Concern for Imprisoned Iranian Chemist

The Middle East Studies Association’s Committee on Academic Freedom published a letter of concern Monday regarding the imprisonment of Mohammad Hossein Rafiee, professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Tehran, who has been held in Iran’s Evin Prison since June. According to the letter, Rafiee was accused of “spreading propaganda against the regime” and sentenced to six years in prison.

“To this day Professor Rafiee has not been informed of the specific details of his alleged crime,” the committee’s letter states. “His family suspects that the arrest is connected to his membership in the opposition party Melli Mazhabi, as well as to the 120-page letter which he sent to President [Hassan] Rouhani in 2014, in which he expressed his support for Iran’s nuclear agreement with the United States. In this letter, he also called for the release of political prisoners, free and fair elections, and an improvement of the human rights situation in Iran.”

The American Chemical Society and the Committee of Concerned Scientists wrote letters of concern on Rafiee’s behalf in July.

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Turkey ends funding for controversial research institute

The Institute of Turkish Studies has been accused of pushing the Turkish state's agenda on the Armenian genocide. Now the Turkish government has withdrawn its funding. Why?

College at Oxford Will Remove Cecil Rhodes Plaque

Oriel College of Britain's University of Oxford has announced that it is starting the process of removing a plaque that honors Cecil Rhodes, the British imperialist whose bequest created Rhodes Scholarships. Minority students have been pushing the college to remove the plaque and also a statue of Rhodes. The college announced it is seeking local authorities' approval to remove the plaque, explaining that "this plaque was erected in 1906 by a private individual. Its wording is a political tribute, and the college believes its continuing display on Oriel property is inconsistent with our principles."

At the same time, the college announced the start of a six-month review on what, if anything, to do about the statue. "In the absence of any context or explanation, it can be seen as an uncritical celebration of a controversial figure, and the colonialism and the oppression of black communities he represents: a serious issue in a college and university with a diverse and international mix of students and staff, and which aims to be a welcoming academic community." But the college statement noted that the statue "has been identified by Historic England as being of particular historical interest, in part precisely because of the controversy which surrounds Rhodes." So the college is consulting various groups about what to do about the statue. For now, the college will "put up a temporary notice in the window of the High Street building, below the statue, clarifying its historical context and the college’s position on Rhodes."

Rhodes Must Fall, the student group that has been pushing for the removal of the plaque and the statue, issued a statement saying that the review should have started a long time ago, and that the statue should be removed. "Commitment to a listening exercise is not the same as commitment to taking the statue down. Our movement is concerned with symbolism as well as other aspects of decolonization, such as curriculum and representation. The action plans that Oriel College has committed to are a starting point in dealing with the process of decolonization, but they are not sufficient," the statement said.

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At Irvine, questions about professorships funded by a foundation that seeks to change scholarly study of Hinduism

Irvine faculty members and students question idea of professorships endowed by foundation that wants to change scholarly study of Hinduism -- and to influence search process for hires.

Navitas, Western Kentucky End International Partnership

Navitas, an Australia-based company that develops and recruits international students into “pathway programs” that combine English as a second language and academic course work, announced this week that it is ending its partnership with Western Kentucky University after more than five years of operation.

​​Western Kentucky was one of the earliest U.S. institutions to join with corporate partners to create such pathway programs. The contract that Navitas and Western Kentucky signed in 2010 was for a 10-year term.

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Israeli University Breaks Ground on China Campus

Technion-Israel Institute of Technology broke ground Wednesday on a campus in China. Technion is partnering with Shantou University to establish the Guangdong Technion Israel Institute of Technology. The plan is for the new institution to enroll its first class of 100 chemical engineering students in 2016 and to eventually grow to 5,000 students -- 4,000 undergraduate and 1,000 graduate students.

Technion received a $130 million gift from the Li Ka-Shing Foundation in 2013 to support development of the campus, which will be built on land granted by the Guangdong provincial government and the Shantou municipal government.

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Council of Graduate Schools survey records 5 percent growth in first-time international enrollments

The number of first-time international graduate students at U.S. graduate schools increased by 5 percent this fall. More than three-quarters of new students are in master's and certificate programs.

Instead of Campus, Texas A&M Plans Institute in Israel

Texas A&M University and the University of Haifa on Monday announced plans to establish a joint institute for marine science research in Israel. The universities said they will invest $5.5 million to establish the Texas A&M -- University of Haifa Eastern Mediterranean Observatory on Haifa's campus.

Texas A&M has backed away from more ambitious plans announced in 2013 to develop a full-fledged branch campus elsewhere in Israel, in the predominantly Arab city of Nazareth.

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An academic faces online criticism after blog post about Indonesian-U.S. relations


Swiss academic based in Britain finds himself under attack over blog post about meeting between Indonesian and U.S. presidents.

Student ordered to remove Palestinian flag alleges free speech violation

A student at George Washington U receives a police visit and a warning for hanging a Palestinian flag from his dorm window. Is a residence life policy being selectively enforced?


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