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Petitioning University of Cambridge

Cantabs for Persecuted Scholars

This petition calls upon the University of Cambridge and its colleges to commit publicly to supporting at-risk academics granted admittance to the University of Cambridge in the form of financial, housing, and other support. Generous assistance in times of need embodies the spirit the University’s mission “to contribute to society through pursuit of education, learning, and research at the highest international levels of excellence.” We believe that close cooperation with established charities is the best way of standing by these treasured values.

The Council for At-Risk Academics (Cara) was founded in 1933 to assist with placing a number of German academic refugees in institutions throughout the U.K., and has since offered assistance to such renowned minds as anti-apartheid jurist Albie Sachs. To this day, Cara offers at-risk academics solidarity, support, a safe working environment, and financial and practical help in times of need. In the course of its work, Cara relies on partnership with universities and other like-minded organisations, as well as individual academics and concerned citizens. 

We are heartened by the response of other U.K. universities to the migration crisis. Many have instituted scholarship programs and offered other forms of support in cooperation with Cara. We are encouraged by the discreet, positive responses from Cambridge colleges, as well as the University’s past support of Cara academics. The commitment and efforts of other Cambridge-based initiatives such as the Cambridge Refugee Resettlement Campaign and the Cambridge branch of Student Action for Refugees is also admirable.

In particular the laudable work of the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), Cara’s current central point of contact within the University, has proved invaluable. We call upon the University to strengthen the resources available to CRASSH in furtherance of this vital role. What is needed now is a public commitment to unite the Cambridge University community behind a worthy cause, as it was united in the past in the face of the military dictatorship in Chile.

We recall that in the 1970s the University of Cambridge offered fellowships with accommodation to refugee academics fleeing the Pinochet regime in Chile, and we note that the University of Cambridge has the same efficient administration and suitable housing in place that permit a similar act of generosity towards academic refugees fleeing from repressive regimes and war today.

As a thought-leader in the U.K., Europe, and the world, we feel that it is essential for the University of Cambridge to be at the vanguard in the migration crisis. We should demonstrate that our values and our culture of open minds can only prevail if we also open our hearts and doors to people in need. We ask:

Colleges, faculties, and the University to sign memoranda of understanding with Cara to the effect that we:

1.     Recognise the importance of Cara’s work;

2.     Commit to facilitating and providing a centralised coordination point in order to better assist Cara’s current work as well as that of other local groups committed to providing assistance to academics and refugees;

3.     Commit to facilitating and providing financial support to accepted at-risk academics in the form of fee waivers, bursaries, and stipends; and

4.     Commit to facilitating and providing housing and other support for accepted at-risk academics and their dependents.

The University’s support would be a powerful symbol, and an unequivocal condemnation of the terror and oppression spread by violent extremism. Welcoming persecuted academics is an investment in a future where one of the University’s most cherished values—freedom of thought and expression—prevails and flourishes.

While we happily accept all signatures, we ask that University of Cambridge staff, students, and alumni sign with their @cam or @cantab addresses. 

 

 

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