UN Expert Warns of Erosion of Intellectual Freedom on US Campuses On Palestinian Issue

Sun May 12 2024
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UNITED NATIONS: A UN human rights expert, Farida Shaheed, has raised concerns over the recent surge in student protest attacks on campuses across the United States on Palestinian issue, citing it as a troubling sign of diminishing intellectual freedom and democratic principles within educational environments.

During her official visit to the US, Shaheed expressed deep dismay over the violent suppression of peaceful demonstrators, highlighting instances of arrests, detentions, police violence, surveillance, and disciplinary measures targeting members of the academic community utilizing their freedom of speech and peaceful assembly rights.

Particularly alarming to Shaheed was the unfair treatment faced by protesters based on their political viewpoints, notably pro-Palestinian demonstrators. The expert emphasized the need for unrestricted access to diverse ideas and perspectives, urging the US Government to reaffirm its commitment to freedom of speech.

Shaheed also drew attention to the proliferation of policies and educational gag orders introduced in the US since January 2021, leading to a pervasive ‘chilling effect’ that stifles the free exchange of ideas and marginalizes voices.

Furthermore, Shaheed highlighted systemic issues within the US educational system, including underfunding, teacher shortages, and challenges in student mental health support, exacerbated by funding disparities and over-reliance on local property taxes.

To address these disparities, Shaheed called for equitable distribution of funds between wealthier and poorer districts and urged the federal government to take decisive action in addressing educational funding inequalities.

Additionally, Shaheed emphasized the importance of acknowledging education as a human right and ensuring fair access for all students, irrespective of background or identity. She advocated for the removal of police presence from schools and investment in qualified personnel such as counselors and social workers to foster a safe and nurturing learning environment.

Shaheed underscored the need to prioritize holistic growth and social interaction skills over standardized testing, emphasizing the importance of shifting the narrative to promote student well-being and development.

It’s important to note that Special Rapporteurs and other UN rights experts operate independently from any government or organization, serving in their individual capacity without receiving a salary for their work.


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