February 22nd 2024

MCI Students Advocate for Academic Freedom and Human Rights

Engagement for human rights, social justice, and solidarity was highlighted impressively by students from the Master program “Social Work, Social Policy & Management” at MCI | The Entrepreneurial School®, who have taken up the cause of Dr. Saibaba, a former associate professor at the University of Delhi's Department of English. Dr. Saibaba has been imprisoned because of his work on human rights and his advocacy for minority groups in India. Presenting the context of Saibaba's imprisonment, the students shed light on the shrinking academic freedom in India, the violation of a range of international conventions in his case, and the increasing attacks on higher education communities more generally.

The project was carried in the context of a Student Advocacy Seminar supported by the international network Scholars at Risk which defends academic freedom and protection for scholars and students world-wide, and of which MCI has been an active member for several years.

The Advocacy Seminar kicked off with the students’ attendance at the inaugural Scholars At Risk European Student Advocacy Days at the University of Trento, Italy, where they had the opportunity to meet other students and academics who conduct research and advocacy in support of scholars in prison and academic freedom issues in various countries.

After the inspiring participation in this event, the students conducted research on the situation of Dr. Saibaba and developed advocacy strategies to raise awareness about his case, with initiatives such as a petition campaign, an information booth on campus, and engaging with a student group in Norway who is working on the same case and whom they had met in Trento.

Despite facing challenges such as limited time and resources and unfamiliarity with India's legal system, the students managed to gather over 200 signatures for their petition and initiate crucial discussions about academic freedom, human rights, and advocacy strategies. Reflecting on their experiences, they emphasized the importance of networking, collaboration, and persistence in advocating for justice.

They are now preparing letters to send the petition and a comprehensive report to various political entities, including the European Commission, the Indian embassy in Austria, and the Austrian Parliament. The students remain determined to continue their advocacy work, ensuring that Dr. Saibaba's case is not forgotten and that academic freedom and human rights remain at the forefront of global discourse.

Commenting on their most inspiring moments during the project, students mentioned the attendance at the conference, where they met many likeminded people who also wanted to make a difference, the interaction with other students at the information booth, and seeing the number of signatures they collected with their online petition. Communication with others about their efforts, and about human rights and academic freedom more generally were also mentioned as important.

“I am proud to acknowledge the contribution made by our students in advocating for academic freedom and human rights. Their dedication to raising awareness about Dr. Saibaba's case not only demonstrates their commitment to social justice but also exemplifies the values we stand for as an institution.”

Prof. Dr. Belachew Gebrewold, Head of Studies and Department Social Work

I commend the students for their dedication, resilience, and passion for creating a better, more just world. Their work is a testament to the transformative potential of education and the importance of upholding academic freedom and human rights for all. This project once again showcases MCI’s commitment to nurturing socially responsible citizens who actively contribute to positive change in society.”

Regina Obexer, Head, MCI Center for Responsible Management & Social Impact