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1st ATDVU International Conference

The Defence of Academic Freedom in Tunisia

Saturday 30 November 2013

1st ATDVU International Conference

The Defence of Academic Freedom in Tunisia - Status and Prospects
27-28 Febrary 2014 in Tunis, Tunisia.

The defence of academic freedom does not only involve the preservation of the University’s autonomy with respect to political power, and ridding the academy of the pressures of ideological movements which might be hostile to academic tenets and seek to replace them with other academic standards; the defence of academic involves also resistance to the dictates of the market and of the profitability laws.
Since Independence, The Tunisian universities have been subjected to restrictions imposed upon their academic freedom, even though ideologies have been largely removed from the curriculum. Academic programs and extra-curricular activities have remained overseen by the regime. Even the students’ Union became politicized and students from other denominations have had to take refuge in underground structures. Appointments were done on the basis of allegiance to the regime, rather than merit. Indeed, the old regime was responsible for a long list of failings in the university system, used for political ends.

After the collapse of Ben Ali’s authoritarian regime, and during the first phase of the democratic transition, some of the goals of academics were achieved such as the democratization of university authorities, through the broadening of the representative body of lecturers. Unfortunately, after the elections, there have been systematic attempts to marginalize lecturers and scholars and exclude them from the decision-making process.

First, universities are paralyzed by decisions imposed by the Ministry of Higher Education, which tries to oversee and limit the freedom of research. In order to respond to the needs of the job market, the goals of higher education have been compromised. How can academic objectives be met? How can the need to adapt the curricular content to a modern economy be achieved without governmental intervention?

Today, Tunisian universities have been coming under new pressure and facing new forms of threats. Extremist religious groups are very active on university campuses. In the name of their rights to free exercise of religious practices, they are ignoring the basic rules of coexistence and academic standards and showing a strong predilection to impose their religious beliefs. They are calling for a difference of treatment from both the administration and the teaching staff.

To achieve their goals, they do not hesitate to resort to attacks on academic institutions and orchestrate violent actions that can lead to clashes between students with different ideological affiliations.

These modes of action have been fostered in the absence of any state protection or the supervision of the Ministry of Higher Education which may implicitly, indeed, support the claims of these violent groups, and sometimes take arbitrary decisions for academic selected structures, and forget that the role of the State must preserve neutrality within the university and take the necessary measures above any religious influence.

It is useful to recall the long list of transgressions perpetuated against academic freedom, during the last two years in Tunisian universities and especially in the Faculty of Letters, Arts and Humanities of Manouba, an event that was publicized worldwide. However, it is worth-noting that these transgressions are the prelude to an attempted subjugation of Higher Education Institutions to religious affiliations.

How can we define the concepts of academic freedom, academic rules, and autonomy of the university? How can the University withstand these pressures outside of the academy? How can it now defend the rules and academic freedom? In this regard, what is the role of academics, their associations, and the University’s elected bodies? What is the role of administrative courts in facing all these pressures?
Since its creation, The Tunisian Association of the Defense of Academic Values has been strongly concerned with these issues. The international conference “Defence of Academic freedom in Tunisia - Status and Prospects” purports to reflect on these issues and investigate the challenges facing academic institutions in the current political context. This is not unique to Tunisia. The experience of foreign universities or university associations, which have had similar problems, can only be useful. For this reason, their participation in this conference is highly desirable.

Proposals for papers can address the following themes:

- 1. Rules and academic values
— Definition and controversy
— Development and evolution of the concept of academic freedom and autonomy of the university in Tunisia
— The status of the University in Tunisian legal texts
— Tunisian legislation and academic freedom
— The State against international standards of academic freedom
Religious, Social and Cultural factors affecting liberties and restrictions related to national security or imposed by professional codes
- 2. The political students and the Tunisian Universities’ responsiveness,
Accounts of lecturers subjected to the violations of their academic freedom by the authorities.
- 3. Justice and academic freedom: The Ministry of Higher Education and Dress codes
- 4. How can universities defend academic liberties?
— Improvement of legal texts
— Role of the laws
— Anchoring the culture of academic freedom
- 5. Academic freedom worldwide
- 6. The role of civil society

Call for Papers

A two- page proposal for papers on the topics suggested above should be electronically submitted no later than 14 January to Professor Ben Amar Nihel (benamar_nihel@yahoo.fr) or Professor HabibMellakh (habib.mellakh @ gmail.com) and at valeur.universitaire @ gmail.com

Authors of selected proposals will be notified by January 21, 2014. They are kindly invited to send the final ten-page contribution to the email address mentioned above no later than 30 January 2014. It should be noted that the papers will be published in the conference proceedings.

General Guidelines

To standardize the text and to facilitate the publication of the proceedings, the following guidelines must be strictly followed:

- Use Times New Roman font with a font size of 12 points (16 in Arabic).
- Choose a single spacing throughout the document.
- Mark the transition to a new paragraph or a new section with a
- double-space (not a first-line indent).

Place page numbers at the bottom of the page and put them centred. The width of the margins at the top, bottom left and right should not be less than2, 2 cm.
The first page should include the title of the text, authors’ names, your affiliation and the topic of the communication.

Organizing Committee

- Habib Kazdaghli,
- Nihel Ben -Amar
- Rabaa Abdelkefi Ben Achour
- Habib Mellakh
- TaoufikKarkar

Should you have further inquiries, please feel free to contact Nihel Ben Amar (+216 98666248) or send an email to valeur.universitaire @ gmail.com