Statement of the ESA Executive Committee with reference to the current state of affairs at the Belarusian State University

Monday, November 16, 2020

"Academic freedom and respect for our shared European university traditions are of the utmost importance."

The European Sociological Association was established in the hope that its work would always contribute to the understanding and solving of social problems, to improving the quality of life in Europe and beyond, and to the encouraging of peaceful and productive relations among peoples.

For our organization, academic freedom and respect for our shared European university traditions are of the utmost importance. The university is a place for the safe and secure expression of independent views. It is an agora for open public discourse and debate.

It is, therefore, with great attention and concern that we observe the events unfolding in Belarus since 9 August 2020. We are very troubled by the unprecedented cases of encroachment upon academic autonomy; and we are appalled by the physical violence against students of the Belarusian State University and of other institutions of higher learning across the Republic of Belarus.

It is unacceptable that – as 57 scholars of the Belarusian State University graphically describe in a video-relayed letter dated 9 November 2020 – “police vans are on standby under the windows of the auditorium in which academic classes are held.”

The scholars and students at this university, as well as other institutions of tertiary education in the Republic of Belarus, are exposing themselves to an obvious threat of repression. Their steadfastness in upholding academic freedom deserves the earnest esteem of all.

We are in full agreement with the standpoint taken by our Belarusian colleagues – “The university is the territory of freedom.”

With sincere regards,

Kaja Gadowska, Vice-President and Chair of the Policy Committee

on behalf of the ESA Executive Committee