Rancho Santiago Faculty Decry Deal With Saudi Arabia

The Academic Senate of the Rancho Santiago Community College District has passed a resolution urging the district to end a $35 million consulting contract with the Saudi Arabian government, The Orange County Register reported. The resolution cites Saudi discrimination against women, Jews and others, and says that the college shouldn't be engaged in helping the Saudi government build education in a deeply discriminatory society. District leaders said they would be helping Saudi students and that the money they will be paid is similar to the funds going to other community colleges helping with such work.


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France to Increase Number of University Courses on Islam

The French government on Wednesday announced plans to pay for a major expansion in the number of university courses on Islam, International Business Times reported. The courses will be free and will be based on teaching about Islam within a context of the values of the French Republic, officials said.



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Dutch Ph.D. students protest proposed shift in their status

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Government wants them classified as students, but they see many benefits to being considered employees.

SAT Cheating Concerns Cause Continued Delays in Asia

Scores from SAT exam administrations in Asia were withheld for four straight months due to concerns about cheating, and some of the scores withheld from last year have not yet been released, The Washington Post reported. Some scores were withheld following the October, November, December and January administrations of the college entrance exam in Asia. Spokesmen for the College Board and Educational Testing Service cited security reasons in declining the newspaper’s requests for information on specifics, including the number of scores withheld, the countries affected and the steps they’re taking to address the problem.

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Referendum in Britain in Support of Israel Boycott Passes

A referendum to support the boycott of Israeli academic institutions at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, passed with a 73 percent majority. Organizers of the referendum said Friday that 2,056 total votes were cast in the school-wide referendum, which was proposed by the Students' Union and open to students, faculty, nonacademic employees, university governors and outsourced workers, such as cleaning and security staff.

SOAS has ties with Hebrew University of Jerusalem. SOAS’s media relations office did not respond to a request for comment over the weekend.

The SOAS referendum follows a series of votes by scholarly associations to support the academic boycott of Israel, including a Dec. 2013 vote by the American Studies Association. In February, members of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) approved a resolution that, while not taking a position on the merits of the boycott itself, urged the association to “provide platforms for a sustained discussion of the academic boycott and foster careful consideration of an appropriate position for MESA to assume.” 

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U. of Westminster Faces Scrutiny on Alumnus in ISIS

Britain's University of Westminster is facing scrutiny over whether it is a hotbed for Islamic extremism in the wake of reports that the Islamic State's British-accented killer of Western hostages is Mohammed Emwazi, an alumnus of the university. Emwazi has been called "Jihadi John" by the British press for the gruesome videos in which he beheads people ISIS has kidnapped.

The university issued a statement late last week that said: "If the allegations of terrorist activity are true, we are shocked and sickened by the news. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families. We have students from 150 countries and their safety is of paramount concern. With other universities in London, we are working to implement the government’s Prevent strategy to tackle extremism."

The university also announced on Twitter that it was calling off for now a lecture called "Who Is Muhammad?" because of "increased sensitivity and security concerns." One of the featured speakers was to be Sheikh Haitham Al-Haddad, and gay and women's groups questioned why the university would host a person who has called for gay sex to be criminalized and who has spoken in favor of female genital mutilation.

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Irish University Stops Asking Staff About Menstrual Issues

The National University of Ireland at Galway has agreed to suspend asking new employees a series of health questions that were criticized as sexist by many faculty members, The Connacht Tribune reported. Among the questions: “Do you suffer with any problems with your menstrual periods? Do you suffer any breast problems? Have you ever been treated for gynecological problems?” While there was also a question about prostate conditions, the consensus was that female employees were facing much more personal and unwelcome questions. Since the newspaper reported on the questions, the university has faced considerable criticism -- and has defended the questions, saying that they are being used to promote good health. But officials changed their minds and said that they would stop asking the questions.


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Initiatives seek to increase academic collaboration between the U.S. and Mexico

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Multiple governmental initiatives seek to increase academic mobility and scientific collaboration with the U.S.

The FBI and the Professor

The Federal Bureau of Investigation recruited a University of South Florida business professor and former head of its Confucius Institute as a spy, Bloomberg reported. The article recounts how Dajin Peng, a Chinese-born U.S. citizen, agreed to provide information on his home country and the local Chinese community in Tampa, Fla., to an F.B.I. agent, who, in turn, worked to try to protect Peng when USF accused him of racking up thousands of dollars in fraudulent expenses, writing false information in letters in order to help Chinese scholars obtain visas and storing sexually explicit images on a university laptop (Peng denied wrongdoing, and the university said it acted appropriately and was not influenced by the F.B.I.).

As Bloomberg reported, Peng’s case "shows how worried the U.S. government has been about growing Chinese involvement in American higher education, especially the activities of the Confucius Institutes. It also reveals the rise of another sometimes-unwanted influence on campus -- that of U.S. intelligence agencies keeping tabs on the rapidly growing ranks of foreign students and professors.”

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In the Event of a Homeland Security Shutdown

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program, which certifies universities to host foreign students and scholars and maintains a database that tracks international students’ whereabouts in the United States, will continue to operate in the case of a possible Department of Homeland Security shutdown, though its activities may be hobbled due to reduced manpower in administrative offices. For example, if SEVP were to revoke a university’s certification to host international students, it would need the legal office to sign off on it first. And it relies on the human resources office to process job applications.

“The Student and Exchange Visitor Program is funded by user fees,” a spokeswoman, Carissa Cutrell, said in a statement. “In the event of a government shutdown, or partial government shutdown, SEVP continues to operate, overseeing approximately 1 million international students and 9,000 schools certified to enroll international students, as well as the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.”

Funding for the Department of Homeland Security is set to expire on Friday, and a new spending bill has so far been stymied in Congress by a dispute over President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. The Department of Homeland Security has said that a shutdown would result in the furloughing of 30,000 workers. However, 75 to 80 percent of the department's employees, including border patrol agents and customs inspectors, are considered essential and will be asked to come to work without a paycheck.

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