The nonprofit institute that manages the well-known Semester at Sea study abroad program has signed a “standstill agreement” with a German bank to prevent action by its creditors after it missed payments on an $83.5 million loan for its cruise ship, the Daily Progress of Charlottesville, Va., reported. The May 2 agreement required the Institute for Shipboard Education (ISE) to pay $400,000 at signing and $100,000 every subsequent month as the institute attempts to sell its cruise ship, the MV Explorer.
The standstill agreement came one month prior to a “mutual" decision on the part of the ISE and its university partner, the University of Virginia, to end Virginia’s academic sponsorship of Semester at Sea programs as of May 2016. A June amendment to the contract between ISE and U.Va., obtained by Inside Higher Ed via an open records request, outlines several other conditions under which the academic sponsorship could be terminated before the agreed-upon 2016 date, including if the institute violates any terms of the standstill agreement or if for any consecutive three-month period the difference between its cash balance and its accounts payable is either negative or 15 percent lower than projected figures. The document requires ISE to consult with Virginia officials no later than 45 days prior to the start of each of its scheduled Semester at Sea voyages to ascertain whether it has sufficient resources to complete the program as planned.
Lauren Judge, a spokeswoman for ISE, said in an email to Inside Higher Ed that the institute “is not in a precarious financial situation and is current on all financial obligations. ISE has ended its fiscal year (May 31, 2014) with positive operating results, improving the financial condition reflected in ISE’s balance sheet over that of the previous year.”
“The primary purpose of the standstill agreement between ISE and its creditors is to provide an orderly process for the sale of the MV Explorer, as ISE is returning to its original business model of two voyages per year,” she said. “Under this model, ISE no longer requires the use of a ship year-round. In returning to a leasing model for another ship, ISE will be relieved of the financial risks and burdens of ship ownership. The standstill agreement states that ISE is no longer responsible as a guarantor for ship debt and payment. Additionally, upon the sale of the MV Explorer (or at the latest May 15, 2015 if a sale has not been completed by that date), all financial obligations will be removed from ISE’s consolidated balance sheet.”
According to an article on its website, ISE purchased the MV Explorer in 2008 after leasing a ship for the 40 years before that. The article cites escalating fuel costs and the impact of the economic crisis on enrollments as some reasons for selling the ship.
Intellectuals in Italy are objecting to a plan of a hotel developer to use property that includes the one-time home of Antonio Gramsci to build an upscale hotel that would be named for him, The Guardian reported. The intellectuals believe that it would be an insult to the name and work of Gramsci, a Marxist thinker who was known for the idea of cultural hegemony, to use his name in such a commercial way.
In a letter to the mayor of Turin, the academics and others write: "It is always a cause of pain when a place that safeguards a part of our history becomes the container of something else that is trivial rather than a space in which the collective memory is cultivated. But this time the pain is atrocious because the trivialization is directly hitting one of our fathers, a man who wrote pages which still speak to us today, a martyr who paid for the freedom of his ideas with his life."
Faculty members and students at Peking University are criticizing the creation of a new elite unit, which will offer a Rhodes Scholarship-style program for foreign students, The South China Morning Post reported. One student told the newspaper that those in the special program "will live on the school’s best plot of land, have the best teachers, they will have bright and spacious class and dorm rooms.... They will be the privileged elite and all the other Peking University students will be second-class citizens.”
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is releasing draft policy guidance on conditional admissions policies clarifying that international students must meet all admissions standards for a given program – including English language proficiency requirements – in order for the university to issue an I-20, the legal document that students need to apply for visas. The draft guidance would mean that universities can't issue I-20s for a degree program in cases in which admission is conditional on successful completion of an English language program, but they can issue two separate I-20s, one for the English language program and one -- once a student meets the English language requirements – for the degree program.
The draft guidance on conditional admission, to be posted on the Study in the States website today, is the first installment of a second draft (the first draft, on conditional admission and pathway programs, came out in May 2013). Because of the complexity of the issue SEVP has opted to release this draft in multiple installments.
Kim Myung-soo, a professor at Korea National University of Education and nominee for education minister of South Korea, is facing tough questions from legislators over plagiarism allegations, The Korea Herald reported. Kim is accused of plagiarizing papers he wrote that won him promotion to both associate and full professor and of having students write op-eds that appeared under his name, and of having students teach classes for him. Kim has denied wrongdoing and said that because the papers he is alleged to have plagiarized "contain information that is widely available," he doesn't "think that can be called plagiarism."
An American professor turned back at the Beijing airport despite having a valid tourist visa said he believes he’s being punished for his support of Ilham Tohti, an ethnic Uighur and economics professor arrested earlier this year on charges of separatism, The New York Times reported. The U.S. Department of State and human rights organizations have denounced Tohti’s arrest.
“The issue for me is not my being denied entry — I can certainly continue my research and academic work without going to China — but the attempt to pressure those who speak in support of Ilham to retreat into silence, or at least to isolate them,” Elliot Sperling, the professor who was turned back and a Tibetan history expert at Indiana University, told the newspaper.