A judge has ruled a taped interview of an alleged killer conducted as part of a sociology study off-limits to Montreal police, The Globe and Mailreported. Luka Magnotta, a stripper and porn actor accused of killing and dismembering a 33-year-old Chinese student, participated in a study on the sociology of sex work conducted by two University of Ottawa professors in 2007, five years before the alleged murder took place. After reviewing a transcript of the tape, Justice Sophie Bourque of the Quebec Superior Court ruled that while the right to confidentiality in academic research is not absolute and must be weighed against other societal goals, in this case the harm to academic research done in releasing the tape would outweigh the benefit.
In December the American Studies Association joined the Association for Asian American Studies in calling for a boycott of academic and intellectual exchanges with Israeli colleges, universities, and individual faculty in protest of that country’s treatment of the Palestinians. Since the ASA’s resolution, scores of college and university presidents and the American Association of University Professors have proclaimed that this action is a violation of academic freedom.
The ASA resolution is a serious misstep toward achieving both peace and prosperity in the Middle East and reinforces greater barriers to knowledge and understanding across cultures. Awareness and appreciation of cultures in the Middle East (including traditions, languages, arts, religions, ethnicities, philosophies, economics, and politics) are precisely what we need.
In 1958 President Dwight Eisenhower signed into law the National Defense Education Act. He did so in response to the Soviet Union’s launch of the first earth-orbiting satellite, Sputnik, the previous October. At that time, the United States was woefully short of mathematicians and other scientists, and computer technology was beginning its meteoric rise. The NDEA provided funding to support and educate a new generation of engineers.
However, President Eisenhower’s action also recognized an enduring truth. When peoples of differing cultures live, work, and study together, they begin to understand that “difference” does not necessarily mean “wrong” or “bad.” Rather, they begin to recognize the human similarities across and among cultures. Under Title VI of the NDEA, international studies centers, foreign language and area studies fellowships, graduate and undergraduate international and intercultural studies programs, and citizen education for cultural understandings were funded. These programs focused largely on countries within the Soviet Bloc and have been credited as playing a significant role in promoting positive solutions and intercultural advancement in Eastern Europe. We need a similar initiative for the Middle East.
A dozen years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the horrific war in Syria, and the ongoing issues between Israel and neighboring regions have shaped our perceptions of the area's peoples and politics, whether accurate or not. I suspect many, if not most, are not accurate. Sadly, public perceptions foster the foreign policy that guides our relations with Middle Eastern countries.
Just as we need to know the peoples of the Middle East better, they need to know us better as well. International educational exchange between faculty and students is a proven strategy for accomplishing that goal. We should build ties, not cut them off, with Israeli universities, with Palestinian universities and with institutions throughout the region. That is why the ASA’s boycott is exactly the wrong action at the wrong time.
Devorah Lieberman is president of the University of La Verne.
Monash University, in Australia, announced this morning that it has been awarded the right to use a .monash domain, becoming the first university awarded the right to use its own name in that way. The news was confirmed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which governs such matters. The decision is part of a new program in which globally recognized brands may seek their own domains, rather than remaining in such domains as .edu, .com, etc. While the university plans a transition, it will continue to use a .edu.au domain.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Friday that the State Department in conjunction with the private sector had raised an initial $3.65 million in support of the 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative, which aims to dramatically increase two-way student exchange between the U.S. and Latin America and the Caribbean by 2020. ExxonMobil, Santander Bank, and the Coca-Cola, Ford, and Freeport-McMoRan Cooper & Gold Foundations are the initial donors to the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund, which aims, in Kerry’s rewards, to “help universities develop greater capacity to support study abroad” and to “challenge and reward institutions to find innovative ways to spur greater exchanges.”
The University of Arizona, which aims to create an umbrella organization for science, technology, engineering and mathematics-focused exchanges with the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Perú, in Lima, and the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, in Santiago;
The University of North Texas, which plans to use the funding to enable 30 undergraduate and 20 graduate students to travel to Chile to participate in field courses, research experiences and internships;
The University of Rhode Island, which plans to expand upon its long-standing International Engineering program in partnership with the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaiso, in Chile; and
Northampton Community College, which intends to develop a six-week, study abroad service learning course in collaboration with Universidad Nacional de Trujillo, in Peru, and the nonprofit organization WindAid.
The number of international students from outside the European Union at U.K. universities fell by 1 percent in 2012-13, the first decline since record-keeping began in the mid-'90s, Times Higher Educationreported. The number of new Indian students has dropped particularly precipitously, falling by half in just two years. Times Higher Education notes that the new data, released Thursday by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, can be expected to heighten concerns among university leaders about the effects of the government’s push to curb immigration.
China has detained a Uighur scholar who has challenged the government on its treatment of ethnic minorities, The Wall Street Journalreported. Ilham Tohti, an economist at Minzu University of China, was detained after a raid on his Beijing home and has been accused of unspecified crimes. He has been critical of Chinese government policies in the western Xinjiang region, which is home to the predominantly Muslim Uighur minority population. He has been detained before and last year was prevented from leaving China to take up his position as a visiting scholar at Indiana University.
A federal judge has ordered the U.S. government to remove the name of Rahinah Ibrahim, a professor and dean of the architecture and engineering school at the University of Malaysia, from the no-fly list, the Associated Press reported. Ibrahim maintains that she is on the list by mistake, while federal officials have said that national security would be endangered if they were forced to reveal why people are on the list. Ibrahim has been barred from the United States since 2005, when she tried to attend an academic conference in Hawaii.
A survey of faculty salaries by Al-Fanar finds that public university professors in much of the Middle East struggle to climb into the middle class. While of the 12 countries examined, Lebanon and the Gulf countries had the highest public university salaries and Yemen and Morocco the lowest, Al-Fanar found that in every country surveyed “a proportion of the salary scale was below the wage needed to be able to live a middle-class lifestyle when weighted by local purchasing power, specifically what is known as ‘purchasing power parity,’ or how far the professors’ wages could stretch in the local economy.”
“This survey gathered enough data to show what has long been complained about but not necessarily verified -- that professors in the Arab world overall do not make enough, despite their extensive education, to live a middle-class lifestyle, making teaching at a public university an unattractive profession,” Al-Fanar reported. “The findings also illustrate why so many academics migrate to better-paying countries when they can and also why many take on second and third jobs and promote their textbooks, tutoring lessons or consulting businesses.”