The Student and Exchange Visitor Program is expected to post new draft guidance regarding the certification of pathway programs for international students today. The guidance, which is the second such draft, defines a pathway program as a “postsecondary program of study combining nonremedial and remedial coursework to prepare a student who is unable to meet the requirements for admission into a degree program.” It specifies that SEVP can certify a pathway program only if it consists of at least one nonremedial course per session and if all the student’s nonremedial courses are applicable toward graduation requirements. The guidance also stipulates that in pathway programs that consist of an English as a Second Language component, all schools involved the ESL portion of the program must be in compliance with the Accreditation of English Language Training Programs Act.
As Inside Higher Edhas reported, many universities have turned to third-party corporate partners to help administer and deliver their pathway programs for international students.
SEVP will be accepting public comments on the draft guidance for a 45-day period.
A Chinese court has sentenced a university professor found guilty of "separatism" to life in prison, The New York Times reported. The Times said that the sentence is the most severe in recent years to a dissident. Ilham Tohti, the professor, teaches economics at Minzu University and is an advocate for ethnic Uighurs. In 2013, he had been expected to take a visiting position at Indiana University at Bloomington, but Chinese authorities blocked him from leaving the country.
Thousands of university students in Hong Kong boycotted classes on Monday to demonstrate against Chinese government restrictions on voting rights, The New York Timesreported. Organizers said that more than 13,000 students attended a Monday rally to protest a proposed change to election rules in which a nominating committee loyal to the leadership in Beijing would be able to screen candidates for the Hong Kong city government’s top post. Hong Kong, a former British colony, was returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and operates as a semi-autonomous region.
A coalition of Israel advocacy organizations concerned by what they describe as the prevalence of anti-Israel programming at federally-funded Middle East studies centers are lobbying for changes in the Title VI program that would 1) “[r]equire recipients of Title VI funds to establish grievance procedures to address complaints that programs are not reflecting diverse perspectives and a wide range of views” and 2) “[r]equire the U.S. Department of Education to establish a formal complaint-resolution process similar to that in use to enforce Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
The full joint statement, signed by 10 groups, is included as an appendix to a new report on “The Morass of Middle East Studies” issued by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. The statement also references a paper produced by the AMCHA Initiative that reports on anti-Semitic activity and an anti-Israel bias in the programming at the University of California at Los Angeles’s Center for Near Eastern Studies. The Brandeis Center and the AMCHA Initiative are both parties to the statement, as are Accuracy in Academia, the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, the Endowment for Middle East Truth, Middle East Forum, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, and the Zionist Organization of America.
The groups behind the statement argue that Middle East studies centers are not being held accountable in regards to a provision of the Higher Education Act requiring Title VI grant applicants to present “an explanation of how the activities funded by the grant will reflect diverse perspectives and a wide range of views and generate debate on world regions and international affairs.” They argue that in using tax dollars “to present biased, anti-American, anti-Israel views in their outreach programs,” the federally-funded centers are not serving the national interest. They maintain that, without reforms, Congress should consider cutting Title VI funding to Middle East studies centers altogether.
In an emailed statement, Amy W. Newhall, the executive director of the Middle East Studies Association, rejected such "politically motivated attacks on scholars and academic institutions" as a serious threat to free speech, academic freedom and the role of colleges as sites of free and open discussion.
“MESA resolutely opposes all forms of hate speech and discrimination, including anti-Semitism,” Newhall wrote. “It supports prompt and forceful action in response to anti-Semitic incidents on college and university campuses.”
“However, MESA is concerned that some of the reports issued by partisan political groups based outside academia may actually weaken efforts to combat anti-Semitism by portraying all criticism of Israeli policies as a form of anti-Semitism or as ‘anti-Israel.’ Their real goal seems to be to shut down open discussion of issues of public concern by demonizing academic and other critics of Israel, Zionism, and U.S. policy in the Middle East, in many cases by tarring them with the brush of anti-Semitism. They are even willing to threaten federal funding for university-based Middle East studies centers, which have a long and distinguished history of providing the United States with thousands of people trained in the languages, politics, cultures and histories of this critical region."
UPDATE: UCLA's media relations office issued a statement saying that the university "remains dedicated to complying with all federal laws and respecting the free and open exchange of ideas representing diverse viewpoints. Academic units all across our campus are constantly working to provide programming that exposes our students and the public to a vast range of perspectives and topics. In fact, three centers at UCLA focus on Middle Eastern Affairs and regularly provide programming on Israel, among other topics: the Center for Near Eastern Studies, the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies and the Center for Middle East Development. Israeli academics, students, speakers and artists are regularly part of programming at UCLA. We recognize many subjects may engender passionate debate and difficult conversations and we encourage civil dialogue that appreciates the paramount importance of free expression, academic freedom and a respectful exchange of ideas."
The National Association for College Admission Counseling has released a guide for colleges that are considering working with agents in international student recruitment. The report emphasizes the risks of institutions engaging with third-party agents and ethical concerns about paying agents per-capita commissions -- particularly in cases in which students and parents are not aware of the financial relationships between a given institution and an agent -- concluding that, “For these reasons, NACAC does not endorse the practice of commission-based international student recruitment.” But NACAC does now permit the practice (even if it doesn't endorse it) and for those institutions that choose to work with recruitment agents, the report provides advice on such topics as identifying and vetting agents, providing training, and monitoring agency performance. Among other things, the guide recommends that institutions list all of their agency partners on their website and that they contractually prohibit agents from “double-dipping” by charging students for services related to advising and application assistance. The guidance also recommends that contracts stipulate that agencies must disclose to students and their parents the fact that they receive compensation from the institutions that they represent.