Israel's High Court of Justice on Tuesday upheld the decision of government authorities to upgrade a higher education campus on the West Bank to full status as an Israeli university, The Jerusalem Post reported. The presidents of the nation's other universities objected to the procedures used to upgrade Ariel University, as the institution is known, and the court rejected those arguments, saying that proper procedures had been followed. A major objection the university leaders (but not the focus of the legal fight) is their view that the country does not have enough money to support a new university. Ariel has been championed by those who support Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Many Israeli academics have opposed the granting of university status, saying that it is wrong to build up Israeli institutions on the West Bank, and that doing so will likely encourage the movement in other countries to boycott Israeli academe.
The chancellor of the University of California at San Diego has issued a statement on the American Studies Association’s resolution backing the boycott of Israeli higher education institutions. “We affirm the right of the faculty to advance their scholarship and research through open dialogue with academic colleagues in all countries,” Pradeep K. Khosla said. “UC San Diego faculty collaborations draw on richly diverse ideas and views around the globe, including in the Middle East. Excluding scholars limits discussion and conflicts with the University of California’s highest aspirations.”
The London School of Economics and Political Science has apologized to two students who, at an event for new students, were told that they had to cover up their T-shirts depicting Mohammed and Jesus, Times Higher Education reported. At the time, the students were staffing a table of the Atheist Secularist and Humanist Society at the university, and officials said that their attire could be seen as harassment of Muslims. Now, however, officials say that they realize that the T-shirts did not violate any university rules and so the students should not have been told to cover up what they were wearing.
The Canadian Association of University Teachers this week called for colleges and universities in Canada to sever ties to Confucius Institutes, which have been set up at many Canadian (and American) campuses with support from the Chinese government. Supporters say that the institutes are a valuable way to expose more students outside China to Chinese history and culture. But critics say that the institutes present an oversimplified and positive image of China and that universities that want the house institutes may feel pressure to avoid certain topics. A statement from James Turk, executive director of the Canadian faculty group, said: “Confucius Institutes are essentially political arms of the Chinese government. They restrict the free discussion of topics Chinese authorities deem controversial and should have no place on our campuses."
Ireland’s universities stand to lose €3.6 million -- the equivalent of about $4.9 million -- in government funding as punishment for giving unauthorized bonuses to presidents and senior staff, the Independentreported.The bonuses were intended to reward senior staff for taking on extra responsibilities, but they were disbursed without the requisite ministerial approval.
Trinity Western University has won final approval from authorities in British Columbia to start a law school -- the first faith-based law school in Canada. Gay rights and civil liberties groups had urged the provincial government not to grant permission, citing the Christian university's rules that ban students from "sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman." Critics said that this ban effectively barred gay people from enrolling. The university said that it was not discriminating against gay people, only against those who have sex outside of heterosexual marriage. A statement on Wednesday from the university's president, Bob Kuhn, reiterated that point. "It needs to be said that all students (gay or straight) are welcome to attend Trinity Western University, providing they meet our academic requirements and agree to respect our community values. Like most religious communities, we have established a set of values and principles to guide our daily lives; ours are in a manner consistent with Christian teaching. Chief among those values is to show love and respect for all people at all times," he said.
On NAISA’s website, the president of the association, Chadwick Allen, a professor of English and coordinator of American Indian studies at Ohio State University, wrote that the council opted to write its own declaration of support rather than commit itself to an outside organization’s specific language. In a “Declaration of Support for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions," the council urges the association’s members “to boycott Israeli academic institutions because they are imbricated with the Israeli state and we wish to place pressure on that state to change its policies. We champion and defend intellectual and academic freedom, and we recognize that conversation and collaboration with individuals and organizations in Israel/Palestine can make an important contribution to the cause of justice. In recognition of the profound social and political obstacles facing Palestinians in such dialogues, however, we urge our members and supporters to engage in such actions outside the aegis of Israeli educational institutions, honoring this boycott until such time as the rights of the Palestinian people are respected and discriminatory policies are ended.”
Academic boycotts have been deeply controversial: opponents argue that boycotts in general represent a violation of academic freedom, while they say that boycotts against Israel in particular are discriminatory in singling out one nation for criticism. In a message on NAISA's website, Allen wrote that the declaration and the boycott can be discussed at the association’s annual conference in May if members believe it to be appropriate. The council’s declaration was originally prompted by a member-generated petition.
George Mason University and a student group, GMU Students Against Israeli Apartheid, have come to an agreement on a protest walkout planned by the group during the winter commencement at the university, to be held Thursday. The walkout is to protest a speaker and honorary degree recipient, the Israeli business executive and philanthropist Shari Arison. Students say that her ties to prominent Israeli businesses make her a supporter of "the illegal occupation and colonization of Palestine," and they have criticized the university for inviting her to speak. Arison recently endowed a chair at the university. Under the agreement with the student group, those who want to leave will be informed before Arison speaks, and will be given a space outside the arena to sit while she is talking. They will then return. A spokeswoman for George Mason said she knew of only one graduating student who is in the organization, but she said that others may be there in the audience.
Ángel Cabrera, the university's president, blogged about the controversy Tuesday. He said he would be "proud" to introduce her, and that her businesses philosophy and philanthropy promote "positive change" in the world. Added Cabrera: "Shari is an Israeli, and I am aware that her presence at graduation has upset some students and faculty who have had a very painful relationship to Israel in terms of the conflict and their people’s history. With full respect for all concerned, our graduation ceremony will help to reaffirm our commitment to the mission of our university, and my own highest goals, namely that the world is made better by deep, courageous, and compassionate engagement with all peoples, with their civilizations, with their respective religions, with their hopes and dreams, and with their sorrows and suffering, even when doing so can put us in between peoples in conflict. This is the Mason way – to enable and empower students from all civilizations, and to pioneer new initiatives and projects that will make this precious planet a far better place for all than the one we inherited."