Student Reflections

SAR Student Advocacy Seminar 2019 Reflections

Will Shelling (he/him) was a student in Dr. Jenny Peterson’s Student Advocacy Seminar of 2019. In this video, you will get the chance to hear his insightful reflections on the valuable work that was completed during his semester collaborating with Scholars at Risk and Human Rights Collective.

Academic Freedom and Human Rights Research Engagementship 2021 Student Reflections


Why did you participate in this engagementship?

  • “In addition to wanting to get more involved in the UBC community, I saw this engagementship as an opportunity to take my research skills out of the classroom and actually contribute to the social science and humanities field.” —Nicole Mendoza (she/her)
  • “Undergraduate students are constantly required to produce new pieces of knowledge yet they are hardly used in engaging with the largercommunity. The fact that I could use my research skills to produce something meaningful that could actually be more than a school assignment excited me! I was also very much interested in the topic of human rights and academic freedom as an International Relations student so I couldn’t possibly miss the opportunity to learn more about this field.” —Jaerin Kim (she/her)

Why is your team’s report and presentation important? What research findings did you find most surprising or interesting? What are the implications of your team’s findings?

  • “What particularly stuck with me, was the ways in which many higher education institutions rather loosely defined the concept of Academic Freedom. Academic Freedom has become an intensely politicized concept over the past few years, and its parameters vary from institution to institution. Where does, per se, the line cross from Academic Freedom to Freedom of Expression? Learning that only 8.7% of institutions we compared had a clear distinction between Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression was enlightening, and says much about the current landscape. Institutions should better define what Academic Freedom is and is not. The vagueness of the current definition is perhaps allowing for confusion to manifest over the concept.” Alan Phuong (he/him)
  • “The implication of this whole project is a call for more awareness and a desire for more inclusive and consistent policies across institutions that are wholly protective of all members of the higher education community.” Krystal Go (she/them)
  • “One interesting aspect of our findings that I’d like to note is the difference between French-speaking universities and English-speaking universities. While the latter generally compiled policies together in collective agreements, the former usually published different policies separately (i.e. the policies on academic freedom are separate from policies on free speech) which actually helped differentiate the topics from one another more distinctly.”Maria Liu (she/her)
  • “As a UBC student who–like all my peers–is afforded academic freedom, it can be easy to take for granted. However, this research revealed how much more needs to be done both on our own campus as well as others. By limiting academic freedom to faculty, we only serve to limit the potential of students and research that is produced and only reinforce strict and harmful power structures on campus between faculty or staff and students. Broadening academic freedom is about pushing against these hierarchies, and truly letting students realize their potential.”Sage Houston (she/her)

What did you learn/ unlearn throughout the engagementship?

  • “I learned that when you deal with a specific social justice issue such as academic freedom, it is not enough to just focus on the topic itself. During our training, we learned about solidarity and trauma awareness. This training has helped us approach the project more holistically and consider the different individuals and communities that would be disproportionately affected by an inadequate academic freedom policy. We also reflected a lot on our own positionality and privileges as UBC students and actively attempted to not further perpetuate a world of academia that excludes others.“Illyra Soebroto (she/her)
  • “One thing I learned during this project is the importance of trauma-informed community care. It was enlightening to finally feel like emotions that may arise when dealing with such hard topics could have a space to exist within the little community that we created. It is definitely an approach I will be mindful of in the future.”—Marion Roger (she/her)