Academic Freedom Committee

The International Studies Association recognizes academic freedom is a universal right and a common good whose protection is essential for the advancement of knowledge, the pursuit of truth, and scientific progress. Scholars should be free to teach, to research, to collaborate, to publish, to disseminate their work, and to express themselves without interference and precarity, subject to norms and standards of scholarly conduct adjudged by their academic peers. Academic institutions should similarly enjoy autonomy from political interference and other external pressures designed to limit their freedom to pursue their missions as institutions of higher learning, consistent with international human rights norms and standards.

Created by ISA’s Governing Council in 2009 and first assembled in 2010, the Academic Freedom Committee (AFC) is charged with protecting the academic freedom of scholars in all disciplines related to international studies. It will document instances of scholars persecuted for their peaceful, non-partisan, professional activities in particular those related to their scholarly research and teaching. Violations of academic freedom may include the government revocation of academic degrees; demotion or dismissal; denial of a petition to emigrate, travel abroad or return to one's country of origin; and arrest, arbitrary detention, disappearance, and extrajudicial killing.


The mandate of the AFC includes all scholars of international studies, beginning with but not limited to members of the ISA and affiliated national international studies associations. This policy pertains only to the non-partisan, peaceful conduct of academic activities and freedom of expression. Any actions taken under this policy must not contradict ISA's prohibition regarding involvement in political issues.

The AFC’s primary role is to receive information about violations of academic freedom, make a judgment as to its merits, and then recommend to the ISA Executive Committee a position for ISA to take. In addition, the AFC may, in consultation with the ISA President and Executive Director, publicize the threat or violation through official ISA newsletters, email lists and other relevant means, and urge ISA members to take action on an individual basis. The AFC may also recommend that ISA join the official advocacy efforts of peer organizations or express its concern directly to relevant government officials and international bodies. All action by the ISA as an organization requires a) in cases where urgent action is required, a two-thirds majority consent of the voting members of the Executive Committee or b) in all other circumstances, a two-thirds majority of the Governing Council. Letters of inquiry and concern may be signed by the ISA President, the Governing Council, or the AFC, as deemed appropriate. The President may act on behalf of the ISA only with the expressed consent (as above) of the Executive Committee or Governing Council.

The AFC will convene in a formal session once a year at the annual meeting of ISA to review overall policies. For individual cases, Committee members will maintain electronic contact between sessions and can take up new cases and make proposals to the Executive Committee at any time during the year.

About the Committee

The Academic Freedom Committee is a permanent standing committee of ISA. Committee members are appointed by the ISA President and approved by the ISA Governing Council.

Membership and Terms

  • Seven committee members serve three-year, staggered terms
  • Terms officially begin with the ISA Governing Council meeting of the first year listed and end with the closing of the ISA Governing Council meeting of the final year listed 
  • The President and Executive Director of ISA will serve as ex-officio members