The Committee for the Improvement of Academic Life is responsible for:
- developing guidelines and procedures allowing for the fair response, where necessary, to situations put forth by the members of IAMCR or by the Committee itself about violations of academic freedom or freedom of expression within higher education. These guidelines and procedures will develop after broad consultations with the EB, IC and the membership;
- assessing and replying forcefully to the deterioration of academic labour rights and violations of academic freedom or labour rights by authorities and institutions in countries or regions, as the need arises, and drawing attention to them and their impact on academic freedom and freedom of expression in general;
- liaising with human rights organisations and related organisations and regional, local, national academic and professional organisations in the field;
- developing an Academic Freedom and Conditions of Research, Learning and Teaching Code, that includes labor rights issues, on the ways in which IAMCR considers ethical treatment by universities in dealing with academic freedom and labor rights;
- taking a proactive stance in analyzing the quality of academic environments and suggesting improvements.
The CIAL also is authorized by IAMCR to examine reports of freedom of speech violations, or other threats to academic freedom, and to take appropriate actions to indicate the organization's concerns. These actions could include:
- interviewing academic educators and authors who say their human rights are being violated to ascertain the depth of the problem;
- publishing statements demanding these violations stop;
- sharing information with relevant international human rights organizations; and
- other actions deemed appropriate by the IAMCR leadership.
In order to decide on these interventions, CIAL will use a set of procedures approved by the IAMCR leadership. We are not charged with resolving cases of conflict between individual scholars.
The Committee will work with IAMCR's Clearinghouse on Public Statements when it issues information relevant to a larger audience.
The Committee also will seek a prominent spot on IAMCR conference programmes to disseminate its work.
The procedure for identifying and examining reports of rights infringements of academic freedom or freedom of expression within higher education will be as follows:
- Reports of rights infringements and requests to respond to these infringements are submitted to the committee chair. They can be submitted by IAMCR members and non-members, including the members of the committee themselves.
- For each allegation, the committee chair will ask one member of the committee to lead the investigation, and that person will be tasked with documenting the allegations.
- Information can be obtained from any/all of the following sources: Email exchanges with the person/people alleging the problem, or involved in the problem; phone calls with the person/people; exchanges of letters; media reports; and in-person interviews. Information will be cross-checked, also (if possible) by hearing the people or institutions that are responsible for the infringements.
- The investigator will ask another member of the committee to verify/validate the information.
- Once that is done, a report of what has been learned will be sent to the committee chair, together with a proposed (set of) action(s). The committee chair then organizes a decision process within the committee.
- The investigation will then be included in any final report our committee prepares.
- If the committee chooses to respond with a public statement, the proposed statement will first be sent to the Clearinghouse for Public Statements for endorsement.
- Public statements will be archived on the IAMCR website.
As we consider what is a violation of academic rights, the following criteria will be used:
- The rights violation should be -- in part or in whole -- the result of a public or academic activity (i.e. signing a statement supporting human rights)
- The violation could (or should) have a significant impact on that individual's future in higher education; in short, governmental or other forces could seek, or threaten with, the removal of that individual from his/her university, restrict his/her remuneration, pension rights or promotion opportunities, …
- CIAL will investigate allegations of rights infringements anywhere in the world, and will avoid privileging particular regions.
- The person(s) making the allegation should be informed of and agree with the CIAL response; the chair should send whatever final document/report to the person(s) to allow for input
- At no time will someone making a claim of infringements be identified publicly by any CIAL member unless that individual has explicitly expressed permission -- in writing/via email -- to name him/her
- We will act as quickly as possible, but thoroughness, completeness and civility always must guide our efforts
Chair: Chika Anyanwu [contact]
Vice-chair: Karen Arriaza Ibarra [contact]
Members: Changfeng Chen, Fiona Martin, Claudia Lago, Steph Hill, Sibo Chen, Eno Akpabio, Tanya Bosch, Burçe Celik, Sergio Ricardo Quiroga and Andrea Medrado (EB liaison)