Scholars At Risk Summit: Freedom to Think Conference

The Scholars At Risk initiative at Carleton University, Ottawa (SAR Carleton), in cooperation with the Scholars at Risk Network (SAR Network), SAR Canada, the Institute of International Education Scholar Rescue Fund (IIE- SRF), the Middle East Studies Association Global Academy (MESA), and the Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation is excited to organize the Scholars At Risk Summit: Freedom to Think this November 20-21, 2023 in downtown Ottawa.

Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre, 355 Cooper Street, Ottawa CA (main entrance at 290 Lisgar Street).  See website for directions and parking here Visiting – Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre.

Monday, November 20 – Opening Night Event (7:00 – 9:00 p.m.):
Featuring Keynote by Nobel Laureate Tawakkol Karman
Performances by Carleton University Choir, Poet Laureate Emeritus Jamaal Jackson Rogers and poet MayaSpoken.

Tuesday, November 21 – Conference Panel Discussions (8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.):
SAR Summit Panel Discussions
FULL PROGRAM: Program – SAR Freedom to Think Summit (FINAL)

Background for the Summit:

In 2022, SAR’s “Freedom to Think” Report stated: “Attacks on academic freedom and higher education are frequent, pervasive, and have wide ranging—at times deadly—consequences for scholars, students, and society at large. These attacks occur in closed societies, where the right to think and speak freely is routinely oppressed, and amid political and economic crises and armed conflict that put scholars and students in especially vulnerable situations. But they also occur in more open, democratic, and stable societies, leaving no country immune from their threat. State and non-state actors, including armed militant and extremist groups, police and military forces, government authorities, off-campus groups, and even members of higher education communities, among others, carry out these attacks, which often result in deaths, injuries, deprivations of liberty, and the upending of scholars’ and students’ academic careers”. Many such academics are forced to leave their home countries.

This summit aims to provide a forum for better understanding the full scope of global threats to academic freedom, for documenting the consequences of these threats in terms of forced scholar migration, for proposing credible pathways to defend human rights norms related to intellectual independence and university autonomy, and for providing support for scholars forced to flee their homelands. We invite academic papers that address these and related issues, including, for example: indexing the state of global academic freedom; developing norms and policies for the protection of university independence; issues of diversity; the role of universities and institutions of higher education in defending democratic values; the lived experience of scholars who experience persecution and who are forced to migrate, how civil society organizations, governments, donors, and media in Canada and globally have responded to these urgent needs and can best support such scholars; and the work of groups such as Scholars At Risk, the Scholar Rescue Fund, the Middle East Studies Association Global Academy, the Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation, and the Coalition for At- Risk Academics in striving to meet these challenges. Scholars from a variety of disciplines, as well as other contributors from universities, governments, non-governmental organizations, and the wider community, are encouraged to join.

The Invitation:

The organizing committee invites proposals for papers and panels for the summit. Paper abstracts should be no more than 250 words. Panel proposals should include the names of panel participants and a panel theme and may also include discussion of individual presentations within the panel. Abstracts and panel proposals are to be submitted to the organizing committee by September 1, 2023. We ask that submissions be made through the submissions portal linked at the bottom of this page (the portal can also be found in the left-hand menu of this page).

The Organizing Committee:

Mustafa Bahran, Chair (Carleton University)
Rose Crossett (Carleton University)
Aaron Doyle (Carleton University)
Brian Evans (Senior Program Officer North America, SAR)
Viviana Fernandez (Human Rights Research and Education Centre, University of Ottawa)
Julie Garlen (Carleton University)
Jenna Hobin (Carleton University)
Andrew Johnston (Carleton University)
James King (Scholar Rescue Fund, US)
Mimi Kirk (Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Global Academy, US)
Natasha Nobell (University of British Columbia)
Joanne Rumig (Carleton University)
Allan Thompson (Carleton University)
Mirja Trilsch (Université du Québec à Montréal)
Norah Vollmer (Carleton University)
Sarah Willcox (SAR)

The Summit Outcome:

1. The summit conclusions will be reflected in a summative document to be authored by all participants, titled “The Carleton Declaration”. This declaration will be widely disseminated and published worldwide.

2. The summit proceedings will also be published.

Summit Location:

This Summit will take place at the Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre (CDCC), Carleton University’s Arts, Performance and Learning Centre in downtown Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. It will open with a cultural and artistic performance and welcome event on the evening of Monday, November 20th, followed by the full day summit on Tuesday, November 21st.

Contact and Submission Email:

To submit, please complete the submission form here.

Please note that all content will be submitted via text boxes in the form, not through attachments.

Please address any questions or requests for further information to the Summit Director, Prof. Mustafa Bahran, at:

Hotel Accommodations in Ottawa:

There are a variety of hotels to choose from in the Ottawa downtown core and in the vicinity of Carleton Dominion Chalmers Centre.  Here are a few in close proximity to CDCC:

Arc Hotel  Discount pricing available for SAR Summit attendees, with booking deadline of November 1.  Book online here ARC The.Hotel Ottawa – Reservations – Room Availability (

Alt Hotel
Business Inn & Suites
Ottawa Embassy and Suites Embassy Hotel & Suites Ottawa – Hotels Near US Embassy (
Sheraton Hotel

Thank you to our SAR Summit Sponsors:




Thank you to SAR Summit In-Kind Supporters:

Centre for Community Engagement
Faculty of Graduate and Post-Doctoral Studies
Office of Quality Initiatives
Student Experience Office
Undergraduate Recruitment Office