News in brief

December 8, 2011

United States

Occupy that! See you in court

Around two dozen protesters are suing university leaders over their mistreatment at the hands of the police during the recent Occupy demonstrations. The lawsuit claims that the University of California, Berkeley, Oakland police and Alameda County sheriff's deputies violated protesters' rights under the First and Fourth Amendments. The complaint relates to the way in which a protest camp at Berkeley's Sproul Hall was broken up. The plaintiffs include 18 Berkeley students, a researcher and at least two alumni from the university, the Contra Costa Times reported. Berkeley's chancellor Robert Birgeneau and its police chief Mitchell Celaya are among those being sued.


Don't publish and be damned

Oxford University Press has come under fire after one of its international branches refused to republish an essay by an Indian scholar for fear of offending Hindu sensitivities. The publisher has been asked to explain its role in the suppression of A.K. Ramanujan's essay, "Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation" - which discusses the Hindu mythological epic, the Ramayana - after the University of Delhi decided to remove it from a history course. In a letter to Nigel Portwood, chief executive of OUP UK, Sheldon Pollock, professor of Sanskrit and Indian studies at Columbia University, and Wendy Doniger, professor of the history of religions at the University of Chicago, write of their anger at OUP India's decision not to republish the essay after protests from right-wing Hindu groups. They say they were "shocked and dismayed" by the decision, The Hindu newspaper reported. An OUP spokesman said the company was aware of the debate, but claimed that it had not received the letter.


Cuts may hit students hardest

Higher education funding in Australia has been cut by A$640 million (£416.2 million) as the government unveiled public spending reductions totalling A$11.5 billion. However, The Australian newspaper reported that students, rather than universities, would be most affected by the reductions. Around A$240 million will be saved over four years by cuts to controversial university performance funding that is awarded on the basis of student outcomes. But the biggest savings, around A$404 million over three years, will come from scrapping tuition-fee discounts for mathematics, science and statistics students. Other cuts to the higher education sector include the removal of funding to reward improvements in student learning and the student experience, although widening-participation funding has been retained.


Rector rejects corruption charges

The rector of the University of Indonesia has been forced to deny corruption allegations relating to the institution's finances. Gumilar R. Somantri rejected claims that the development of a teaching hospital and several buildings within the Faculty of Health had led to financial losses because the institution had been forced to obtain a foreign loan. He also rejected allegations that overseas trips made by staff at the university and a library project had not been properly audited. A financial report was requested by Indonesia's Corruption Eradication Commission after it received a submission from a group calling itself SAVE UI, which is reported to consist of a number of university staff and alumni.

United States

Single-sex? So what?

A US local authority has ruled that single-sex dormitories at a Catholic university are not discriminatory. The District of Columbia Office of Human Rights dismissed a complaint against The Catholic University of America on the grounds that single-sex dorms do not treat men and women differently, the Associated Press reported. John Banzhaf III, a law professor at George Washington University, had filed the complaint. The office countered that by Professor Banzhaf's reasoning, the university would be forced to abandon single-sex sports teams and lavatories. The Catholic University returned to single-sex dorms for first-year students at the start of the academic year. John Garvey, the university's president, wrote in The Wall Street Journal earlier this year that the change would reduce binge drinking and "hooking up".

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