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Rahile Dawut interviewing guests at a wedding, 2005, photo by studiolisaross.com


In response to a petition of a group of Bard College students studying human rights advocacy and academic freedom, Rahile Dawut, a prominent Uyghur folklorist who has been missing since December 2017, was named the first Open Society University Network (OSUN) Honorary Professor in the Humanities. A professor at Xinjiang University in Ürümqi in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Dawut created and directed the university’s Minorities Folklore Research Center and is the author of dozens of articles and a number of books, including landmark studies on Islamic sacred sites in Central Eurasia. Dawut disappeared after telling a relative that she was preparing to board a plane from Ürümqi to Beijing. Reports indicate she was arrested and detained by Chinese authorities, but her whereabouts are unknown.

OSUN is a global partnership of 34 educational institutions across 19 nations that integrates learning and the advancement of knowledge across geographic and demographic boundaries, promotes civic engagement on behalf of open societies, and expands access to higher education for underserved communities. The defense and advocacy of human rights and academic freedom, and the protection of threatened scholars, is at the core of OSUN’s mission. In appointing Dawut to this position, OSUN expressed its support for the international movement for her release and pledged to welcome her to a network institution to further her research and teaching when she is freed.

OSUN envisions a new model of global higher education— deep partnerships among diverse institutions committed to addressing global challenges collaboratively.

The Open Society University Network’s Threatened Scholars Integration Initiative works to defend and advocate for scholars whose work, livelihoods, or lives are threatened by repression, censorship, war, or other disaster. Led by OSUN partners at Bard College, Central European University, and Bard College Berlin, the initiative offers fellowships designed to help at-risk academics, students, researchers, and intellectuals build long-term affiliations and collaborations across OSUN. Host institutions will prioritize the integration and mentorship of threatened scholars who have been forced to seek alternative teaching, research, or advanced study positions outside their home countries, as well as support those who cannot relocate.

OSUN has been elected cochair of the Taskforce on Third Country Education Pathways, launched by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR). Rebecca Granato ’99, associate vice president for global initiatives at Bard College, will represent OSUN on the task force. The group is charged with developing best practices for higher education pathways that respond to the needs of refugees, internally displaced individuals, and others displaced by crises, and leading the development of strategies to ensure access and the establishment of minimum standards for institutions seeking to host students.