I had the good fortune to go to Wellesley College after spending all my K-12 days in the public schools of Houston, Texas. I am a graduate of the class of 1960.

I have never been prouder to be a Wellesley alumna than today when I learned that 40% of the faculty signed a petition to dissolve a partnership with Peking University if it fires a courageous professor who supports human rights.

I will be prouder still if I hear that the petition was signed by 100% of the faculty.

The professor whose position in jeopardy is a distinguished professor of economics at Peking University.

Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe wrote this:

Like his friend Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 Nobel Peace laureate who has spent much of the past 25 years in Chinese prisons, Xia had few illusions about what he was getting into when he signed Charter 08, a valiant manifesto calling for human rights and an end to one-party rule in China. Since then Xia has grown increasingly outspoken in his defense of liberty and his condemnation of Communist Party censorship and persecution. So when he learned that the economics faculty at his university intends to vote this month on whether to expel him, he understood which way the wind was blowing.
I prepared myself for the worst long ago,” Xia told me when I reached him by Skype on Tuesday at his home in Beijing. “If I want to see constitutional democracy come to China, I must accept this. If it happens, I will bravely face it. I will not surrender; I will not back down.” In recent years he has been harassed, threatened, and followed by the police. Several times he has been detained for several days and interrogated (“Why did you sign the Charter? What is your relationship with Liu Xiaobo? What instructions have you been given by foreign agents?”) A faculty vote to oust a colleague is virtually unknown in China — the last case Xia knows of happened 30 years ago. Which means, he says, that “this is not coming from Peking University. It is coming from the central leadership.” 

If people in higher education don’t stand up for freedom of speech, human rights, and academic freedom, who will? It is hard for Professor Xia to speak out; his job is in jeopardy. It is not hard for professors at Wellesley; their jobs are not on the line. They should all sign the petition and defend their colleague at Peking University.