CLIR Report on NITLE

Logo designed by Khaled Al-Saai http://www.kashyahildebrand.org/zurich/alsaai/

I finally read through this report on NITLE (the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education), and I must say I agree with most of it’s findings.  It is a thorough survey of what was accomplished and what is needed. Thanks are due to Jason Brodeur, Morgan Daniels, Annie Johnson, Natsuko Nicholls, Sarah Pickle, and Elizabeth A. WaraksaI, as well as all who participated in the surveys they conducted, for this job well done.

I was very proud of my involvement in NITLE, which started our as a visionary organization, assisting member institutions to be forward looking and to think big about what they could accomplish. I was Program Director of NITLE’s Al-Musharaka Initiative, which is mentioned early in the report. I am immensely proud of my involvement with that project. Our focus really was on building community, facilitating collaboration, and fostering intellectual exchange, not just across institutions, but also across sectors within the academic community.  Much of what has been published about the initiative focusing on the Arab Culture and Civilization Online Resource (the ACC site), one of our first projects, but it was really the collaborative projects that were the most interesting and produced the most exciting results.  Continue reading

Restore Basic Consumer Protections to Student Loans!

An email I received today from MoveOn puts the case for the Student Borrowers’ Bill of Rights very well.  This is a very important piece of legislation.

Did you know that, like murder and treason, there is no statute of limitations on the collections of student loan debt?

Did you know that student loans do not enjoy bankruptcy protections just like any other type of debt in America, including gambling debts?

Did you know that defaulted borrowers face the potential of having their professional licenses suspended, as well as having their wages, Social Security benefits, tax returns and other benefits garnished, without a court order?

It’s well past time we right these wrongs and that’s why Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) has introduced the Student Borrowers’ Bill of Rights (H.R. 3892).

Please sign the petition and share it widely!

Wellesley College Statue Story Shouldn’t Be So Big

The Wellesley College statue story is making news in New Zealand, and I just saw it on Al Jazeera, too!  It’s clearly blown way out of proportion, so much that I now regret doing my insignificant part to give it legs in my social media presences.

Let’s be clear, only 713 people have signed the petition to move the statue as of this writing.  Wellesley has approximately 2500 students.   The petition is open to the public so anyone can sign.   I can’t see the signatures, but I suspect that many of the signatories are not from the campus community at all.  Still, even if  we assume that everyone who signed is a Wellesley student, the vast majority of students have no problem with the statue being where it is.  That is consistent with what I am hearing.

I have spent my entire adult life in higher education environments of various sorts: public and private, large and small, technical and liberal arts, foreign and domestic.  Student protests are frequent and healthy.  They seldom get much traction in the media, even when they are much larger and even when they work for it.  What is it about this one that has caused such buzz?  Would this story have gotten so much attention if it had happened at a coed liberal arts college?  Or is it the fact that Wellesley is such an highly rated college, so there’s delight in knocking it down?   Or is it that people delight in seeing a students at a liberal arts college behaving so narrow-mindedly?  Whatever it is, the story has been carried way beyond whatever legs it should have had.

President Obama is Wrong About the Liberal Arts

Check out this article from Inside Higher Ed highlighting comments made by President Obama about the discipline of Art History.  It ends with a chart of politicians that have attacked liberal arts disciplines, only 4.  I’m pretty sure it could be much longer than it is.

This article by Virginia Postrel in Bloomberg argues that Art History was a particularly bad major for President Obama to use in his comparison, noting that it’s a major for the elite and that people who have degrees in Art History are wildly over-represented in the top 1% of wage earners.   Be that as it may, and whether he intended it or not, the President’s remarks were an implicit attack on liberal arts education in general.  I take exception to that.

I do agree with the first part of his statement.  It is possible to get a good, high-paying job without a college education.  They are decent jobs and if that is what you know you want to do, you should do it.  I see many people go to college who don’t need to, and arguably shouldn’t go, often accumulating debt working toward degrees they’re unable to complete, only to end up in a job they wouldn’t have needed it for. Continue reading

Why I Worry About Turnout

On the CBS Evening News, Bob Schieffer just made the point that no matter what the polls say, everything ultimately depends on voter turnout, and that Republicans have been better with turning out their supporters in recent elections.  This really worries me.  I am not registered with a party but I am, philosophically, a liberal.  I believe put those policies are best for America and so I nearly always vote Democratic.  But I must confess that in this election my interests are also personal.

I worry Republican advances in Congress will jeopardize aspects of the new health care law.  Provisions of the law are still coming into effect, so many people don’t realize how beneficial it is. Rollbacks will have minimal impact on me as a resident of Massachusetts, but I spent last year in another state and I can assure you, this system is better. I’m still cleaning up some of the financial mess from an inadequate insurance plan last year.

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SAR Academic Freedom Media Review – September 29 – October 5, 2012

Scholars at Risk monitors reports of threats to academic freedom and higher education communities worldwide, including media articles, blogs, opinion pieces and other announcements.  Unless otherwise indicated (such as in articles written by SAR), the language and views contained in the search results reflect those of the originating author and/or publication and do not necessarily represent the views of Scholars at Risk or its members, affiliates, board or staff. Archived media reviews are available here.

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UAE: Attacks and Smear Campaign against prominent human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor
Gulf Center for Human Rights, 10/5

Professors and students say higher education reforms a threat to academic freedom
Louise Brown, Toronto Star, 10/4

Syria: Prominent Human Rights Lawyer Abducted
Human Rights Watch, 10/4

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SAR Academic Freedom Media Review – September 22-28, 2012

I realize it is an idealistic view, but I believe passionately in the necessity of free intellectual inquiry.  It is the only way we arrive at truth. Only in the most extreme circumstances should it be compromised, for example to protect public safety. That is why I so strongly support the work of Scholars at Risk, and why I re-publish their weekly Academic Freedom Media Review every week. Even if all we do is call attention to abuses of academic freedom, we render a service. So read, re-post, or forward these messages. Visit the site of Scholars of Risk and find out more about the work.

Scholars at Risk monitors reports of threats to academic freedom and higher education communities worldwide, including media articles, blogs, opinion pieces and other announcements.  Unless otherwise indicated (such as in articles written by SAR), the language and views contained in the search results reflect those of the originating author and/or publication and do not necessarily represent the views of Scholars at Risk or its members, affiliates, board or staff. Archived media reviews are available here.

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Higher education mounts rescue efforts for Syrian students, scholars
Eileen Travers, University World News, 9/28

Scholars at Risk calls for letters on behalf of Busra Ersanli of Turkey
Scholars at Risk, 9/27

Women’s situation and human rights under militarisation of society: the case of Sri Lanka
Inge Erling Tesdal, University of Bergen, 9/27
Continue reading

Academic Freedom Media Review – September 15-21, 2012

Scholars at Risk monitors reports of threats to academic freedom and higher education communities worldwide, including media articles, blogs, opinion pieces and other announcements.  Unless otherwise indicated (such as in articles written by SAR), the language and views contained in the search results reflect those of the originating author and/or publication and do not necessarily represent the views of Scholars at Risk or its members, affiliates, board or staff. Archived media reviews are available here.

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Iran: Ensure Equal Access to Higher Education
Human Rights Watch, 9/22

A professor in defense of tenure and academic freedom at SLU
Tim Lomperis, The University News of Saint Louis University, 9/20

Interview with Pınar Selek: ”The Old Mindset Is Still in Place in Turkey”
Ceyda Nurtsch, Qantara, 9/19

Writer Held Over Japan Comments
Luisetta Mudie, Radio Free Asia, 9/19

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SAR Academic Freedom Media Review – August 18-24, 2012

Scholars at Risk monitors reports of threats to academic freedom and higher education communities worldwide, including media articles, blogs, opinion pieces and other announcements. Unless otherwise indicated (such as in articles written by SAR), the language and views contained in the search results reflect those of the originating author and/or publication and do not necessarily represent the views of Scholars at Risk or its members, affiliates, board or staff. Archived media reviews are available here.

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Government closes all universities after two-month lecturer strike
Dinesh De Alwis, University World News, 8/24

Authoritarianism harms academia
Thandwa Mthembu, Mail & Guardian, 8/24

Iran must immediately release prisoner of conscience Arzhang Davoodi
Amnesty International, 8/24

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Academic Freedom Media Review – April 28-May 4, 2012

The Scholars at Risk media review seeks to raise awareness about academic freedom issues in the news. Subscription information and archived media reviews are available here. The views and opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily those of Scholars at Risk.

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Chinese Activist Says He Will Study at NYU
The Chronicle of Higher Education, 5/4

CERN Scientist Sentenced to 5 Years in French Terrorism Case
Scott Sayare, The New York Times, 5/4

Movement to Protest Israel’s Policies Triggers Bitter Fights Over U.S. Scholars’ Speech
Peter Schmidt, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 5/4

Independent UN experts urge Iran to ensure protection for rights defenders
UN News Centre, 5/4 Continue reading