News in brief

August 25, 2011

United States

Anti-Semitic, not censorship

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) has rejected a claim by one of its own officials that some complaints of anti-Semitic incidents on campus amounted to censorship. Earlier this year, Kenneth Stern, the committee's authority on anti-Semitism and extremism, joined the president of the American Association of University Professors, Cary Nelson, in arguing that many complaints did not involve actual discrimination but instead represented attempts "to silence anti-Israel discourse and speakers". In a recent email to Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a lecturer who filed a complaint of anti-Semitism at the University of California, Santa Cruz, David Harris, the committee's executive director, apologises for Mr Stern's position, calling it "ill-advised". The email, cited by The Jewish Daily Forward, adds: "Unfortunately, the AJC's internal system of checks and balances did not function well in this case."

Singapore

That's enough foreigners, thanks

Singaporean universities are to cap foreign student numbers. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that institutions will add 2,000 additional places for locals by 2015, while overseas numbers will be capped at present levels, MSPNEWS reported. Mr Lee said the decision aimed to ease locals' concerns about increasing competition from foreign students. "One unhappiness is the feeling that, maybe, foreign students have taken the place of locals in universities," he said. However, while foreigners accounted for 18 per cent of enrolment at local universities, their admission did not come at the expense of places for Singaporean nationals. The number of places for locals rose 3,000 this year and Mr Lee said he hoped there would be a further 2,000 within four years.

Australia

Lose the liberal agenda

Australian universities need to reassess support mechanisms and concentrate on academic skills to help underprepared indigenous students, an expert has claimed. Martin Nakata, a professor at the University of New South Wales and chair of Australian Indigenous Education, argued that well-intentioned efforts to load the curriculum with indigenous-specific content had pushed out core work in some disciplines. He told The Australian newspaper: "It needs to now be said that we as indigenous people have picked up on some very liberal agendas that have distracted us from the preparation of the learning journey for students. It comes from a mainstream tradition of inclusive education and that agenda has somewhat displaced the core components of the curriculum to do what it sets out to do, which is to graduate students as the best they can be."

United States

Sisters doing it for themselves

The president and policymaking board of a US university have been dismissed. The Reverend Anthony DeConciliis and 19 other officials were dismissed from Our Lady of Holy Cross College in New Orleans, The Times-Picayune newspaper reported. Reverend DeConciliis became president of the college shortly before Hurricane Katrina hit and was responsible for nearly tripling its endowment during his tenure to about $23 million (£13.9 million). Sister Suellen Tennyson, local leader of the order of Marianite nuns that owns the college, said Myles Seghers, the college's coordinator of graduate education, had been named interim president. She made no comment on why Reverend DeConciliis and the board had been removed, saying only that the nuns wanted to form a new board.

Vietnam

Support for jailed professor

The US, France and Amnesty International have criticised the conviction of a French-Vietnamese professor jailed for belonging to a banned pro-democracy group and publishing an anti-Communist blog. Pham Minh Hoang, professor of mathematics at Ho Chi Minh City University, was found guilty of trying to overthrow the Vietnamese government by being a member of the prohibited Viet Tan group and for posting 33 articles denouncing the country's one-party Communist system, CBS News reported. He has been sentenced to three years in prison. France's foreign ministry issued a statement saying it "strongly deplores the conviction". "We hope that this decision is reconsidered," it adds.

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