Professor Killed While Leading Student Trip to Nepal

Betsy Palmer, an associate professor of education at Montana State University, died Monday from injuries from a landslide in Nepal, where she was leading a group of 16 students on a course offered by the university's honors program. The university said that the students were not injured in the landslide, but the university is working with U.S. officials to bring the students home.


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Professors in China Told Not to Discuss 7 Topics

Professors in China are reporting that they have been ordered not to discuss seven topics in their teaching, The South China Morning Post reported. Among the topics: freedom of the press, civil rights, judicial independence and mistakes of the Communist Party. "Are we still a university if we are not allowed to talk about even civil rights and press freedom?" asked one professor.


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Australian university fined for using finances as excuse to fire whistle blowing professor

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Australian court threatens $2 million fine for university after concluding that it used finances as excuse to dismiss a professor for complaining about bullying tactics by her supervisor.

No Apology for Controversial Harvard Dissertation

"I don't apologize for any of my writing," says Jason Richwine, whose 2009 Harvard University Ph.D. dissertation has received much scrutiny over the last 10 days. The dissertation argues that there will be a long-term gap in the IQs of Latino immigrants and their offspring, and critics at Harvard and elsewhere said that he lacked evidence to back his theory, and was providing intellectual support for racist ideas. Richwine was the author of a Heritage Foundation report on immigration, and critics of the report pointed to the dissertation to raise questions about why anyone was listening to Richwine and whether he deserved a Harvard Ph.D. On Monday, National Review published an essay by Richwine reflecting on the controversy. He said he regretted that the controversy over the dissertation took attention away from the Heritage report.

As for the dissertation, he defends it. "I realize that IQ selection rubs some people the wrong way, but it can hardly be called 'extremist.' Canada and Australia intentionally favor highly educated immigrants. My proposal is based on the same principle they use (pick skilled immigrants), but it offers a much better chance for disadvantaged people to be selected. If the dissertation were taken seriously, its real contribution would be to open a forthright debate about the assimilation challenge posed by the post-1965 immigration wave. Because regardless of what one believes IQ scores really measure, or what determines them, they are undeniably predictive of a wide variety of socioeconomic outcomes that people care about."

Numerous letters and petition are circulating that are critical of Richwine. One -- called Scholars Against Scientific Racism -- says: "We are a group of 1000 scholars (and counting) opposed to scientific racism -- the use of science or social science to argue that a racialized group is inferior. Jason Richwine’s dissertation is an example of scientific racism and this work has no place in twenty-first century academia."


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Scientists Charged With Sharing Secret Research With Chinese Competitors

Three New York University scientists were charged Monday in connection with a conspiracy to accept payments from competing research entities in China in exchange for providing proprietary information about research funded by a National Institutes of Health grant. The three researchers, who were studying MRI technology, allegedly maintained undisclosed financial affiliations with United Imaging Healthcare, a Chinese medical imaging company, and the Shenzen Institute of Advanced Technology, a Chinese government-sponsored research institute.

 “As alleged, this is a case of inviting and paying for foxes in the henhouse,” Preet Bharara, a U.S.  Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a press release. “These defendants allegedly colluded with representatives from a Chinese governmental entity and a direct competitor of the university for which they worked to illegally acquire NIH-funded research for the benefit of those entities, as described in the complaint. The defendants also allegedly deceived the university and others about their professional allegiances to competing Chinese interests. The acquisition of federally funded research for the benefit of these Chinese entities is a serious crime and will not be tolerated by this office.”

Yudong Zhu, Xing Yang, and Ye Li are each charged with one count of criminal bribery conspiracy. Zhu is also charged with one count of falsification of records in regards to the NIH grant. Zhu and Yang have been released on bail, as Reuters reported, but Li is believed to have returned to China before charges were brought. As Reuters noted in its report, the case against the three researchers comes at a time when there is increased concern about Chinese theft of U.S. trade secrets.

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Chinese University Eyes Campus in London

Zhejiang University has signed an agreement with Imperial College London in which the two will consider creating a new joint campus. The announcement from Imperial was brief on details. But The Telegraph reported that the new facility could include as many as 3,000 scientists, and the Zhejiang officials views it as a way to expand the reach of Chinese research.


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Report Explores Opportunities for Syrian Refugee Students and Scholars

A new preliminary report on the situation facing Syrian refugee students and scholars, based on fieldwork in Jordan, finds that displaced students are deterred from entering Jordanian universities by higher tuition, fees, and living costs that put the country’s universities “out of reach for all but a small elite of Syrian refugee students,” as well as by a lack of official travel documents or academic transcripts. Syrian academics also find few opportunities in Jordan’s universities. Recommendations outlined in the report include the mobilization of international donors in support of a consortium of Jordanian universities committed to educating Syrian students, the development of a program to support Syrian students continuing their studies in other Arab countries, and the creation of short-term research fellowships for scholars in Jordan and the greater region. (This would be in addition to scholarships and visiting academic appointments offered to Syrian students and scholars through organizations like the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund and the IIE Syria Consortium for Higher Education in Crisis. Many American and European universities have committed to provide funding to host Syrian scholars or students since the launch of the consortium last fall.)

“International higher education writ large, needs to begin to imagine regional solutions to the displacement of students and at-risk university professionals,” said Keith David Watenpaugh, a historian of the Modern Middle East and associate professor who directs the University of California, Davis Human Rights Initiative, which joined with the Scholar Rescue Fund to produce the report.  Watenpaugh noted that while there is interest on the part of Jordan’s private universities in accepting Syrian students, capacity is limited: even if each took in 300 to 400 students that would only add up to about 5,000 at most – “and the need is much greater than that.” Whereas there is capacity – and lower living costs – in Egypt, as well as interest on the part of its government: “I think that the Egyptian government is very interested in reaching out to Syrian students as part of Egypt’s desire to assert a regional leadership role," Watenpaugh said.

The report also offers historical context regarding Syria’s higher education system, and an overview of the scale of the destruction since the beginning of the conflict between government and rebel forces in March 2011. The report documents that while universities remain open, safety conditions have deteriorated rapidly: “During our interviews, it became apparent that asking if a university remains open is the wrong question; rather the more important question is: can students come and go safely from the university?” the report states. Large numbers of faculty and students have been internally and externally displaced, and students and faculty are unable to safely pass through security checkpoints in order to get to campus. Estimates are that attendance rates at universities are around 30 percent.

“It's a slowly collapsing system, and it’s collapsing alongside the collapse of other institutions in Syria,” Watenpaugh said.

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Citing Concerns on Syria, Florida State Cancels Israel Program

Florida State University has canceled a summer study abroad program to Israel due to concerns about "escalating military action between Israel and Syria," the Tallahassee Democrat reported. A university spokesman, Keith Bromery, said the decision only affects this summer's program at this point, and that the university will reevaluate safety conditions for next year.

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Question about whether Brazil is meeting study abroad goals for scientists

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Flagship foreign study program may have failed to attract desired numbers.

Senate Panel Weighs Student Visa Amendments

The Senate Judiciary Committee considering the comprehensive immigration reform bill approved an amendment proposed by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Grassley 69, which would crack down on fraudulent colleges and require accreditation for higher education institutions enrolling international students.

Other student visa-related amendments approved by the committee on Tuesday included Grassley 77, which calls for a temporary suspension of the issuance of student visas if the U.S. Department of Homeland Security does not promptly address problems of interoperability between the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and the database that is available to officials at border checkpoints. Meanwhile, Grassley 56, which would limit the authority of the Secretary of State to waive interviews for visa applicants, and Grassley 68, which would delay the implementation of certain provisions of the act related to international students until the full deployment of the long-delayed SEVIS II, both failed in 9-9 tie votes. (You can find all the amendments acted upon so far here.)

“We have learned time and again that there are holes in our student visa program,” Grassley said during the committee hearing. The program has come under particular scrutiny in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings: although the suspected bombers were not foreign students, two citizens of Kazakhstan accused of aiding in the destruction of evidence were.  

In a letter it sent to the committee on Monday, NAFSA:Association of International Educators urged senators not to approve amendments that could pose impediments to international students, arguing that this would undermine national security rather than enhance it. "Foreign students are an asset to our nation, not a threat," the association wrote. The committee will next take up the immigration bill on Thursday.

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