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Samantha Power On Academic Freedom And Free Expression


An undated framed photograph shows 15-year-old Pakistani student Aitzaz Hasan, who died while trying to stop a suicide bomber who was targeting his school.

The University’s history underscores that “promoting academic freedom and pluralistic education are not a luxury for any of us; they are essential to preserving free society.”

Eighty years ago a small group of academics and philanthropists established what they called “The University in Exile” at the New School for Social Research in New York as a refuge for scholars who were being expelled from German universities after the Nazis took power. The University in Exile soon became a hub of leading European social scientific thought.


In a speech celebrating the anniversary, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power noted that the arriving scholars brought with them enormous talent, as well as the knowledge that “‘evil’ was not just a subject for classes on metaphysics: it was a living, growing real-world threat.”

Ambassador Power said the University’s history underscores that “promoting academic freedom and pluralistic education are not a luxury for any of us; they are essential to preserving free society;” and that today, as always, such promotion is fraught with danger.

She pointed to the case of Aitzaz Hasan, the 15 year old boy in Pakistan who last month pursued and tackled a young suicide bomber -- preventing him from entering Aitzaz’s school. The terrorist detonated a bomb, killing himself and Aitzaz.

She also spoke of Malala Yousafzai, shot in the head by the Taliban in Pakistan in 2012 for advocating education for girls, and who still refuses to be silent about her rights and aspirations.

Ambassador Power said that “the sparks ignited by the University in Exile [eight decades ago] have become a flame that casts a steady light” on behalf of academic freedom and free expression. As an example, she pointed to current programs the New School participates in that connect scholars who have been persecuted in their own countries to places where they can continue their careers.

Like the cases of Professor Mehrangiz Kar, who was arrested in Iran for advocating constitutional reform; Bioethics researcher Dr. Paul Ndebele, forced to leave Zimbabwe in 2003; and university dean and news editor Abdul Sattar Jawad whose Baghdad office was fire- bombed by terrorists in 2005.

Ambassador Power said the cause of free expression challenges the world not only to help rescue endangered scholars, but to create a world in which scholars and other members of civil society are not endangered. It is for this reason that the United States –- through its diplomats, bilateral pressure, multilateral engagement, reports, student exchanges and other instruments -- will continue to support the right of people everywhere to express themselves freely in every forum.
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