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People making a difference: Robert Quinn

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As in the case of Taslima Nasrin, who first had her life threatened in 1994 in her native Bangladesh. Her crime? Writing about women's rights. Later, in 2008, while living in her adopted country, India, she again had her life threatened by religious fanatics when she continued to write and speak about women's freedom. She cannot return to either country. Now a SAR scholar at New York University (NYU), she says, "SAR came to my aid by helping me to survive in a new land."

Universities must operate freely because they stand on the front lines of change, Quinn says. For any society to progress, scholars must have the freedom to come together with thinkers from other countries to exchange ideas and discoveries, he says.

But sometimes those advanced new ideas threaten entrenched regimes. Consequently, those with the ideas must either go silent or face persecution.

Recognizing the urgent need to help scholars find havens, Quinn began work on his project in 1999. With seed money from the MacArthur Foundation, he officially launched SAR as a nonprofit in 2000. Today SAR operates from offices at NYU. The university hosts the headquarters and has become active in bringing scholars such as Ms. Nasrin to campus.

Scholars at Risk focuses on two areas: First, it works to help individuals who face threats ranging from harassment to death. Ideally, SAR tries to help people remain safely in their own countries. If that can't happen, then SAR either matches them with a position as a professor or lecturer at a university or helps them enroll in a relevant academic program.

"For lack of a better word," Quinn says, "we call this our 'sanctuary work.' "

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