Canadian-Iranian academics who fled Iran are protesting the decision by Carleton University in Ottawa to host a conference called "The Contemporary Awakening and Imam Khomeini’s Thoughts.," Maclean's reported. The university says that it simply let a student group (along with the Iranian embassy) organize an event, consistent with the principles of free expression. But a group of academics with personal experience in Iran have issued a letter asking how a university could host an event to honor Ayatollah Khomeini. "Through his 'cultural revolution' following the 1979 revolution, all Iranian universities were closed down for two years and thousands of faculty and students expelled, and many of them jailed, executed or forced into exile," the letter said. "We support, and many of us are engaged in, international academic collaborations. However, we think reputable academic institutions have a moral obligation not to turn a blind eye on atrocities committed against their colleagues in other countries. Providing a forum to individuals, who under the pretext of academic freedom, propagate the ideas and values of a regime that is known for its violation of all standards of academic freedom and rights, is far from promoting academic debates."
Foreign language instructors at Italian universities, typically born outside Italy, have some of the worst working conditions in Italian academe, The New York Times reported. Under various provisions of Italian law, they work at lower salaries than other university instructors, and tend to lack basic sick and family leave, among other benefits. Despite a series of legal challenges to this system as inconsistent with European regulations that are supposed to promote equity across national borders, and a series of court wins on the issue, most of the language instructors have seen little progress.
Many Greeks are furious with Germany over its stance on the economic crisis in Greece, but Greek students are flocking to German language courses, The Times of London reported. Students are studying at German programs in Greece or traveling to German-speaking countries to learn the language, hoping to stay and find a good job. "I think the situation in Germany and the way they live is of high quality," said Elena Mavromatti, a law student at the University of Athens, who is taking advanced night-classes at the Germanika language school.
The University Center of Samaria, an Israeli institution in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, is pushing to be declared an official university on par with those in Israel proper, and the request has angered many Israeli academics as well as Palestinians and others who oppose building up Israeli institutions in the West Bank, Haaretz reported. The center currently has temporary status as a "university institution," which provides for it to receive more money than colleges do in Israel, but not as much as universities. That status expires in July, setting off a debate over the future of the institution. The center enrolls nearly 13,000 students. Israeli politicians who are skeptical of giving up the West Bank have backed the expansion of the center, and are pushing for university status.
More than 1,000 professors at universities in Israel have signed a petition opposing any elevation of the center's status, saying that they are opposed to "the attempt to enlist academia in service of the occupation." Some Israeli university presidents have also opposed a new status for the center, saying that such a change would lead to more money being spent there at a time that the other universities need more support.
The Modern Language Association's Executive Council has approved a statement on the importance of language learning to U.S. policy. The statement calls the learning of foreign languages "vital" and goes on to explain why. "We believe this view should be uncontroversial; anyone interested in the long-term vitality and security of the United States should recognize that it will be detrimental for Americans to remain overwhelmingly monolingual and ill informed about other parts of this increasingly interdependent world," the statement says. "We are therefore deeply alarmed by the drastic and disproportionate budget cuts in recent years to programs that fund advanced language study. We believe that advanced language study is important for the same reasons many policy makers, advisers, and elected officials do: Americans need to be literate about the languages and cultures of the United States’ major trading partners, and Americans need to be literate in the so-called strategic languages important to national security."
Manipal University, a private institution in India, is in talks to open a campus in China, in collaboration with two universities in that country, Tianjin University and Tongji University, The Hindu reported. The campus being planned would be the first in China to offer a program in information technology and other sciences, taught only in English.