George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Mason defends academic freedom by supporting endangered scholars

October 1, 2018   /   by Mariam Aburdeineh

When George Mason University got a message in February from The New School that scholars abroad were being persecuted and needed a safe haven to continue their lives and academic work, the response was a definitive “yes” to welcome them.

In agreeing to host at least one endangered scholar for a minimum of two years, Mason is one of 11 U.S. colleges and universities defending academic freedom as founding members of the New University in Exile Consortium. The original University in Exile was formed back to the 1930s in the wake of nazism and fascism in Europe. 

Mason students will benefit from the program in several ways, said Kevin Avruch, dean of Mason’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, and the university’s liaison to the consortium.

“First of all, they benefit from instruction from an accomplished scholar,” he said. “Secondly, they benefit from seeing a different kind of diversity in the classroom—a diversity of experience. Then, students benefit in a more abstract way by knowing that his or her university stands for these kinds of values.”

While at Mason, the hosted scholars will interact with faculty colleagues, conduct research and teach courses—much the same as a visiting professor would.

After their initial two years at Mason, the academics will have several options for what comes next.

With the help of the consortium, “we’re hoping that the scholars can find a way either to return to their home countries [if the situation has improved there] or find a career path here in the United States that permits them to continue their scholarship,” says Arien Mack, director of the consortium and professor of psychology at The New School.

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