Faculty at Wellesley College have voted to continue the institution's partnership with Peking University, subject to oversight by the college's Academic Council, according to Thomas Cushman, a professor of sociology who spearheaded a letter-writing campaign on behalf of Xia Yeliang, an associate professor of economics at Peking who was fired in October. Many view Xia's termination as retribution for his criticism of the Chinese government, although the university says the decision was based on his teaching and research record. More than 130 Wellesley faculty members had signed a letter objecting to the termination of Xia “based solely on his political and philosophical views” and saying that they would urge the Wellesley administration to reconsider the college’s institutional partnership with Peking if it fired Xia.
Wellesley is expected to release a statement on the matter today. In a previous statement, the college's president, H. Kim Bottomly, indicated she is supportive of efforts to bring Xia to Wellesley as a visiting scholar.
Trinity College Dublin and the University of Melbourne will become the first international participants in the course consortium Semester Online, the education technology company 2U announced on Wednesday.
Semester Online enables students to enroll in for-credit online courses offered by faculty members at participating institutions -- or keep up with their studies while away from those campuses. Students complete coursework on their own time, but the courses also include online face-to-face sessions. The effort is being piloted this fall and will launch in January.
Trinity College and Melbourne will supply one course each to the spring semester offerings: "Ireland in Rebellion" and "Classical Mythology," respectively.
With the addition of the two new partners, the Semester Online consortium now includes 10 institutions. Trinity College and Melbourne join Boston College, Brandeis, Emory, Northwestern and Wake Forest Universities; the Universities of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Notre Dame, and Washington University in St. Louis.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that male and female students will be segregated in university dorms, the Associated Press reported The issue points to continuing tensions between Erdogan’s Islamic-leaning government and secular-minded Turks, many of whom accuse Erdogan of imposing his conservative beliefs on society at large. Erdogan said of the decision regarding dorms that the government has a duty to students’ parents.
Cornell University is expected to soon announce that it will return about 10,000 ancient tablets to Iraq in what would be one of the largest returns of artifacts by an American university, The Los Angeles Times reported. The artifacts provide key details on life in Mesopotamia. While officials have found no evidence of wrongdoing in the donation of the artifacts, Iraq's government has requested them back and some have suggested they were looted after the 1991 Gulf War. Cornell officials declined to comment, but have been negotiating over the return with federal officials.
Student protests blocking access to Kliment Ochridsky University, Bulgaria's largest university, have forced officials to suspend classes, the Associated Press reported. Students' grievances focus on the government, and university leaders have been urging them -- without success -- to let the university function.
Peking’s statement says that this month's vote among faculty and school leaders not to renew Xia’s contract was the second such vote on this topic. The first, in 2012, resulted in 11 against renewal and 10 for, with one abstention. However, the university said it wanted to give Xia an opportunity to improve his performance and held a second vote this month, which resulted in 30 against renewal of his contract, 3 for, with one abstention. Xia’s contract will not be renewed when it expires in January.
“The reason that most members of the committee voted against the renewal of Xia Yeliang’s contract lies in the performance of his teaching and research,” the university's statement reads, in part. “With regard to his teaching, the result of annual teaching assessments since 2008 showed that he ranked lowest among the School faculties three times, the third lowest once, the fourth lowest once. His best performance was the sixth from the bottom twice. During the same period, more than 340 pieces of students’ complaints and criticism on his teaching were received, including a letter of request signed by over 20 students to demand replacing Xia Yeliang. Such a demand is extremely rare at Peking University. The students mostly complained about his digressive talks and excessive waste of time on materials irrelevant to the course. Some of the comments are sharp criticism, for example 'Please teach economics in class; don’t bullshit!' 'You put the cart before the horse.' 'Too much superficial digression.' 'His words are full of garbage.' "
The statement also says that Xia only published one paper in the Chinese Social Sciences Citation Index from August 2008 to January 2013. The university said that Xia is untenured and that it has terminated 25 people upon expiration of their contact since 2008, including Xia.
A New York Times article, however, noted that Xia is the first professor to be dismissed from the economics department in more than a decade -- a fact that was confirmed by Peking officials. In an interview, Xia maintained that his dismissal was politically motivated -- he cited warnings from the university's Communist Party secretary regarding his online pro-democracy writings -- and defended his academic performance. He said that the 340 negative evaluations represent a fraction of the thousands of students he has taught and that his name had appeared in a number of publications since 2008.
“All such records are in their hands right now, so they can say whatever they want," Xia told the Times.