Judge Grants Extension of Work Program for International Students

The current rule governing a popular postgraduation work program for international students will remain in place until May 10.

The regulation governing the STEM OPT program, which grants students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields the right to spend an additional 17 months working in the U.S. on top of the 12 months available to all international students, was set to expire Feb. 12 after a federal judge ruled the regulation invalid on procedural grounds. In a decision issued Saturday, however, U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle granted the Department of Homeland Security’s request that the ruling be stayed for an additional 90 days, which the agency argued would give it time to implement a new proposed rule for the program and prevent disruption or hardship for participating students and employers.

“The significance of that hardship cannot be overstated,” Judge Huvelle wrote. “According to DHS, there are approximately 23,000 STEM OPT participants, 2,300 dependents of STEM OPT participants, 8,000 pending applications for STEM OPT extensions and 434,000 foreign students who might be eligible to apply for STEM OPT authorizations … If the stay is not extended, many of these people would be adversely affected, either by losing their existing work authorization, not being able to apply for the OPT extension or not knowing whether they will be able to benefit from the extension in the future. And of course, the U.S. tech sector will lose employees, and U.S. educational institutions could conceivably become less attractive to foreign students.”

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U of Virginia Student Detained in North Korea

A University of Virginia student is being detained in North Korea for allegedly committing an unspecified “hostile act” against the state, The Washington Post reported. Otto Frederick Warmbier was detained Jan. 2 after participating in a five-day trip organized by Young Pioneer Tours.

An account in North Korean state media accused Warmbier of having entered the country “for the purpose of bringing down the foundation of its single-minded unity at the tacit connivance of the U.S. government and under its ma­nipu­la­tion.”

A U.S. State Department spokesman said the agency is aware of media reports that an American citizen has been detained and that it is working with the Swedish embassy, which represents U.S. interests in North Korea. “The welfare of U.S. citizens is one of the department’s highest priorities,” said Mark Toner, the department's deputy spokesman.

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How end of China's one-child policy could affect women and higher education

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When parents have more than one child, experts fear sons will receive more support for education.

Attack on Pakistan's Bacha Khan University Kills 20

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Twenty killed in assault on Bacha Khan University, the latest attack on an educational institution in a country that has suffered more than any other.

Taliban Kills 19 at University in Pakistan

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for killing at least 19 people at Bacha Khan University, in Pakistan, The New York Times reported. Among the dead are two female students, a senior faculty member and four guards. Gunmen reportedly scaled walls that surround the university and started opening fire.

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Bribes and Sex to Get Into a French University?

A former president of a French university went on trial Monday over charges that he admitted some Chinese students for bribes and/or sex, The Telegraph reported, based on accounts in Le Monde. The charges concern the time Laroussi Oueslati was president of Institut d’Administration des Entreprises, in Toulon. He was forced out of that position after the scandal broke in 2009. Court documents indicate that many of the Chinese students allegedly admitted for bribes or "intimate relations" could not speak French and thus should have been rejected. Oueslati has denied the charges, telling the judge, "I am not corrupt."

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An American student and researcher is among the prisoners released by Iran

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An American student enrolled in an intensive language program affiliated with the University of Tehran is among the prisoners released by Iran.

Concerns Over Arrests of Turkish Academics

Turkey briefly detained 27 academics on Friday who had signed a petition condemning the military campaign against Kurdish militants in the country’s southeast, The New York Times reported. Turkish authorities accused the scholars of spreading "terrorism propaganda" and of insulting the state. The arrested academics, who were reportedly released by Friday evening, were among more than 1,000 Turkish and foreign scholars who signed a petition demanding the government end what they called the "deliberate massacre" of Kurds.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the signatories of "treason" and of trying to undermine Turkey's national security. “Unfortunately, these so-called academics claim that the state is carrying out a massacre,” Erdogan said in a speech. “Hey, you so-called intellectuals: you are dark people. You are not intellectuals.”

The arrests of the 27 academics have heightened concerns about freedom of expression under Erdogan's presidency. The U.S. ambassador to Turkey, John Bass, issued a statement expressing concern about the “chilling effect” of the government’s actions on “legitimate political discourse.”

“Expressions of concern about violence do not equal support for terrorism," the ambassador's statement said. "Criticism of government does not equal treason.”

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BREAKING: Researcher Reportedly Released by Iran

A researcher is among those reportedly being released by Iran as part of a deal with the United States. Initial reports Saturday did not mention the researcher, but The New York Times reported that Iran also agreed to release Matthew Trevithick, whom the Times identified as a student whose detention in Iran had not been previously reported.

The United States Institute of Peace released a statement from Trevithick's family in which they said he has been held in an Iranian prison for 40 days. He traveled to Iran, the statement said, in September for a four-month intensive language program at the Dehkhoda Institute, a language center affiliated with Tehran University. He was trying to build fluency in Dari, a language closely related to Farsi.

When he started his language training, Trevithick took a leave from his position as co-founder of the Syria Research and Evaluation Organization, which is based in Turkey. From 2010 to 2014, he was director of communications at the American University of Afghanistan, and he previously worked for the American University of Iraq.

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AAU Affirms Opposition to Israel Boycott

The Association of American Universities on Thursday issued a statement affirming its opposition to the movement to boycott Israeli universities. The AAU formally opposed the boycott movement in 2013, but opted to affirm its position in light of the recent overwhelming vote at the American Anthropological Association's annual meeting to back the boycott. (That vote is awaiting approval of the association's membership.)

The statement from AAU affirming its position says, in part: "Efforts to address political issues, or to address restrictions on academic freedom, should not themselves infringe upon academic freedom. Restrictions imposed on the ability of scholars of any particular country to work with their fellow academics in other countries, participate in meetings and organizations, or otherwise carry out their scholarly activities violate academic freedom. The boycott of Israeli academic institutions therefore clearly violates the academic freedom not only of Israeli scholars but also of American scholars who might be pressured to comply with it. We urge American scholars and scholars around the world who believe in academic freedom to oppose this and other such academic boycotts."

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