Fundraising push seeks to bring Afghan thought leaders to safety on UCSC campus

Public donations needed by Sept. 3 to place “visiting scholars” at UC Santa Cruz

A woman wearing a religious head covering standing in an auditorium

This article was updated on Sept. 2nd, 2021.

In response to the dangerous Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, UC Santa Cruz launched an Afghanistan Visiting Scholars Emergency Support Fund on Aug. 27 that has already raised $100,000 in donations. Those funds—and a matching contribution from the Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor’s Office—will support placing at least two at-risk Afghans into visiting scholar appointments at UCSC. 

These placements could help recipients and their families to meet visa requirements for safe entry into the United States. The UC Santa Cruz Foundation Board of Trustees is also offering a new matching contribution of up to $10,000 for additional donations received by midnight, Sept. 3. 

Due to ongoing safety concerns, the university is not disclosing the identities of the people who may become visiting scholars, but they are predominantly at-risk academics, journalists, and activists. 

“The people we’re in communication with have long been thought leaders and beacons of hope in their communities, and now they face urgent danger,” said Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Lori Kletzer. “We are working as hard as we can to offer support and assistance with the resources and channels available to us as a university.”  

The current fundraising drive would bring in at least one visiting scholar to be placed with UC Santa Cruz’s Center for South Asian Studies and at least one more to be sponsored by the Peggy and Jack Baskin Foundation Presidential Chair in Feminist Studies in partnership with the Human Rights Investigations Lab at the Research Center for the Americas. The university is also actively coordinating on other potential placements that will depend upon whether recipients can safely evacuate from Afghanistan. 

Associate Campus Provost Adrian Brasoveanu has been leading logistical efforts for the campus response. He said the level of support and commitment from UCSC administrators, faculty, staff, students, and the broader community has been phenomenal. 

“This effort came about very quickly, and everyone has been so willing to donate their time and resources,” Brasoveanu said. “People really want to help, and we’ve been working collaboratively as a campus to provide the basic structure to make it all come together.”

UC Santa Cruz aims to provide a supportive community for visiting scholars, where they would be safe and could continue their work. Visiting scholars would bring with them a wealth of experience and knowledge in human rights, women's rights, and contemporary politics in Afghanistan.

Halima Kazem-Stojanovic—an Afghan-American UCSC Feminist Studies doctoral candidate whose research is about women in Afghanistan—worked with a team at San José State University’s Human Rights Institute and UC Berkeley’s Human Rights Center to establish an initiative called Afghanistan Scholars at Risk, which has made connections between Afghan scholars, journalists, activitists and universities across the country, including UC Santa Cruz. She said placements like these are not only lifesaving in the present but also crucial for Afghanistan’s future. 

“We can create environments for academics and journalists and activists to come to the U.S. with dignity and be able to continue to pursue the work that they were doing in a way that documents the history of Afghanistan,” she said. “UCSC would be a great place for them to arrive, take time to process what has happened, and then continue to be incredible advocates for those who have been left behind.”