Conflicting reports circulated Tuesday about the status of a conference, International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism, scheduled for next month at the University of Southampton, in Britain. The conference has been the subject of intense debate over the last month. Some defenders of Israel and others have charged that the conference is one-sided and designed to question the right of Israel to exist. Some of those critics have called on the university to cancel the conference, which -- to date -- it has not done. Many scholars have defended the conference, some because they back its substance and others on the principle that academics should be able to organize conferences as they see fit.
On Monday, organizers of the conference wrote online that the university informed them it intends to withdraw permission for the event to take place. The organizers wrote that while university officials cited safety concerns, the professors who put together the meeting believe that political considerations and not safety explain the move.
A spokesman for the university sent an email to Inside Higher Ed strongly denying that the conference has been called off. The spokesman acknowledged that the university has raised security issues, but said that was the only reason for the discussions, and that the faculty organizers would have the final say. "Any decision by the university regarding the withdrawal of permission will be judged purely on considerations around the health and safety of our staff, students and for the general public. Any decisions about a potential cancellation of the conference will be left to the organizers," the statement said.
The Rhodes Scholarship Program will soon expand to China, The New York Times reported. The article noted that the expansion reflects a push by many of the world's top universities to recruit talent in China, and also a desire by many of those universities (and the Rhodes scholarships) to raise money in the country.
Taiwan's Ministry of Education has warned universities that they need to prepare for shrinking enrollments due to falling birth rates in the country, The Taipei Times reported. The ministry is working on plans to merge or close universities, predicting that 12 of the 51 public universities in the nation and 20 to 40 of the 101 private universities will be merged or closed by 2023.
Teaching assistants at the University of Toronto have rejected a tentative deal to settle a strike that started Feb. 27. The union announced that 992 members voted to ratify the deal, while 1,101 voted against. While the proposed agreement would have raises wages, some have said that the deal did not provide enough. The university issued a statement this morning from Angela Hildyard, vice president of human resources and equity, in which she said, “We continue to be in close contact with the provincial mediator and remain committed to finding a solution to this impasse that would end the strike and allow affected students to complete their academic term without further disruption."
McGill University has rejected the request of a Muslim female student to start women-only hours in the workout facilities on campus, CBC News reported. The request has prompted widespread campus debate in recent weeks. McGill's deputy provost for student life and learning, Ollivier Dyens, said, "We don't believe in the segregation of our services, we don't believe in separating some groups from others on campus. It's always been clear, McGill is secular and coed, and this is what we promote." McGill does have some hours for women only in the pool, but officials said that because people wear bathing suits, issues of modesty and privacy are greater there.
Protesters -- some students and many not -- have disrupted exams and blocked entrances at Lebanese University's Tripoli campus, The Daily Star reported. They object to two recent appointments of Christian academics to positions that they believe Sunni Muslims should hold. Students told the newspaper that most at the university do not believe that appointees should be judged by religious affiliation, but many in the country disagree.
An engineering professor at the University of Florida was arrested and is being detained in Abu Dhabi pending resolution of his case, The Gainesville Sunreported. John Schueller was arrested last week, reportedly after taking pictures of buildings in the United Arab Emirates capital, and was released on bail. He was in Abu Dhabi on university-approved travel to attend a conference on world hunger.