The London School of Economics and Political Science has apologized to two students who, at an event for new students, were told that they had to cover up their T-shirts depicting Mohammed and Jesus, Times Higher Education reported. At the time, the students were staffing a table of the Atheist Secularist and Humanist Society at the university, and officials said that their attire could be seen as harassment of Muslims. Now, however, officials say that they realize that the T-shirts did not violate any university rules and so the students should not have been told to cover up what they were wearing.
The Canadian Association of University Teachers this week called for colleges and universities in Canada to sever ties to Confucius Institutes, which have been set up at many Canadian (and American) campuses with support from the Chinese government. Supporters say that the institutes are a valuable way to expose more students outside China to Chinese history and culture. But critics say that the institutes present an oversimplified and positive image of China and that universities that want the house institutes may feel pressure to avoid certain topics. A statement from James Turk, executive director of the Canadian faculty group, said: “Confucius Institutes are essentially political arms of the Chinese government. They restrict the free discussion of topics Chinese authorities deem controversial and should have no place on our campuses."
Ireland’s universities stand to lose €3.6 million -- the equivalent of about $4.9 million -- in government funding as punishment for giving unauthorized bonuses to presidents and senior staff, the Independentreported.The bonuses were intended to reward senior staff for taking on extra responsibilities, but they were disbursed without the requisite ministerial approval.
Trinity Western University has won final approval from authorities in British Columbia to start a law school -- the first faith-based law school in Canada. Gay rights and civil liberties groups had urged the provincial government not to grant permission, citing the Christian university's rules that ban students from "sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman." Critics said that this ban effectively barred gay people from enrolling. The university said that it was not discriminating against gay people, only against those who have sex outside of heterosexual marriage. A statement on Wednesday from the university's president, Bob Kuhn, reiterated that point. "It needs to be said that all students (gay or straight) are welcome to attend Trinity Western University, providing they meet our academic requirements and agree to respect our community values. Like most religious communities, we have established a set of values and principles to guide our daily lives; ours are in a manner consistent with Christian teaching. Chief among those values is to show love and respect for all people at all times," he said.
On NAISA’s website, the president of the association, Chadwick Allen, a professor of English and coordinator of American Indian studies at Ohio State University, wrote that the council opted to write its own declaration of support rather than commit itself to an outside organization’s specific language. In a “Declaration of Support for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions," the council urges the association’s members “to boycott Israeli academic institutions because they are imbricated with the Israeli state and we wish to place pressure on that state to change its policies. We champion and defend intellectual and academic freedom, and we recognize that conversation and collaboration with individuals and organizations in Israel/Palestine can make an important contribution to the cause of justice. In recognition of the profound social and political obstacles facing Palestinians in such dialogues, however, we urge our members and supporters to engage in such actions outside the aegis of Israeli educational institutions, honoring this boycott until such time as the rights of the Palestinian people are respected and discriminatory policies are ended.”
Academic boycotts have been deeply controversial: opponents argue that boycotts in general represent a violation of academic freedom, while they say that boycotts against Israel in particular are discriminatory in singling out one nation for criticism. In a message on NAISA's website, Allen wrote that the declaration and the boycott can be discussed at the association’s annual conference in May if members believe it to be appropriate. The council’s declaration was originally prompted by a member-generated petition.
George Mason University and a student group, GMU Students Against Israeli Apartheid, have come to an agreement on a protest walkout planned by the group during the winter commencement at the university, to be held Thursday. The walkout is to protest a speaker and honorary degree recipient, the Israeli business executive and philanthropist Shari Arison. Students say that her ties to prominent Israeli businesses make her a supporter of "the illegal occupation and colonization of Palestine," and they have criticized the university for inviting her to speak. Arison recently endowed a chair at the university. Under the agreement with the student group, those who want to leave will be informed before Arison speaks, and will be given a space outside the arena to sit while she is talking. They will then return. A spokeswoman for George Mason said she knew of only one graduating student who is in the organization, but she said that others may be there in the audience.
Ángel Cabrera, the university's president, blogged about the controversy Tuesday. He said he would be "proud" to introduce her, and that her businesses philosophy and philanthropy promote "positive change" in the world. Added Cabrera: "Shari is an Israeli, and I am aware that her presence at graduation has upset some students and faculty who have had a very painful relationship to Israel in terms of the conflict and their people’s history. With full respect for all concerned, our graduation ceremony will help to reaffirm our commitment to the mission of our university, and my own highest goals, namely that the world is made better by deep, courageous, and compassionate engagement with all peoples, with their civilizations, with their respective religions, with their hopes and dreams, and with their sorrows and suffering, even when doing so can put us in between peoples in conflict. This is the Mason way – to enable and empower students from all civilizations, and to pioneer new initiatives and projects that will make this precious planet a far better place for all than the one we inherited."
Members of the American Studies Association have voted to endorse a resolution backing the academic boycott of Israel. Out of a total of 1,252 votes, 66.05 percent of members endorsed the resolution, 30.5 percent rejected it, and 3.43 percent abstained. The association’s elected National Council had previously endorsed the resolution before turning the question over to members for an association-wide vote.
Universities U.K. has withdrawn controversial guidance it released last month on gender segregation at “ultra-orthodox” religious events on campus after coming under criticism from the prime minister’s office. The guidance, which was intended to help British Universities balance their legal responsibility to protect freedom of speech while also meeting the requirements of nondiscrimination law, said that in regards to a hypothetical case study in which an outside religious speaker requested seating segregated by gender, “a balance of interests is most likely to be achieved if it is possible to offer attendees both segregated and non-segregated seating areas."
However, last week a spokesperson for the prime minister said that David Cameron felt “very strongly” that guest speakers should not be permitted to address segregated audiences and urged Universities U.K. to review the guidance, as the BBC reported. Universities U.K issued a statement saying that it had withdrawn the case study in question pending a legal review.
"Universities UK agrees entirely with the prime minister that universities should not enforce gender segregation on audiences at the request of guest speakers,” Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the British presidential association, said in a statement. “However, where the gender segregation is voluntary, the law is unclear. We are working with our lawyers and the [Equality and Human Rights Commission] to clarify the position.”