Tufts announced its commitment to increase its contributions to the Scholars at Risk international network to support Ukrainian academics in an email sent to the community on March 4. Now, faculty and administrators are thinking about how best to support these scholars and exploring other ways to help them beyond the ARS. The university joined the SAR network in 2011 to help researchers at risk, broadly defined by the program to include private researchers, writers, artists and practitioners.
Tufts Senior International Officer and Associate Provost Diana Chigas clarified the nature of the program in an email to The Daily.
“SAR helps organize temporary positions (6 months to 2 years, usually around 1 year) for scholars whose lives may be in danger in their home country due to their work,” Chigas wrote. “They also provide support for academics to help them restart their lives and figure out how to pursue their careers in their new location.”
Chicago says that the Provost’s Office expanded its SAR program in light of Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, providing funding to help Tufts schools with accommodation costs up to four at-risk researchers and three to four postdoctoral researchers.
“In March 2022, the University extended this program to include scholars who are at risk due to the war in Ukraine because they are displaced or are at risk due to their personal circumstances, work or opinions .“, wrote Chigas, adding that the program also provides support for Russian and Belarusian scholars who may be in danger of persecution for their opposition to the war.
Chicago explained that Tufts connects with academics under threat in two ways. First, the university collaborates with the SAR network, which has a list of approved scholars whom it helps to place in partner institutions.
Alternately, Chicago wrote, Tufts can connect directly with academics, “either through nominations by Tufts faculty, staff, or students, or by direct application/application to Tufts.The provost’s office assembled a committee of faculty to help place scholars at Tufts. If Tufts cannot accommodate an academic, it will help place them at another university participating in the network.
Chicago highlighted the value of collaboration with other participating institutions.
“Given the number of universities in the Boston area, we are also in contact with our colleagues at these universities to see how we can work together to provide support, share resources, and refer potential applicants to each other.“, Chicago wrote, noting that Harvard University has a particularly large SAR program.
President of the Nutrition Data Science Division Elena Naumova noted at a Faculty Senate meeting earlier this month that searchers face significant risks when approaching the SAR network.
“Speaking with the faculty in the field, I would say it’s also [an] extremely high level of fear. If they start processes with [getting a] visa, they know they will lose a job almost immediately“, Naumova noted. “We need to have at least some tips and suggestions in-house [for threatened scholars] even how to frame this type of conversation [about connecting with the network].”
Tufts Associate Professor of Political Science Oxana Shevel, a member of the committee assembled to help coordinate SAR participation, welcomed the university’s involvement in the program, but raised a caveat.
“I think participating in Scholars at Risk is certainly a worthwhile initiative,said Shevel in an interview with The Daily. “I think you also have to take into account the fact that many Ukrainian academics do not want to leave or cannot leave.”
Shevel suggested that Tufts offer Ukrainians “non-residential remote positions” as research assistants or to teach distance courses at one or two SHUs.
Chicago commented to The Daily about his views on partial appointments such as those suggested by Shevel.
“We have considered partial appointment offers and have done so in the past. Chigas said. “It’s not ideal… Having to juggle a lot of part-time jobs, and not having a really integrated community to support them personally and professionally makes it more difficult. That being said, as we talk to our colleagues at other universities in the region, we are keeping open the possibility of helping scholars create a full-time position by combining some part-time appointments.”
SheveI also suggested that Tufts centers in Europe, such as Tufts in Talloirescould play a role in helping Ukrainian academics.
“Since most of the displaced scholars are in Europe[,] the use of centers in Europe would allow [the university] reach more people [it] it would be logistically simpler… [it would offer an] easier relocation process for displaced scholars, [making it] easier to stay closer to Ukraine,Shevel wrote in a longer communication to the University’s Faculty Senate with suggested initiatives that would help Ukrainian scholars. Shevel told the Daily that she plans to discuss the proposal at the first meeting of the faculty committee working with the provost on the university’s SAR program.
Besides, Shevel suggested that the university expand the Scholars at Risk program to include Ukrainian students. Jette Knudsen, Chair of the University Faculty Senate, professor of politics and international trade at the Fletcher School, agreed that the program should include students, telling Chigas at a Faculty Senate meeting earlier this month that she had been in contact with Moscow students interested in coming to Tufts.
Chicago responded to this suggestion.
“The students are a little tougher… We are just full,“Chigas said during the meeting. “So it’s easier for us to bring in academics quickly than it is for students where we have to go through some of the admissions and some of these other sorts of things and look at the financial aid.”
Chicago added that Tufts is also considering investing more resources in its SAR program.
“[We have started] to really think about whether there’s any point in having some sort of more permanent fund where we could actually tap into [different] situations so that we don’t completely blur each time [foreign conflicts break out]and we have some ability to start something“, Chicago noted.