Press release

The University and the Future of Democracy

  • from
  • No. 10/2018
Saturn-ähnliches Dekortationsbild


Accreditations and interview requests:
Stephanie Stein
con gressa GmbH
Phone: +49 30 28 49 38 46


Georg Scholl
Head of
Press, Communications and Marketing
Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
Phone: +49 228 833-258
Fax: +49 228 833-441

Christa Beckmann
Office of News and Public Affairs
Freie Universität Berlin
Phone: +49 30 838-73182

Lauren Crain
Director of
Research and Learning
Scholars at Risk
Phone: +1 212 998-2204


Joint statement issued by Scholars at Risk, Freie Universität Berlin and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

International Meeting of Scholars at Risk Network and Alexander von Humboldt Foundation at Freie Universität Berlin from April 24 to 26, 2018

An international congress “The University and the Future of Democracy” will take place at Freie Universität Berlin from April 24 to 26, 2018. The congress is being held jointly by the Scholars at Risk Network, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and Freie Universität. This congress is also the Scholars at Risk Network 2018 Global Congress, a biennial gathering of SAR’s global network of universities, which is taking place in Germany for the first time. The participants will report on and discuss the threats faced by individual scholars and scientists, threats to academic freedom around the world, and the role of universities in defending democratic values. The keynote address will be given by the philosopher and literary scholar Judith Butler from the University of California, Berkeley. The conference language is English.

Journalists are welcome to attend. Accreditations are possible until Friday, April 20, 2018. Please send a copy of your press card to: sar-gc18[at] We are also happy to arrange interviews on site. You are welcome to inform us of your interview requests in advance by writing to: sar-gc18[at]

The Scholars at Risk Network helps researchers from crisis areas or repressive states to continue their work abroad. Scholars at Risk currently has more than 500 member higher education institutions worldwide, including about 40 in Germany. Scholars at Risk is holding its IXth global congress at Freie Universität; the prior one was held in Canada in 2016 at McGill University in Montreal.

In 2011 Freie Universität Berlin was the first higher education institution in Germany to become a member of Scholars at Risk, and in 2013 it became a supporting member. (Freie Universität also cooperates with the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund, an independent organization and partner of SAR in protecting scholars.) Freie Universität’s commitment to Scholars at Risk is rooted in the university’s founding history. In 1948 in post-World War II Germany, at a time when ideological differences between Eastern and Western Europe were becoming very apparent, Freie Universität was founded by students and scholars as a secure location where academic freedom and open thinking that was not subject to political demands could be practiced. The values of freedom, truth, and justice are anchored in the official motto and seal of Freie Universität: Veritas, Justicia, Liberatas.

The Philipp Schwartz Initiative of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation gives universities and research institutions in Germany an opportunity to provide fellowships to endangered researchers for a period of 24 months. In addition, there is a possibility to extend the fellowships through co-financing. The initiative is funded by the German Federal Foreign Office, the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, the Gerda Henkel Foundation, the Klaus Tschira Foundation, the Robert Bosch Foundation, Stifterverband, and Stiftung Mercator.

Extract from the programme:

On Monday, April 23, 2018:

  • Scholars at Risk is holding four workshops in advance of the congress. These include a workshop for formerly at-risk scholars; a workshop on SAR’s academic freedom advocacy activities; a student workshop on protecting higher education student expression; and a workshop on promoting academic freedom and related higher education values. Keynote remarks will be given by a scholar formerly imprisoned in Iran. Journalists are welcome to attend (accreditation necessary).

Introductory presentations on the first day, April 24, between 3 and 5 p.m.:

  • Words of welcome:
    Prof. Dr. Klaus Hoffmann-Holland, Vice President,Freie Universität Berlin
    Prof. Dr. Domna C. Stanton, Member of the board, Scholars at Risk Network
    Prof. Dr. Hans-Christian Pape, President, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
  • Dr. Nil Mutluer, SAR scholar and Philipp Schwartz Fellow at Humboldt-Universität Berlin
  • Opening speech:
    Robert Quinn, Executive Director, Scholars at Risk Network, "The University & the Future of Democracy"
  • Keynote address:
    Judith Butler, Maxine Elliot Professor of Comparative Literature, University of California, Berkeley, "What is Free and Open Inquiry?: Academic Freedom and Political Expression"

Further keynotes on the following days:

  • April 25 (Wednesday):
    Prof. Dr. Markus Hilgert, Director, Vorderasiatisches Museum (Museum of the Ancient Near East), Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • April 26 (Thursday):
    Prof. Dr. Susanne Baer, LL. M., Judge at the Federal Constitutional Court and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
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