Middle East studies scholars are protesting a provisional death sentence handed down by an Egyptian court to a visiting professor of political science at Georgetown University. Emad al-Din Shahin, who holds a professorial appointment at the American University in Cairo, was convicted in absentia for espionage-related charges May 16 along with more than 100 others, including ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi.
“Although Dr. Shahin and his co-defendants were accused of conspiring with foreign organizations to harm Egyptian national security, it is unclear what specific charges were leveled against him, or what evidence was provided to support these charges,” the Middle East Studies Association’s Committee on Academic Freedom wrote in a letter dated June 1. “This lack of clarity, combined with Dr. Shahin’s record of active public engagement and criticism of political developments which he views as weakening democracy in Egypt, suggest that his sentence may be a form of retaliation for his political views.”
“In the absence of concrete evidence of Dr. Shahin’s involvement in espionage, and in light of the fact that his co-defendants in the 'Grand Espionage' case are all Muslim Brotherhood members, including leaders at the highest level of the organization… it appears that Dr. Shahin is being punished for what the government views as support of the Muslim Brotherhood,” states the letter, which notes that Shahin has denied any involvement in the organization.
About 40 scholars signed another letter, posted last week on the Arab studies website Jadaliyya, describing the sentence as “appalling” and the charges against Shahin -- who has also taught at Harvard and Notre Dame Universities -- as “improbable.”
“We, the undersigned colleagues and personal friends of Professor Shahin, wish to add our voices to those who have expressed deep concern over the provisional sentence of death. But we do more: based on our personal knowledge of Professor Shahin’s character, activities and scholarship, we state that the charges are so utterly alien to his character as to lack any credibility whatsoever,” this letter states.
The University of Sydney on Monday announced plans to shift undergraduate degrees from three to four years as part of a major overhaul of instruction, The Sydney Morning News reported. University officials said that more time was needed to promote critical thinking and other key skills. At the same time, the university will discourage students from taking more than one undergraduate program, but will instead encourage master's programs after a single undergraduate degree. The moves are part of a plan to overtake the University of Melbourne in rankings.
Pazmany Peter Catholic University, in Hungary, has announced that it will require all undergraduates to take a course on the Holocaust, Hungarian Free Press reported. The course will be developed by two professors from Tel Aviv University.
A new report on youth employability from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development finds that 39 million 16- to 29-year-olds across the OECD countries were not employed and not in education or training in 2013 -- an increase of 5 million since before the economic crisis in 2008. The report, titled "Skills Outlook 2015," finds that young people are twice as likely to be unemployed as "prime-age" adults, and that even youths who find employment "often face institutionalized obstacles to developing their skills and advancing their careers. For example, one in four employed young people is on a temporary contract. These workers tend to use their skills less and have fewer training opportunities than workers on permanent contracts. Meanwhile, 12 percent of employed young people are overqualified for their job."
Dozens of students at Webster University's campus in London have lost their federal financial aid after the university violated U.S. Department of Education regulations, the St. Louis Post-Dispatchreported. Neither the university nor the government elaborated on the nature of the violation, the end result of which, the newspaper noted, is that some students "now find themselves without a way to pay for the courses needed to graduate." Webster has tried to assist the affected students in a number of ways, including by helping them apply for private loans, by directly offering its own interest-free loans and by giving students the opportunity to transfer to another Webster campus or take courses online.
Webster, a private university based in St. Louis, operates dozens of locations across the U.S. and internationally. The issues regarding financial aid access at the London campus come in the wake of wide-ranging problems reported at Webster's campus in Thailand, as documented in an Inside Higher Edarticle and an internal Webster committee report.