Thirty-two students at American colleges were named Saturday as winners of Rhodes Scholarships. Harvard University students won six of the scholarships -- more than those won at any other institution. Yale and Stanford Universities were tied for second, with three winners each. Two institutions -- New York University at Abu Dhabi and Smith College -- had their first winners. The win for NYU Abu Dhabi comes with a student in its inaugural class. Smith has had prior winners in the competitions for students from other countries (with scholarships for Smith students from Zambia and Zimbabwe), but not for American students.
New guidance from Universities UK on hosting controversial speakers on campus suggests that, in regards to the issue of gender segregation at "ultra-orthodox" religious events, segregation from right to left is preferable than front to back and “a balance of interests is most likely to be achieved if it is possible to offer attendees both segregated and non-segregated seating areas, although if the speaker is unwilling to accept this, the institution will need to consider the speaker’s reasons under equalities legislation.”
The guidance, which is intended to help universities balance their legal responsibility to protect freedom of speech while also meeting the requirements of nondiscrimination legislation, also states that “Ultimately, if imposing an unsegregated seating area in addition to the segregated areas contravenes the genuinely held religious beliefs of the group hosting the event, or those of the speaker, the institution should be mindful to ensure that the freedom of speech of the religious group or speaker is not curtailed unlawfully.”
The guidance from the British presidential association, which includes a number of legal caveats and issues to consider in any given case, is likely to be controversial. The University of Leicester and University College London both found themselves under scrutiny last year after word got out that Islamic speakers invited to the campus addressed audiences segregated by gender. The Telegraph’s deputy women’s editor, Louisa Peacock, has called the new Universities UK guidance “outrageous. What is the point of a university's equality policy -- designed to promote equal rights between men and women of all faiths -- if it cannot or will not be enforced properly?”
Syracuse University became the second American university, after Brandeis University, to sever its ties with Al-Quds University after a Nov. 5 protest on the Palestinian campus in which demonstrators used the traditional Nazi salute and honored "martyred" suicide bombers. Saying that the university "does not condone hatred or intolerance in any way," Syracuse announced that it would suspend the relationship between Al-Quds and its Institute for National Security and Terrorism. Meanwhile, Bard College said that it would continue its partnership with Al-Quds, which includes a joint master of arts in teaching program and a liberal arts college.
In a statement, Bard said that immediately following the protest, Al-Quds contacted the college “and provided an unequivocal denunciation of that protest, a clear condemnation that has since been repeated publicly, as recently as yesterday, by the university’s president, Sari Nusseibeh. Suggestions that the university administration condoned the actions of a very small group of students within a university of 12,000 are simply inaccurate.”
“The incident and the ensuing controversy demonstrate that it is more important than ever to maintain our educational partnership with Al Quds," the college said.
In severing ties with Al-Quds, Brandeis cited not only the Nov. 5 protest but also the administration’s “unacceptable and inflammatory” response to it. In a statement, Al-Quds espoused values of equality and mutual respect but also criticized “vilification campaigns by Jewish extremists” who “spare no effort to exploit some rare but nonetheless damaging events or scenes which occur on the campus of Al Quds University…. These occurrences allow some people to capitalize on events in ways that misrepresent the university as promoting inhumane, anti-Semitic, fascist, and Nazi ideologies. Without these ideologies, there would not have been the massacre of the Jewish people in Europe; without the massacre, there would not have been the enduring Palestinian catastrophe.”
Wellesley College’s Freedom Project plans to issue an invitation to Xia Yeliang to be a visiting fellow, Thomas Cushman, the director of the project and a professor of sociology, announced on Thursday. More than 130 Wellesley faculty members have signed an open letter in support of Xia, a professor of economics at Peking University who was dismissed in October in what’s been widely viewed as retribution for his outspoken criticism of the Chinese government. (Peking University objects to this characterization, and has said that Xia’s contract was not renewed because his teaching and research records were sub-par.)
In a statement, Wellesley confirmed that though an invitation has not yet been extended, the college is moving forward with the possible appointment of Xia as a visiting fellow. "While the circumstances of Professor Xia's contract non-renewal with Peking University and his academic record may be in dispute, his credentials as an advocate of academic freedom and human rights are solid," the statement says. "It is Xia's experience as a practitioner of dissent that fits well with the work of the Freedom Project." (This article has been updated from an earlier version to include Wellesley's statement.)
Wellesley faculty voted earlier this month to proceed with the college's institutional partnership with Peking despite the academic freedom concerns raised by Xia’s termination.
The American Studies Association gathers this week in Washington for its annual meeting -- and one topic of discussion will be a proposal that the scholarly group back the boycott of Israeli universities. The boycott movement has had considerable support in Europe but most American academic groups have opposed boycotts of higher education institutions as antithetical to academic freedom. To date, only one American scholarly group -- the Association for Asian American Studies -- has backed the boycott movement. Some American studies scholars are speaking out against the proposal -- and many have signed a petition urging the association not to endorse the boycott.
The University of Nicosia, in Cyprus, announced today that it will accept Bitcoin for the payment of tuition and other fees. The university is also launching a master of science degree in digital currency, which will be offered in online and on-campus formats starting in spring of 2014. The introductory course for the program, Introduction to Digital Currency, will be offered free as a MOOC (massive open online course).
The number of international students in Canada has increased by 94 percent since 2001, climbing to a total of 265,377 in 2012, according to a new report released this week by the Canadian Bureau for International Education. (For comparison, this is slightly less than a third of the number of international students in the U.S.) The top four countries of origin – China, India, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia – mirror those of the U.S.
In a survey of 1,509 international students in Canada, CBIE found that 91 percent are satisfied or very satisfied with their decision to study in Canada. Nearly half (46 percent) plan to become permanent residents in Canada; another 25 percent hope to stay in Canada and work for up to three years before returning home. More than two-thirds of students described opportunities to work full-time in Canada post-graduation and to obtain permanent residency as either “very important” or “essential” factors in their decision to study in Canada.
In regards to social and cultural integration – an issue of increasing concern as the number of international students rises – 78 percent of students said they’d like more opportunities to experience Canadian culture and family life. However, nearly a third of students (31 percent) said they prefer to mix with people of their own culture. Slightly more than half of students (55 percent) said their friends primarily consist of other international students, including 23 percent who said they were primarily friends with their compatriots; seven percent said they are primarily friends with Canadian students.
The survey also probes experiences of discrimination. While 82 percent agreed with the statement that Canada is a welcoming and tolerant society, minorities of students reported experiencing racial or cultural/religious discrimination in their interactions with faculty members, institutional staff, students and the broader community.
The CBIE report also considers the issue of study abroad, and finds that Canada’s participation rate of less than 3 percent is significantly lower than that of other countries.
Brandeis University on Monday suspended its partnership with Al-Quds University, citing the failure of leaders at the Palestinian university to condemn a recent protest in which demonstrators used the traditional Nazi salute and honored "martyred" suicide bombers. In a statement on its website, Brandeis said that President Frederick Lawrence had acted after asking the president of Al-Quds to issue an "unequivocal condemnation" of the protests. But the statement published on the Al-Quds website -- an English translation of which the president of Al-Quds, Sari Nusseibah, sent to Brandeis -- criticized "Jewish extremists" who "spare no effort to exploit some rare but nonetheless damaging events or scenes which occur on the campus of Al Quds University," as well as calling for a respectful campus environment. Brandeis called the statement "unacceptable and inflammatory," and said it would suspend the relationship with Al-Quds.