasion for critical revision, as program manager Frank Albrecht says.
The crucial question that the foundation faced after the first round of grants was: what options are available to grant recipients after three years of permanent integration into German academia? Around 2019, criticism was expressed at a rally in Berlin held by the Turkish group, Academics for Peace.
Intense Competition for Permanent Positions
In 2016, a number of Turkish academics signed the peace declaration “We Will Not Take Part in this Crime,” protesting the Erdogan regime’s attacks on Kurdish settlements, which led to the protesters' persecution in their homeland. Despite the academics' sponsorship abroad, grants and short-term contracts offer those in exile “no security or realistic prospects in Germany,” said a historian at a protest rally at Bebelplatz in front of Humboldt University.
Aysuda Kölemen signed the appeal for peace as well and lost her job at Altinbas University. In the maelstrom of the state purges of Turkish universities, which were partly supported from within, Kölemen’s employer tried to be fair by advising her to go on a “research trip” abroad, while not renewing her contract.
As wonderful as it has been to be taken in by Bard College Berlin and to have had for three years “freedom to research and get settled in these new circumstances,” the reality of having to compete for the few permanent positions in the system with countless German colleagues who have stronger networks and usually a much larger collection of publications is extremely stressful, says Kölemen.
On the fifth anniversary of the program, the Foundation’s response to this predicament is to sustain a “roadmap toward future funding with improved long-term prospects for at-risk researchers.” One step is the partial switch from grants to employment contracts.
The new contracts also cover just two years with the option of a one-year extension, but along with health insurance and a pension provided by the employer—a path is being forged towards a blue card for permanent residence in Germany, says program manager Frank Albrecht.
The foundation is “able to finance an employment contract for everyone” but it is up to the receiving institutions to decide on the type of funding. Many colleges and universities switched to contracts, but grants continue to be a faster way to bring to Germany those who are particularly at risk.
Attempting to Place More Alumni in the Private Sector
Further steps toward remedying the situation include increased networking at the EU level aimed at referring alumni to other European countries and more coaching with respect to the academic job market as well as the private sector. “Here, we’re in conversation with institutions and associations,” Albrecht says.
It will continue to be almost impossible for many researchers in areas affected by war and other crises to simply leave their country, let alone receive a grant or an employment contract at a German university or research institute. “Many don’t have passports, or they can’t leave their families back home. Not everyone speaks English or German—and you can’t achieve much abroad with Turkish or Arabic,” says Köleman.
Few Opportunities Due to Differing Academic Cultures
The requirements for receiving institutional appointments are in fact very high, and not only in regards to language abilities. “We prefer to support individuals with whom we have fostered academic relationships in the past,” says Ulrike Freitag, the director of the Leibniz Zentrum Moderner Orient, in an interview published in the foundation’s anniversary brochure. Otherwise, research strategies and methods of investigation would differ between academic institutions considerably.
According to Humboldt Foundation statistics, 67 of the current 112 researchers who have received the Philipp Schwartz grants for two to three years have found a follow-up job: 49 within German academia, eight outside of Germany, and another ten outside of academia.
The need for institutional sponsorship is great and is growing day by day. The situation for academics who are critical of the regime in Turkey continues to be quite dangerous and soon the first grant recipients from Belarus will arrive in Germany, says Frank Albrecht. Currently, the Philipp Schwartz Initiative can consider only a third of the nominations made by receiving institutions.
There is only one other program in Europe whose size is comparable to the Philipp Schwartz Initiative—the French program PAUSE. The Scholars at Risk network is limited and in Berlin, the state launched its own program in 2017 through the Einstein Foundation. [Read also what Judith Butler called for in 2018 at the Scholars at Risk Congress in Berlin: “We are all Scholars at Risk”].
Another new project aiming to help at-risk scholars is the Threatened Scholars Integration Initiative, which was launched in the beginning of April by the Open Society University Network, supported by the Open Society Foundations with the participation of Bard College in New York and Berlin, as well as the Central European University in Vienna.
The program is initially offering 25 grants in European countries as well as in Colombia, Ghana, Kyrgyzstan, and Bangladesh. Because of the extended reach of the program, languages other than German and English are in demand, says Aysuda Kölemen. She is coordinating the program at Bard College Berlin, a position that makes her one of the fifty percent of Philipp Schwartz alumni with a direct follow-up job.
“To begin anew in exile is and continues to be difficult,” says the 44-year-old scholar. Due to political persecution as well as increasing political pressure on academia even in western countries, new and fair opportunities for scholars at risk are, unfortunately, sorely needed for the foreseeable future.
Since 1996, CEU’s Summer University (SUN) has been bringing academics and professionals together in Budapest to learn from CEU professors alongside leading scholars and experts from universities and international organizations worldwide. This year, SUN has collaborated with the Open Society University Network (OSUN) yielding new interdisciplinary course offerings designed through the framework and values of the network.
“OSUN and SUN have a shared mission and interest in promoting civic engagement in higher education, encouraging intellectual curiosity and fact-based research in training academics and professionals,” comments CEU SUN Executive Director Eva Gedeon. Having become part of a larger network, she notes that SUN has benefited from access to a wider range of new collaborations for courses in the program, which include both research intensive courses as well as policy and training courses.
“CEU faculty have found this new opportunity exciting and convened or joined the teaching teams of thirteen courses for 2021 within this framework. OSUN, on the other hand, has found in the CEU summer program a partner to serve the thematic and skills-building needs of OSUN colleagues and students and provide a platform for debate and collaboration across the sectors of education, policy, practice, and activism,” remarks Gedeon.
Along these lines, SUN also provides space for experimenting with new topics and initiatives and can work as a smaller-scale pilot project for larger OSUN collaborations in the planning phase. “As a next step, I can foresee the summer courses more closely aligned with some larger OSUN projects as, for instance, either an exploratory phase at the beginning or a dissemination channel at the end of a project,” adds Gedeon.
A great part of SUN’s attraction comes from the course design. This year, several offerings, such as Confronting the Crisis of Expertise, Disruptive Narratives and Liberalism Infected, explore the crisis of liberal democracies and the backsliding of democracies globally in a post-truth world from various disciplines. Another cluster of study focused on education and pedagogy illuminates topics of higher education policy and design through The Quality of University Education and Designing a Collaborative and Connected Liberal Arts Classroom. While courses deploy CEU expertise and research that can be expanded in specialized areas, SUN ventures into related, but interdisciplinary territory, for example, with courses such as Feminist Political Economy, and Commoning Art and Culture, as well as those that focus on music as intangible cultural heritage and literary journalism.
In 2021, the SUN courses will be delivered digitally. While acknowledging that online courses cannot fully replace the in-person experience, Gedeon is confident that the experience will be lively and engaging for participants: “Our courses are not solo performances conducted by one professor but there is a team of faculty, an ensemble performing together for the course audience. This in itself contributes to the intellectual variety and diversity of perspectives that students are confronted with, helping to keep them stay fully tuned in and actively participate in the online sessions.”
In 2020, SUN received an overwhelmingly positive response to the first ever online courses, which were taught digitally due to pandemic constraints, with over 150 students from more than 50 countries. The intensive courses employ a range of modes: short, live faculty presentations and pre-recorded lectures, alternating with both facilitated and independent small group discussions in breakout rooms, followed up by plenary sessions, one-on-one consultations with faculty, individual or group assignments and presentations, digital fieldwork, and more.
Those who want to participate in this year’s SUN program can still apply to several SUN courses accepting applications. Additionally, faculty interested in teaching next year can reference the 2022 Call for Course Proposals.
Five days later, Ahmed was charged with belonging to a terrorist organization and spreading false news on social media. On February 23rd, he was further charged with funding a terrorist organization. The prosecutor was unable to specify which terrorist organization or present any evidence to support the charge.
Ahmed was denied any communication with his family and legal counsel until just a few days ago. As Michael Ignatieff, Rector of Central European University notes, Ahmed’s continued detention “on obscure charges, without evidence, in harsh and inhumane conditions, is a flagrant violation of the rule of law and of basic human rights principles.”
OSUN joins our colleagues worldwide in calling on the Egyptian authorities to release Ahmed Samir Santawy without further delay. He must be allowed to resume his studies at CEU, our sister university and an OSUN co-founder.
Today, 298 persons are recognized as political prisoners in Belarus and the number continues to grow. 48 students and graduates of EHU, a Belarusian university now exiled in Vilnius, Lithuania, were detained after the 2020 presidential elections in Belarus.
Five students and alumni remain imprisoned, including:
Maryia Rabkova, a political prisoner, EHU 3rd-year student, was detained in Minsk on September 17, 2020, and will be kept under arrest at least until June 17. She faces up to 12 years in prison.
Akihiro Gaevski-Hanada, a political prisoner, EHU 2nd-year student, was detained on August 12, 2020. It is known that he was severely beaten after his arrest.
Mikalai Dziadok, a political prisoner, EHU alumnus (Class 2019), was detained on November 12, 2020. While in custody, Mikalai’s health deteriorated greatly. Mikalai faces up to 3 years in prison.
Wlodzimierz Malachowski, a political prisoner, EHU alumnus (Class 2013), was detained in Vitebsk on September 13, 2020. On March 1, Wlodzimierz was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison and a fine for alleged violence or threat of violence against an internal affairs employee.
Ihar Barysau, EHU alumnus (Class 2008), the leader of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party, was detained in Minsk on March 21 and was sentenced to 15 days in prison.
Read EHU's full statement here.
The nationwide Civil Disobedience Movement united people of all walks of life, occupations, ethnicities, and religions. The response of the army and security forces has been harsh and indiscriminate – over 250 people have been killed or tortured to death in detention; over 2,250 have been arrested, including 547 students currently held in prisons without charge or access to legal assistance. Over forty university campuses and many hospitals in major cities have been taken over by armed military brigades. Dozens of young protesters have been killed by sniper fire. Civil society and media organizations have been subject to devastating raids, their staff detained, and assets confiscated at gunpoint.
Central European University and Bard College have been resolute supporters of the revival and reform of higher education in Myanmar over the years, through study and research opportunities; development of critical thinking, modern curricula and student-centered teaching; engagement in reform policy dialogue; and vigorous promotion of academic freedom and university autonomy.
As the founding members of the Open Society University Network, and on behalf of our global university community, we appeal to the military authority to cease violence against peaceful, unarmed civilians and the persecution of students, academics and civil society. We urge the immediate release of those unlawfully detained. We stand with the students, educators and all citizens of Myanmar and call on the army, police and security forces to refrain from denying the people of their country the future of peace, liberty and dignity they aspire to. We also call on the international community for solidarity, support and protection for our friends in Myanmar, who are in peril.
“Statements like ‘So this is what Bishkek looks like!’ were common,” says Stepan, documentary filmmaker and Director of the Picker Center Digital Education Group, an OSUN partner at Columbia University. “And this is something that probably wouldn’t have happened with strictly Zoom-based discussions,” he adds.
Over three weeks, Stepan and fellow filmmaker Sean Steinberg trained students in Annandale, Berlin, Palestine, and Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), to use inexpensive tools, such as smartphones, to create “digital case studies” of the research and civic engagement projects they undertook for OSUN network courses such as “Human Rights Advocacy” and “Global Citizenship.”
Audiovisual case studies documenting work around social justice issues—which were not only produced by the class but also used to teach it—are very effective tools for online learning, as they provide students with a “real world” connection that facilitates meaningful class discussion, according to Stepan. In addition to acquiring the skills needed for successful field production, students were trained in basic video editing and participated in a final video festival drawing on work from all the classes involved.
“Despite the huge challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, students were able to work and collaborate in incredibly creative ways,” says Stepan. “The films themselves were also very powerful.”
Living with a Disability in Bishkek, created by students Ulukbek Batyrgaliev and Shigofa Jamal at American University of Central Asia and co-winner of the video festival’s social impact award, tells the compelling stories of people facing accessibility challenges in Kyrgyzstan’s capital city.
In the video, wheelchair user Gulbarchyn Isaeva describes the grave problems she faces due to a lack of ramps in public spaces. “Last year when I got pregnant, I wasn’t able to register in the hospital,” she says from her cramped apartment. “Doctors tried to persuade me not to give birth. Unfortunately, I had a miscarriage—I think more because of stress,” says Isaeva.
“There are many other things (in addition to ramps) that would make the city accessible to wheelchair users, pregnant women, the elderly, and more,” says Aiperi Aralbaeva, another subject in the video, who advocates for the rights of women with disabilities with the group Nazyk Kyz (Mama Cash). “The only thing is to ask us, and we will answer with what we need and how it should be done.”
Bring Them Home: The Fight for Clemency, produced by Bard College student Seamus Heady and winner of the video festival’s cinematography award, chronicles the advocacy efforts of a group seeking a pardon for Gregory Mingo, incarcerated for 40 years in Great Meadow Correctional Facility for a crime he maintains he did not commit. While Mingo was not granted clemency in 2020, the grassroots team of family, friends and activists depicted in the video continues to advocate for his release.
Berlin College Engagement in Forced Migration, created by Imani Faber, Camila Rosales, Carla Schwingler and Milica Vuvic of Bard College Berlin, consists of interviews with students living in Berlin who are refugees from Syria and Iraq, as well as members of a student-led initiative that helps asylum seekers navigate European legal systems as they try to secure citizenship.
Black at Bard, produced by Bard student Hakima Alem and winner of the festival’s People’s Choice Award, centers on Bard College senior Tatyana Rozetta and Theater & Performance professor, Nilaja Sun, as they discuss 2020 efforts by Rozetta and four other BIPOC students to tackle problems of racial inequity in the school’s theater department. The video interviews document students’ intense labor, which motivated the department to commit to identifying avenues of implicit bias in its practices and to creating a permanent position for equity oversight.
Stepan hopes all the videos from the workshop will be used in future classes across the OSUN network. “Even when in-person learning begins again, video case studies will continue to allow students to connect to issues and cultures in ways that classroom-based teaching alone cannot. I think the fact that these cases are made by and for students helps give them a special impact and relevance.”
The Picker Center at Columbia is working to develop a new version of the class to be run in the fall of 2021, as well as a project that would enlist students trained in 2020 to create new OSUN video cases. “Ideally we can begin a virtuous cycle of training and sharing of student produced videos around the network. OSUN is a unique organization, and it has an amazing opportunity to help us all rethink how classes are taught, and how students can connect and share their learning.”
On 1 February 2021, the world woke to the chilling news of a military coup in Myanmar, with the arrests of leaders of a democratically elected government, members of parliament ,and civil society leaders. A number of education officials, academics and students have subsequently been detained.
People of Myanmar of every ethnicity, religion and profession rose to speak out courageously, through peaceful protests and a civil disobedience movement that has spread throughout the country. Yet lawless detentions continue. Myanmar citizens continue to lose their lives fighting for the freedom to elect their leaders and build a better future for themselves and their children.
Founded at the time of the fall of dictatorial communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe, CEU is dedicated to the cause of open society, the study of democracy and its evolutions, and to educating students from all over the world who are committed to freedom and justice. Building on its expertise in democratic transition in Central and Eastern Europe, and in the spirit of academic solidarity, CEU has supported the efforts to reform Myanmar’s higher education since 2012. During this time, Myanmar universities have begun to emerge as a force for a better future, following decades of neglect.
We have welcomed hundreds of teachers, researchers and students from Myanmar to our campus in Budapest, contributed to national policy debates and the design of new policy frameworks for higher education, supported local capacity building in curriculum reform, autonomous governance and management of universities and advancement of quality of teaching and learning in Myanmar. More recently, we have been planning beyond the pandemic to intensify our joint work with Myanmar universities and educational authorities on building university autonomy. This includes the launch of an ambitious national pilot project designed in 2019-2020, supported by the academic community as well as government officials, national policy-makers and international partners.
CEU's engagement in Myanmar began in the early days of the transition to democracy led by the quasi-civilian government of 2011-2015. It expanded greatly during the tenure of the first democratically elected government led by the National League for Democracy. As Myanmar authorities know all too well, our work of almost ten years supports home-grown educational reforms, envisaged as promoting the economic and social development of a country devastated by decades of dictatorship and isolation.
While far away in Central Europe, CEU is deeply concerned about our colleagues and partners in Myanmar. We urge the military authority to cease violence, release those who have been unlawfully detained—including student activists, academics and education officials—and work to ensure prompt restoration of a democratic political system that is based on the rule of law, freedom of thinking and expression, and supports people of all walks of life, faiths and political persuasions in building dignified lives and careers and contributing to their country’s progress.
We appeal to all international forces to play a positive role in addressing this crisis: Please, do not abandon Myanmar.
President and Rector, CEU
The OSUN Hub for Connected Learning Initiatives in Eastern Africa held its first Oral History and Literature (OHL) Research Seminar in the fall of 2020. The participants – from seven countries in Eastern Africa – described the program as a novel experience, combining a critical exploration of the developing role of the oral tradition in the cultures of the region with technical training and opportunities for practical research.
The seminar was a critical first step in launching the broader research program of OSUN’s Eastern Africa Hub, which will provide training and support for local researchers emerging from marginalized and displaced communities. The Hub expands student-centered higher educational opportunities for those affected by political crises and displacement by providing high-quality online learning opportunities that increase access to sustainable livelihoods.
The seminar was conducted remotely during a three-month period and culminated in a three-day, in-person meeting near Nairobi, Kenya, where participants presented their research. It brought together graduate-level students and young writers from Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somaliland, Somalia, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Several participants were refugees living in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya, one of the largest refugee settlements in the world.
Participants presented on topics including urbanization in Somalia and consequent cultural changes; the politics of popular music among the Borana of the Kenya-Ethiopia border area; a multi-generational record of the women of a Keiyo lineage in Kenya; and an account of the contribution of Asian communities to cultural and economic development in East Africa.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic and political turmoil in the region posed obstacles to attendance at the December meeting, 15 participants attended in person. One participant was cut off from telecommunications by the war in Ethiopia and had to send an account of his project – on interethnic conflict in his home province of Tigray – for discussion by other participants.
The OHL seminar was convened by John Ryle, Legrand Ramsey Professor of Anthropology at Bard College, co-founder of the Rift Valley Institute and Tom Odhiambo, Senior Lecturer of Literature at Nairobi University, with support from the OSUN Hub Program Director, Rebecca Granato, Associate Vice President of Global Initiatives at Bard College and an Oral Historian by training. Visiting speakers included Nuruddin Farah, the Somali novelist, who is Distinguished Professor of Literature at Bard College; Ferenc Markó, a Phd candidate in Anthropology at Central European University; and Mark Bradbury, Director of the Rift Valley Institute (RVI). The meeting in Kenya was co-organized by RVI, an OSUN partner. The next iteration of the OSUN Hub for Connected Learning Initiatives Seminar will take place in April 2021, and will be followed by publication of selected research.
Fourteen of the grants went to young social innovators and change agents who are using the liberal arts to find solutions to local and global community challenges. Individuals receiving grants of up to $2,000 include: Abdul Walid Azizi (American University of Central Asia [AUCA], Kyrgyzstan) for Camp Afghanistan, a week-long program that improves secondary school students’ English language and leadership skills; Adib Hadi (Bard College Berlin) for Fountain Film Festival, a two-day event that provides an international platform for screening works by OSUN student filmmakers; and Yuliya Mikalutskaya (European Humanities University, Lithuania) for Bringing the Names Back, a project that preserves the memory and names of Jewish victims of the Holocaust in Minsk, Belarus.
For the first time, OSUN’s new Center for Human Rights and the Arts at Bard College awarded eight grants of $1,000 each to students leading work, research, or engagement initiatives located at the intersection of human rights and the arts. Recipients include: Shadin Nassar (Al-Quds Bard College, Palestine) for Written Voices, a project that develops creative writing in Palestinian schools and institutions through workshops and classes and Pooja Krishnakumar (SOAS University of London, United Kingdom) for Transparent, an interactive website examining the violence faced by trans communities in India, in intersectional contexts.
Grantee Uulzhan Bekturova at AUCA is using her award to train students in photography so they can raise public awareness about the problem of domestic violence in Kyrgyzstan. This important work in the rural region of Cholpon Ata, Issyk-Kul is using photography education as a tool to inform and open up dialogue with young students about domestic violence, gender-based violence, and child abuse, all pressing human rights issues that are beginning to draw public attention. Recently, the Kyrgyz parliament made an unprecedented move by passing a bill that prevents families from pressuring domestic violence survivors to reconcile with their abusive spouses. While thousands of domestic violence cases are reported every year in Kyrgyzstan, traditional mores make it difficult for victims to file complaints against their abusers or separate from them. Bekturova’s project aims to document some of the human stories that are driving the vital legislation.
“As an output of the project I expect our trainees to be active advocates for their families and for people in the community,” says Bekturova. “I think the first thing that we must do is to improve public awareness in more remote regions, which is the reason why I am going to do my project in the Issyk-Kul region, not in the city of Bishkek, where I live.”
A complete list of the 2021 microgrant winners:
Farahnaz Abdelgawad, Birkbeck, University of London, United Kingdom: An Alternative Museum is a project creating a cultural institution for art making, training and exhibitions that emphasizes artistic autonomy, institutional transparency, and enhancing the access of marginalized groups.
Abdul Walid Azizi, AUCA, Kyrgyzstan: Camp Afghanistan
Uulzhan Bekturova, AUCA, Kyrgyzstan: Photography workshops in Cholpon Ata, Issyk-Kul
Aibike Bekzat Kyzy, AUCA, Kyrgyzstan: Exhibition on Women’s Rights in Osh is a three-day photography show and discussion concerning gender inequality and women’s rights that targets young girls in the city of Osh.
Aizhamal Duishonbekova, AUCA, Kyrgyzstan: Self-Improvement Club is a project that allows students from Tendik Village to develop their extracurricular interests.
Miksa Gaspar, Bard College Berlin: Awareness Week enables student groups to build community engagement in their initiatives by partnering with related projects throughout the BCB campus and the broader network.
Adeeb Hadi, Bard College Berlin: Fountain Film Festival is a two-day event that provides a platform for OSUN students interested in filmmaking so they can screen their works for a broad international audience.
Anna Haley, Bard College, New York: The Prison Media Project is a collaboration between Bard students and men incarcerated in the New York penal system, who will build and maintain a website housing media they have created together.
Dilshod Hamroboev, AUCA, Kyrgyzstan: Blogging Camp for Activists is a four-day intensive workshop focused on teaching participants how to enhance their civic engagement activism with blogging.
Nilufar Homidova, AUCA, Kyrgyzstan: Leadership and Educative Avail Project (LEAP) is an initiative providing high school and undergraduate students with information on college-level scholarships.
Maria Jose Sarmiento Isaac, Bard College Berlin: Latin (x) Club creates a safe and sustainable space for the Latin American community across OSUN.
Jessi Kao, Bard College Berlin: P and T Club provides free and easily accessible menstruation products for the BCB community by placing pads and tampons in every bathroom on campus.
Pooja Krishnakumar, SOAS, United Kingdom: Transparent Interactive Website
Rasym Maratova, AUCA, Kyrgyzstan: A Mural to Raise Awareness about Air Pollution in Bishkek will commission street artists to paint a mural on a well-traveled bridge in Bishkek, educating citizens about the causes and consequences of worsening air quality in the city, along with potential solutions.
Begaiym Mamytova, AUCA, Kyrgyzstan: This documentary film project features a 14-year-old boy from rural Kyrgyzstan whose childhood dream of becoming a boxer clashes with the impending need to earn a living through harsh physical labor.
Yuliya Mikalutskaya, European Humanities University, Lithuania: Bringing the Names Back
Janat Mukaeva, AUCA, Kyrgyzstan: Equal Access to Education is a project aiming to give orphans equal access to education.
Shadin Nassar, Al-Quds Bard, Palestine: Written Voices
Homayoon Sarwari, AUCA, Kyrgyzstan: Women’s Empowerment Through Photography Training equips Afghan women with photography, videography, and social media skills as means to career development and financial independence.
Julian Thielman, Bard College Berlin: Pankumenta is an annual two-day student- and artist-led arts festival and pop-up series.
Aleksandar Vitanov, Bard College, New York: The Musical Mentorship Initiative allows students to develop mentorship skills as they explore instrumental guidance and support local communities.
Building upon its unwavering commitment to democratic practices and academic freedom, OSUN is pleased to announce a new flagship program, the Threatened Scholars Integration Initiative, which actively defends and advocates for scholars from around the world who face persecution or restricted academic freedom. The initiative will play a key role in integrating scholars into OSUN partner institutions through teaching and research, allowing them to share their expertise and unique perspective on standing up for academic freedom.
As Chancellor Botstein remarks, OSUN is a “pioneer in providing excellence and equity in higher education to citizens around the world.”
The Hannah Arendt Humanities Network is a project of the Open Society University Network (OSUN), initiated and coordinated by the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities.
The Yehuda Elkana Fellowship is given in cooperation with the Institute for Human Sciences Vienna (IWM), Central European University and other OSUN partners from around the world. The fellowship is awarded annually to a scholar or public thinker of international importance who exhibits a wide-ranging and exuberant intellectual curiosity touching the humanities, social sciences, and science. In the spirit of Yehuda Elkana, the Fellow should also possess a generosity of spirit as a teacher and mentor. The Fellow will be in residence for one month in Vienna at the Institüt für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM) and also affiliated with the Central European University. As part of the fellowship, the Yehuda Elkana Fellow will give two public lectures. They will also participate in a week-long manuscript workshop in June 2021 with faculty and students from OSUN institutions; in this workshop, faculty selected from OSUN institutions will read and prepare presentations on a book manuscript or series of essays by the Yehuda Elkana Fellow. This workshop will be an opportunity for OSUN scholars to interact intensively with each other and with a major scholar in the humanities. It will be open to CEU and IWM faculty and students.
The Yehuda Elkana Fellowship comes with a prize of $15,000 plus living and travel expenses.
Helga Nowotny is one of the most prominent scholars in science studies worldwide, an area that counted Yehuda Elkana as one of its pioneers and promoters. For several decades she has been one of the most influential institution builders in European higher education and research.
At times, she partnered with Yehuda Elkana in daring new academic and institutional endeavors.
Throughout her long and distinguished academic career at institutions in the US, Europe and Asia, Helga Nowotny has embraced and helped establish an interdisciplinary and engaged approach to the study of science, combining perspectives from the humanities, social and natural sciences - in particular from law, sociology, anthropology, history, and philosophy of science, mathematics and cognitive science - in order to be able to better situate scientific expertise, practice and impact in context. Her highly consequential research and publications focus on matters such as dealing with technological risks, coping with uncertainty, time and social theory, organization of science, gender relations in science and “the place of people in our knowledge” (the title of one of her studies). She has launched or helped establish influential new concepts or theories, such as “Mode 2” of scientific research.
More than once, Helga Nowotny has played a major role in setting up a new course for higher education and science policies in Europe - at the European, national or institutional level. For this, she has worked with European intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and
bodies, such as the European Science Foundation, governmental agencies in several countries of East and West as well as independent organizations and committees of scholars. She has taken part in, or directly led, the design and establishment of innovative new institutions, such as the European Research Council (the most influential organization in European research ever), Collegium Budapest (the first institute of advanced study in a former communist country) or Central European University (which Yehuda Elkana led for ten years as President).
Helga Nowotny is an engaged scholar and effective science entrepreneur. She has personally experienced the force of social constraints on science, on the production, dissemination and use of knowledge, including in a landmark case of gender discrimination that she was subjected to
in her early career. Helga Nowotny has made her mission not only to study science in context and contribute tirelessly to building and refining the conceptual and methodological apparatus for this study, but also to promote the advancement of science, scientists and science educators
through practical action, against the social, political, ideological or institutional odds of our times.