ST. LOUIS -- In an opening plenary speech at the annual NAFSA: Association of International Educators conference on Tuesday, former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan recalled his time as an international student at Minnesota’s Macalester College, saying that it taught him “lessons which have remained indispensable throughout my career. Not all these lessons were learned, I must admit, in the classroom."
“I remember when I got to Minnesota, my first winter ever, coming straight from Africa to Minnesota, I had to put on layers and layers of clothes to stay warm. And I thought that was reasonable enough.” There was, however, one common item of clothing he was determined he would never wear: “the earmuffs,” as he called them. He would wear no such things. “They were inelegant,” he told a laughing audience.
“Until one day when the temperature had hit -23 degrees, with a wind chill factor, I went to get something to eat and I thought my ears were going to fall off. The next day I can assure you I went and bought my earmuffs.”
“I learned a precious lesson – that you don’t walk into a situation, you don’t go into a country and pretend you know better than the locals, you know better than the natives. You better listen to them and look at what they do," Annan said.
More than 8,000 professionals in international education are attending the conference, which continues through Friday.
Haifa University has become the first university in Israel to give all students the day off on the most important Christian, Muslim and Druze holidays, Christmas, Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha, respectively, Haaretz reported. A new calendar will be issued that will not cut either the Jewish holidays off or the total number of class days.
The Australian National University forced the student newspaper (threatening it with loss of funds and possible action against editors) to remove a satirical graphic about Islam, The Australian reported. The graphic was part of a series that had satirized various other faiths as well. This one referred to certain Muslim beliefs about women as constituting a "rape fantasy." University officials noted that graphics that mock Islam have set off violent incidents in numerous countries in the past. A statement from the university said: "In a world of social media, [there is] potential for material such as the article in question to gain attention and traction in the broader world and potentially harm the interests of the university and the university community." Woroni, the student newspaper, published its own account of the controversy, questioning the university's response. The student paper apologized to any offended, but also noted that the item in question was satire and was part of a series that satirized other faiths. The paper's editorial added that "Woroni is concerned about the implications of these events for freedom of speech and, more generally, the role of student publications. Woroni regularly features material that is challenging, and even at times confronting. By their very nature, universities are forums to critique ideas and beliefs. University newspapers – as a platform for students – should ideally reflect this role."
The University of Tokyo is taking a series of steps to try to increase the intellectual rigor and international perspective of students, The Asahi Shimbun reported. The university is Japan's most prestigious, but educators there have long worried that students focus too much on gaining entry, and not enough on learning once enrolled. One reform will be the use of massive open online courses (MOOCs), to introduce students to new styles of education. Other plans include more courses in English and special grants to allow newly admitted students to take a year off for study abroad or other educational experiences.
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program released long-anticipated draft guidance about conditional admission and bridge, or pathway, programs on Thursday. Students admitted to the growing numbers of these programs typically have to complete an intensive English sequence or, in the case of bridge programs, a combination of ESL and academic coursework, prior to being fully admitted into a regular degree program. In such cases, many colleges have made it a practice to issue an I-20 -- a document that prospective students present in applying for visas – certifying a student's admission to a regular degree program even if that student starts out in ESL. However, the new draft guidance suggests they will no longer be able to do this, as an I-20 can only be issued for a program for which a student meets all admission requirements.
"School officials may agree to admit a student into a program of study pending satisfactory completion of admission prerequisites via another program of study (such as, a bridge program or English language program of study)," the draft guidance states. "However, a student must meet all admission requirements for the first program of study and then transfer to the next subsequent program of study upon successful completion of the prerequisites. At all times, the student must meet all admission requirements for a program of study prior to...issuance of the Form I-20."
The draft guidance also outlines acceptable standards for bridge programs, which some universities run in cooperation with other entities. The guidance would require all schools involved in delivering a bridge program to be SEVP-certified. And while a university may contract with another SEVP-certified institution -- such as an ESL school -- to provide English training or other nonacademic aspects of the program, all academic coursework must be governed by the university issuing the I-20.
"We are going through it very carefully. It is quite an extensive document," said Patricia Juza, the director of global programs at Baruch College and vice president for advocacy for the American Association of Intensive English Programs. "We’re impressed by the level of detail and the amount of legal foundation for some of the explanations."
"There are a couple of things that might require some institutions to change business practices slightly, such as with bridge programs, I don’t believe from the research we’ve done that all colleges and universities that have bridge programs issue distinct I-20s for those currently," she said. A few outstanding questions she has include how this new guidance would affect graduate students, specifically, and the impact on students who are admitted into a degree program but are found to need additional ESL training after arriving on campus.“ We’re not clear whether that school has to issue a new I-20" in that case, she said.
Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program is graduating its last students. The program, which operates in 22 developing countries, has focused on students from marginalized groups with a commitment to social justice.
An amendment approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee during the mark-up of the comprehensive immigration reform bill would allow undocumented students who entered the U.S. under age 16 and who are granted registered provisional immigrant status under the DREAM Act to qualify for federal loans and federal work-study. Immigrant farm workers with blue card status would also qualify.
The amendment, which passed on a voice vote, was proposed by Senator Mazie K. Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii. The committee approved the immigration bill in its entirety in a 13-5 vote on Tuesday, sending it to the Senate floor.
NAFSA: Association of International Educators has issued an update to its members regarding new procedures in place to verify Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) status at border checkpoints. NAFSA reports that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has upgraded databases available to Customs and Border Protection officials in order to flag F, M and J visa-holders whose SEVIS status has been canceled, completed or terminated, thus eliminating the need for students and scholars whose status remains active to be routinely referred to secondary inspection points, as was the practice under an interim policy put in place following the Boston Marathon bombings.
More detail on the technological upgrades can be found in written testimony given by DHS officials at a House of Representatives Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security hearing on Tuesday.