Carleton University is a member of the international Scholars at Risk network, having an active SAR Committee since 2014. There are now just over 30 SAR chapters at Canadian Universities, but Carleton has been among one of the first and most active in the country in part, it must be said, because of the extraordinary work of Law and Legal Studies professor Prof. Melanie Adrian. She not only got Carleton’s committee started, she also built a culture of engagement that has allowed the Committee to thrive and grow. We must also acknowledge our gratitude for the consistent and generous support, both financial and otherwise, from our Chairs, Directors, and academic units across campus, who help to welcome scholars to our campus and our community.
Since 2014, SAR Carleton has been able to provide temporary shelter and support for eleven scholars in six different departments. For the last few years, it has been our normal pattern to host two scholars per year for two-year terms (usually staggered), but this past year we also worked with the University administration to provide extra support to Afghan academic refugees after the collapse of their government last year.
We’re now faced with an emergency in Ukraine, with urgent appeals from Ukrainian academic exiles and even a few dissident Russian scholars. Carleton has responded to this need by allocating new funds specifically for Ukrainian refugee scholars. SAR Carleton has been working with individual units on campus to make this happen. We wanted therefore to write to all the faculties who may be involved in this process to explain exactly how SAR Carleton works.
Hosting a Scholar
Under normal circumstances, scholars who are facing a threat to their lives because of their academic work will apply through secure websites created by the Scholars at Risk (New York) Office and/or the Scholar Rescue Fund (SRF), itself part of the Institute of International Education (IIE), which got its start rescuing academics from both Russia and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. Today, these organizations provide the critical process of vetting the degree of threat facing the scholar. They create a database of these scholars, redact their names and any information that might identify them, and make that list available to the SAR network around the world.
When SAR Carleton is in a financial position to hire a scholar, we are sent lists that include individuals who have indicated a preference for Canada/North America (some fluency in English is part of this preference, but so may be proximity to family or the homeland they have fled). We then try to match a candidate to an academic unit with the capacity to provide office space, mentoring, logistical support, and perhaps even modest teaching opportunities. Although a somewhat larger percentage of candidates come from fields which are, by their nature, political (the social sciences and humanities) we try to distribute candidates between departments and Faculties, in part because it helps raise awareness across the university, but also because often scholars are fleeing simply because their country has become a war zone and they can no longer work at all.
During the pandemic, we also initiated a new “Global Scholar” program, which aimed to provide up to five at risk scholars (who could not at the time come to Canada anyway) with access to the Carleton library and its databases, and additional departmental mentoring. To help protect them in their home state, we removed the “Global Scholarship” title from any association with Scholars at Risk. This is not a program we can therefore advertise, but it does indicate the kind of work we can do under fluid conditions.
Once we’ve identified a candidate, we then work closely with SAR/SRF to set up an interview. We invite representatives from the potential host unit, meet the candidate online, and then decide on their suitability. It’s always up to the unit itself with the support of the Dean.
The key to all of this, of course, is funding. We currently receive generous support from the President, Provost, the Deputy Provost, the host Deans, CUASA (which provides a research grant that the Provost matches), and through some of our own fundraising. Should the candidate come through SRF, that organization is able to provide almost half the base-salary of a non-teaching position. Our aim is to be able to offer a reasonable standard salary, plus a $5,000 research and travel grant. In some cases, a SAR position is a respite from a dangerous situation; in other cases, we try to provide enough help for at-risk scholars to help them move on to a permanent position.
Typically, a scholar will be with us for two years (one year, renewable to two). We modified our practices during Covid somewhat because there was less global mobility. When we can afford it, we ask them to teach, providing mentoring for students, work on our Committee, and sometimes—when personal security allows it—participate in public lectures and events organized by SAR.
In addition to the academic support that a visiting scholar requires (from the Library to Human Resources), SAR Carleton’s Committee offers support for all aspects of resettlement through a Scholar Care sub-committee. It helps facilitate housing, medical, dental, and child-care services, among many other things in the community and on campus.
The Afghanistan and Ukrainian Crises
As we mentioned, we have asked for, and been provided with, new funds to help address these crises. The international offices of SAR and SRF have been processing applications from both countries, but in the case of the former, many university teachers don’t have PhDs, which is normally a condition of being a SAR Scholar. But both of these institutions have, in fact, been open to making an exception as far as Afghanistan is concerned. Ukrainian scholars are in a unique position because they’re not necessarily fleeing because of their scholarship per se; they are refugees of war. But the need is so great, that we have begun offering SAR visiting professorships to any Ukrainian academic in a position to take one. Because of the backlog at SAR and SRF International in processing applications, we have decided that we would do our own in-house threat assessment if necessary. We have been approached, through people at Carleton well-connected to Ukraine and Russia, with individual cases, and been able to interview and recently hire a Ukrainian scholar outside our normal SAR/SRF channels. Such individuals will likely be able to register with the international organizations retroactively, but we have been able to move quickly in this case because of the generous support provided by the Deans of FASS and FPA who approached us as the crisis unfolded.
More astonishing still, SAR has also recent;y received private donations from individuals determined to help. recently, Carleton’s Lifelong Learning Program held a lecture series led by Dr. Milana Nikolko, an adjunct professor in EURUS, which spontaneously raised additional funds for our first Ukrainian Scholar. And, as many of you know, we have launched a special fund-raising campaign specifically for this emergency.
This is the work we do. It’s always challenging, but it’s only possible because so many people in the Carleton community see its value, and give us the means to make it happen.
Andrew M. Johnston, Christine Duff, and Aaron Doyle (Co-Chairs of SAR Carleton, on behalf of the entire Committee)