Database Outages Lead to Visa Processing Delays

A U.S. Department of State database has been experiencing “significant performance issues, including outages" since last Saturday, resulting in delays for applicants for U.S. passports and visas, the Associated Press reported. A State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, said that the problem is global and is not specific to any one country or visa category. Harf said the department is working to correct the problem.

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Study finds impact of pre-tenure status on publication rates at Korean universities

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In South Korea, publication rates change with tenure, study finds.

Universities with study abroad programs in Israel weigh the risks

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With conflict in Gaza ongoing, some universities with study abroad programs in Israel suspend programs while others stay the course.

British Universities Less Likely to Admit Minority Applicants

British universities are less likely to admit ethnic minority applicants than they are white applicants, even when controlling for academic record, social background and other factors, Times Higher Education reported. The finding was from a study done by the London School of Economics and Political Science. The disadvantage is most evident for Pakistani applicants.


Ethnic studies group backs Israel boycott

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Another disciplinary organization endorses call for end of ties to all Israeli academic institutions.

Anthropologists Will Consider Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

The American Anthropological Association is the latest disciplinary association to decide to consider the role it should play in discussing and/or taking a stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The association's president is announcing to members that leaders of the group want to promote "a conversation" about these issues, particularly given the expertise of many anthropologists in the Middle East. Monica Heller, the president, also noted in a letter to members in the forthcoming Anthropology News that she was aware that such discussions in other disciplinary associations have been "divisive," and that anthropologists should be able to have a "respectful exchange" on the topic. There will be a special forum at the association's annual meeting in December, and perhaps special sessions. The association is also considering the appointment of a task force. Heller's letter stresses that while association leaders are not preempting moves by others to take various steps, the association is not at this time taking a stand on a boycott of Israel.

Heller's letter is based on a larger article she wrote with other AAA leaders that appeared in an earlier issue of Anthropology News.

The anthropology blog Savage Minds has run a series of posts in recent weeks in which two Ph.D. candidates in anthropology have, under a pseudonym, argued that the association should endorse a boycott. The first post is here.




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Chinese Magnates Pledge $100M for Scholarships

A couple who made their fortunes in founding the Chinese real estate company SOHO China are setting up a $100 million fund to send low-income Chinese students to elite universities abroad, an initiative they launched on Tuesday by signing a $15 million gift agreement with Harvard University, The Wall Street Journal reported. Zhang Xin and Pan Shiyi are looking to set up similar endowments at other universities in the U.S. and elsewhere.

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New study raises questions about global rankings of citations

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Analysis looks at how some universities benefit from "secondary academic affiliations."


Semester at Sea Entered into Deal with Creditors to Sell Ship

The nonprofit institute that manages the well-known Semester at Sea study abroad program has signed a “standstill agreement” with a German bank to prevent action by its creditors after it missed payments on an $83.5 million loan for its cruise ship, the Daily Progress of Charlottesville, Va., reported. The May 2 agreement required the Institute for Shipboard Education (ISE) to pay $400,000 at signing and $100,000 every subsequent month as the institute attempts to sell its cruise ship, the MV Explorer.

The standstill agreement came one month prior to a “mutual" decision on the part of the ISE and its university partner, the University of Virginia, to end Virginia’s academic sponsorship of Semester at Sea programs as of May 2016. A June amendment to the contract between ISE and U.Va., obtained by Inside Higher Ed via an open records request, outlines several other conditions under which the academic sponsorship could be terminated before the agreed-upon 2016 date, including if the institute violates any terms of the standstill agreement or if for any consecutive three-month period the difference between its cash balance and its accounts payable is either negative or 15 percent lower than projected figures. The document requires ISE to consult with Virginia officials no later than 45 days prior to the start of each of its scheduled Semester at Sea voyages to ascertain whether it has sufficient resources to complete the program as planned. 

Lauren Judge, a spokeswoman for ISE, said in an email to Inside Higher Ed that the institute “is not in a precarious financial situation and is current on all financial obligations. ISE has ended its fiscal year (May 31, 2014) with positive operating results, improving the financial condition reflected in ISE’s balance sheet over that of the previous year.”

“The primary purpose of the standstill agreement between ISE and its creditors is to provide an orderly process for the sale of the MV Explorer, as ISE is returning to its original business model of two voyages per year,” she said. “Under this model, ISE no longer requires the use of a ship year-round. In returning to a leasing model for another ship, ISE will be relieved of the financial risks and burdens of ship ownership. The standstill agreement states that ISE is no longer responsible as a guarantor for ship debt and payment. Additionally, upon the sale of the MV Explorer (or at the latest May 15, 2015 if a sale has not been completed by that date), all financial obligations will be removed from ISE’s consolidated balance sheet.”

According to an article on its website, ISE purchased the MV Explorer in 2008 after leasing a ship for the 40 years before that. The article cites escalating fuel costs and the impact of the economic crisis on enrollments as some reasons for selling the ship.

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Antonio Gramsci Was Not Conrad Hilton

Intellectuals in Italy are objecting to a plan of a hotel developer to use property that includes the one-time home of Antonio Gramsci to build an upscale hotel that would be named for him, The Guardian reported. The intellectuals believe that it would be an insult to the name and work of Gramsci, a Marxist thinker who was known for the idea of cultural hegemony, to use his name in such a commercial way.

In a letter to the mayor of Turin, the academics and others write: "It is always a cause of pain when a place that safeguards a part of our history becomes the container of something else that is trivial rather than a space in which the collective memory is cultivated. But this time the pain is atrocious because the trivialization is directly hitting one of our fathers, a man who wrote pages which still speak to us today, a martyr who paid for the freedom of his ideas with his life."

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