Ethiopian Professor Spending Year at Kent State to Escape Persecution at Home

University is sponsoring Medhin Dollebo from Scholars at Risk Network

Speaking out against government corruption and ethnic killings in his home country of Ethiopia made Medhin Dollebo, Ph.D., the target of constant threats and harassment.  

His job as a professor at the University of Hawassa was taken from him, and officials took him to court to sue him to force him to repay the salary already awarded him. Even his wife and young son sought refuge with her family when the harassment and threats became too much for her to bear.

Through the efforts of the Scholars at Risk Network and Kent State University, Dollebo is now spending a year as a scholar in residence at Kent State, performing research into his area of specialty, governance and development management and offering lectures at the university.

Medhin Dollebo, Ph.D., visiting Scholar at Risk from Ethiopia.

“Kent State is the place where I finally get to breathe, personally and professionally. It has helped me a lot,” Dollebo said.

Scholars at Risk is a non-profit global network of institutions and individuals, based at New York University, that works to aid and protect threatened scholars and promote academic freedom worldwide. The organization advocates for higher education communities that serve the broadest public good, to work toward a world where everyone is free to think, question and share ideas.

The organization identifies and verifies scholars who are at risk and endorses them for placement in its network of nearly 650 universities.

Dollebo’s arrival at Kent State marked his first trip to the United States, and, while he has seen American culture for years through the media, he was still taken by the friendliness of the people and the helpfulness of everyone he encountered at the university and within the community.

Since arriving in February, Dollebo has been getting used to his surroundings, while continuing to perform research. In Ethiopia, February is typically the hottest month, while in Ohio, it is often the coldest, so the climate provided the worst of the culture shock.

His stay is sponsored by Kent State’s School of Peace and Conflict Studies within the College of Arts and Sciences and will continue into October.

Director R. Neil Cooper, Ph.D., noted how the school was founded because of the May 4, 1970, shootings on campus, with a mission of supporting free speech and the right to protest.

While that primarily is nationally, Cooper said the school is interested in expanding its influence globally and sponsoring Dollebo’s stay was the school’s way of moving in a global direction.

Medhin Dollebo, Ph.D., visiting Scholar at Risk from Ethiopia, speaks to the Kent Rotary Club.

Dollebo recently spoke at a luncheon of the Rotary Club of Kent, lecturing on the widespread violence and governmental corruption in Ethiopia to help raise awareness of the conditions in hopes that it could bring about positive change.  

Dollebo is not sure what the future holds for him or his country. He fears that widespread conflict is looming. The Department of Homeland Security recently announced the designation of temporary protection status for Ethiopia due to armed conflict and worsening conditions in the country. Based on this new status, Dollebo is applying for temporary protection status for himself, which, if granted, would allow him to remain in the U.S. through the end of 2025. He would like to be able to continue his residency at Kent State, if possible.  

“Though funding is a challenge ahead, it’s really in my best interest to stay here,” Dollebo said.

POSTED: Wednesday, May 29, 2024 03:42 PM
Updated: Thursday, May 30, 2024 07:32 AM
Lisa Abraham
Lisa Abraham