Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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The Daily Explains: What is the Scholars at Risk program, and how will NU provide new scholarships to Palestinian students and faculty?

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Illustration by Ziye Wang
Over the last two years, visiting scholars have arrived from Afghanistan, Cameroon, Turkey and Ukraine.

In 2022, Northwestern University deepened its longstanding relationship with the Scholars at Risk Network by launching its own initiative with the program through The Buffett Institute for Global Affairs.

The international network supports threatened scholars by facilitating their research and offering teaching positions. At NU, multiple faculty members have applied to the Threatened, Displaced or At-Risk Scholars program to support and finance visiting scholars.

As part of the April 29 agreement with demonstrators to deescalate the pro-Palestinian encampment on Deering Meadow, University administration committed to supporting visiting Palestinian faculty and students through the At-Risk Students and Scholars Program.

In the agreement, the University pledged to fund two Palestinian visiting faculty per year for two years and cover full tuition for five Palestinian undergraduate students. According to the agreement, the University will continue to fundraise to sustain this program.

Over the last two years, visiting scholars have hailed from various countries, including Afghanistan, Cameroon, Turkey and Ukraine. Scholars will typically have terminal degrees and experience working in academic settings, according to University spokesperson Hilary Hurd Anyaso. Many of them left their home country due to ongoing crises related to war and conflict.

NU has also held a separate program working with outside groups, including non-governmental organizations, to identify and support students from war-torn or devastated regions.

“Not only does this initiative promote academic freedom and freedom of expression, but it also brings expertise to our campus that would not otherwise be available,” Anyaso said in a statement to The Daily. “We aim to provide scholars-at-risk communities and resources for their next career phase.”

The Medill School of Journalism welcomed Cameroonian journalist and author Haman Mana in October as a visiting lecturer for the 2023-2024 school year.

Mana, the publisher of Le Jour, one of Cameroon’s largest daily newspapers, fled the country after the paper investigated corruption by the Cameroonian government and media mogul Jean-Pierre Amougou Belinga. 

Mana continues to run Le Jour from Evanston and recently published an autobiography about Cameroon’s slide to authoritarian rule.

“Somebody must do the job. “If everyone leaves journalism, who will do the journalism? Who will inform the people?” Mana said. “It’s been a pleasure and honor to come to Northwestern.”

The University’s decision to direct program support to Palestinians only after the encampment agreement has drawn criticism from some students on campus.

One Palestinian student, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, said though the program represents a “step in the right direction,” the decision does not excuse the University’s “lack of efforts” to support the Palestinian community in the past.

“It’s very shameful that the University offered it to us in an attempt to stop what we’re doing with the encampment, considering the goal of the encampment was divestment,” the student said.

University President Michael Schill also attracted criticism from Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) over the stipulation at an April 23 House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing on antisemitism.

“That is also part of the program sponsored by our Buffett Institute,” Schill testified about the student scholarships after responding to a question about faculty scholarships. “It is not a new program. It exists for people whose education and research has been interrupted.”

Since NU joined the program in 2022, visiting scholars have been hired in short-term appointments that include a salary and benefits, with positions focused on research and teaching.

Najia Mahmodi joined NU as a visiting scholar and a clinical fellow at the Pritzker School of Law in 2022. Mahmodi previously served as a chief prosecutor for the Attorney General’s Office of Afghanistan. 

When the U.S. withdrew the last of its troops in August 2021 from Afghanistan, the Taliban regained full control of the country. The Taliban would end up releasing thousands of prisoners that Mahmodi had prosecuted, Mahmodi said. She fled the country in the same month.

“Women cannot breathe in Afghanistan right now,” Mahmodi said.

Her work continues to center around advocating for women’s rights in Afghanistan and helping arrange for other female prosecutors to leave the country.

As she plans to take the bar exam and pursue a law career in the U.S., Mahmodi said she hopes NU will provide additional opportunities, including scholarships and fellowships, to those in need.

“Through the connection that I made through Northwestern, this is the best way that I could advocate for those women, especially for my colleagues, to leave for a better place,” she said.

Clarification: This story has been updated to better reflect the nature of Northwestern’s program with the Scholars At Risk network. 

Email: [email protected] 

X: @Jerrwu 

Related Stories:

—  What to Watch For: University President Michael Schill gears up for congressional testimony

—  The Daily Explains: As NU activists accept deal to deescalate encampment, demonstrators at other universities are seeing mixed results

—  Administrators, student demonstrators reach agreement to end encampment on Deering Meadow

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