Bassel Al Shahade, who was a Fulbright Scholar from Syria pursuing an M.F.A. at Syracuse University, was killed Monday in Homs, Syria, the site of government assaults on protesters and civilians. He was killed while filming the attacks by government security forces. "This is a terrible tragedy for Bassel’s family and friends in Syria and for all his fellow students, faculty and friends here in Syracuse who knew him. His death is also a tragedy for the Syrian people, who have suffered many months of tragic violence as they seek greater freedom for their nation," said a statement from Nancy Cantor, the chancellor at Syracuse. "As a university community, we must deplore the senseless violence by Syrian government forces that took the life of Bassel, and countless others over these many months."
A new website called Not in My Country has been created to allow for reports of corruption, harassment or incompetence at universities in Uganda, The Wall Street Journal reported. The idea behind the website -- which also includes faculty ratings similar to RateMyProfessor.com in the United States -- is that a system for anonymous reporting is badly needed for higher education in the country.
The State Department on Friday issued revised visa guidance on visa rules for those who work at Confucius Institutes, which are supported by the Chinese government and operate at many campuses in the United States. The new guidance essentially reversed earlier guidance that would have been very difficult for many of the centers. For instance, the earlier guidance said that the Confucius Institutes would need separate accreditation if their offerings weren't part of the language offerings of the universities at which they are located. The new guidance says that the university's overall accreditation is sufficient. Generally, institutes whose employees were receiving visas prior to now should be fine.
Robert J. Birgeneau, the chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley, on Thursday issued a statement opposing a proposed state constitutional amendment that would limit out-of-state (including international) enrollment to 10 percent -- roughly twice the limit Berkeley uses. "Our policy of increasing non-resident undergraduate enrollment to 20 percent of our student body is crucial to ensuring a predictable and reliable revenue stream and maintaining affordability for our California students while also enriching the educational experience for our students," Birgeneau wrote. "Students from other parts of the United States, and from around the world, are valuable members of the Cal community and it has been my long-held view that an increase in out-of-state and international undergraduate students is a critical educational goal at Berkeley. In addition to generating funds for educational support and financial aid, they also bring perspectives, experiences, and cultures to the campus, that benefit all students."
State Senator Michael Rubio, who proposed the amendment, said that he wanted to ensure that "California students get a fair shot at attending our University of California system -- and not be turned away simply because a wealthy student from the East Coast or abroad shows up with a checkbook in hand."
The University of KwaZulu-Natal has set off a debate about academic freedom and free expression in South Africa with a last-minute decision to cancel a planned lecture by an official of the Israeli embassy, The Independent Online reported. Some academics at the university had called for the lecture to be canceled to object to Israel's treatment of Palestinians. The deputy-vice chancellor, Joseph Ayee, sent an e-mail in which he said: "I have reconsidered the sensitivities that the visit of the Israeli deputy ambassador have generated. Given the negative publicity that the visit will give UKZN, I hereby cancel the visit and the lecture." A spokeswoman for the Israeli embassy told the newspaper that "anti-Israeli elements have embarked on a campaign [of] intellectual terror which rejects everything that the academia believes in: meaning dialogue, discussions, research, understanding and freedom of speech."
New State Department guidance could complicate some activities at Confucius Institutes, which operate on many American college and university campuses. The guidance says that the J-1 visa program, through which many scholars from China come to the institutes, does not permit any teaching in elementary and secondary schools (which some scholars have done). Further, the guidance says that Chinese language courses taught at the institutes must be part of colleges' foreign language offerings or separately accredited. Some of the institutes may not meet those criteria. Many colleges have welcomed the institutes for the infusion of Chinese programming they bring to campuses, while others worry about ties to the Chinese government and an emphasis on non-controversial topics.
Groups representing English-language training programs for international students are objecting to a new federal interpretation requiring separate accreditation both for free-standing programs and those affiliated with colleges and universities that have their own accreditation. The Department of Homeland Security is interpreting a new law to require both types of institutions to have their own accreditation. But a joint statement from the American Association of Intensive English Programs and University and College Intensive English Programs asks for clarification to specify that programs that are part of an accredited college or university should not need separate accreditation. Accreditors review such programs, the statement says, and other federal laws recognize this accreditation.
A public university in Italy transitions to English-only instruction. Meanwhile, some Israelis worry that institutions there have moved too far in that direction. Can universities be both “international” and “national"?
The parents of two Chinese students at the University of Southern California who were shot and killed while in a parked car near the campus have sued the university, charging it misled them about safety issues, The Los Angeles Times reported. The suit says that the university incorrectly claims on its website that it is "ranked among the safest of U.S. universities and colleges, with one of the most comprehensive, proactive campus and community safety programs in the nation." After the two were murdered last month, the university continued to provide "clearly misleading" information on safety, the suit says. A lawyer for the university said that the institution is "deeply saddened by this tragic event, which was a random violent act not representative of the safety of USC or the neighborhoods around campus. While we have deep sympathy for the victims' families, this lawsuit is baseless and we will move to have it dismissed."