Peking University announced Sunday that it is replacing its president, who has been controversial, with another academic leader who has also been controversial, The South China Morning Post reported. Out is Wang Enge, who has been in the office only two years and who has been criticized for his push for an elite college within the university to educate foreign students. He is being replaced by Lin Jianhua, who has been controversial in two previous presidencies.
Antismoking groups and some academics are calling on the University of Zurich to retract two papers it published -- without peer review -- that were financed by Philip Morris International, The Guardian reported. The papers argued that there is no evidence that requiring cigarettes to be sold in plain packages has an impact on tobacco use. Critics are questioning the findings and the nature of the arrangement with Philip Morris, noting that the company had the right to review the material prior to publication. The researchers defend their work and say that it is being described inaccurately.
Canadian authorities are investigating the theft of three paintings from various buildings at the University of Toronto. Police officers say the paintings were stolen from separate locations, and that they were cut out of their frames. The most valuable of the three is "Church of Santa Maria della Salute," by Francesco Guardi (at right). The Globe and Mail reported that paintings by Guardi have sold in recent years for many millions of dollars.
The student government of the Durban University of Technology, in South Africa, has called on the institution to expel Jewish students, although some quotes from student leaders suggest that Jewish students who support the Palestinian cause could remain, The Daily News reported. Mqondisi Duma, secretary of the student government, said, "We had a meeting and analyzed international politics. We took the decision that Jewish students, especially those who do not support the Palestinian struggle, should deregister.” A statement from Ahmed C. Bawa, vice chancellor of the university, denounced the student government's request. He called the request "outrageous, preposterous and a deep violation of our National Constitution and every human rights principle."
Middle East studies scholars are protesting the decision of the Bahraini government to revoke the citizenship of 72 individuals, including that of Masaud Jahromi, a professor of telecommunications engineering at Ahlia University.
A letter from the Middle East Studies Association’s Committee on Academic Freedom describes the decision to revoke the Bahrain-born Jahromi’s citizenship as “arbitrary and thus a violation of customary international law.”
“We strongly suspect, in fact, that the revocation of Dr. Jahromi’s citizenship is political in nature, related to his past advocacy for greater democracy and respect for civil rights in your country,” continues the letter, which notes that Jahromi was arrested and detained for multiple months in 2011, the year of the Arab Spring. Amnesty International has also expressed concern about the Bahraini government’s decision to denaturalize citizens without affording them due process, as has the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. The government has said that the 72 individuals are being punished for various “illegal acts,” which range from espionage and terrorism-related charges to allegations of “defaming the image of the regime” and "defaming brotherly countries." The government's statement does not specify which individuals allegedly committed which acts.
New rules that make it more difficult for international students to gain permanent residency in Canada are raising concerns about a potentially dampening effect on recruitment, The Globe and Mailreported. Rules that came into effect in January no longer give international student applicants with Canadian work experience a leg up in the application process and instead lump them in with other skilled workers seeking permanent residency status.
The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel picked up additional momentum this weekend when the University of California Student Association approved a resolution calling on the UC regents to divest from corporations complicit in violations of Palestinians’ human rights. But the system-wide student government went even further than that, endorsing a second resolution urging the university to divest from national governments it describes as being “engaged in human rights abuses and violence,” including not only the government of Israel, but also those of Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, Turkey, Sri Lanka -- and the United States.
The resolution cites a range of abuses on the part of the U.S. government: drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, high rates of incarceration, disproportionate targeting of racial minorities by police forces, the detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants, and its activities in “directly supporting and propping up numerous dictatorships around the world with weapons sales and foreign aid.”
BDS activists celebrated the Student Association's stance: the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at the University of California at Los Angeles issued a statement describing the vote in favor of the first, Palestinian-specific resolution as “undoubtedly the largest victory thus far in the campus divestment movement in the United States.” The group noted that student governments at six individual UC campuses, as well as the union representing UC teaching assistants and other graduate student workers, have already endorsed divestment.
Advocates of the BDS movement are often criticized for singling out Israel -- of all the objectionable regimes in the world -- for special criticism. Indeed, the conservative Cornell University law professor William A. Jacobson described the combination of resolutions at UC as illustrative of the problems with the approach. “The U. Cal. student government has proven a point I’ve made repeatedly in terms of the academic boycott: If you are going to boycott Israel, then you need to apply those standards to the whole world, which will result in boycotting yourselves,” he wrote in his Legal Insurrection blog.
Just because the system-wide UC Student Association passed the resolutions -- the full texts of which are linked in the meeting minutes -- doesn’t mean the Board of Regents will necessarily take them up. In 2010, the University of California released a statement affirming the board's policy of divesting from a foreign government, or with companies doing business with that government, only in cases in which the U.S. government has declared a regime guilty of committing acts of genocide (which it has not done in the case of Israel). In forwarding that statement, a UC spokeswoman said Monday that the university’s position and policies have not changed.
Several hundred protesters delayed by more than an hour the start of a speech Thursday of Marine Le Pen at the University of Oxford, The Guardian reported. Le Pen is leader of the National Front in France and regularly criticizes Muslims in her country. Authorities were forced for a time to close the doors to the Oxford Union. When she did speak, Le Pen did not shy away from the stances that led the protesters to call her a bigot (and worse).