US: Haiti trip provokes academic freedom argument

An unauthorised trip by two students to Haiti in the wake of the recent earthquake has sparked an academic freedom row in the US, Times Higher Education reports. Jon Bougher and Roman Safiullin, students in the Documentary Institute at the College of Journalism and Communications, University of Florida, returned to Haiti after a university ban to complete their thesis documentary about aid workers. They paid for the trip themselves and worked without any input from the university.

When the students returned to Florida, they were told their final thesis submission could not include any post-earthquake footage because they had broken university rules.

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) raised concerns about the undermining of academic freedom, Times Higher Education reported. In particular, the AAUP complained the ban was imposed by the university's central administration, rather than by the academic supervisors.

Times Higher Education

IRAN: Imprisoned scholar faces serious health issues

Emadeddin Baghi, an Iranian scholar and journalist currently held in Evin Prison in Tehran, is reportedly facing serious health issues. Scholars at Risk reported that Baghi was hospitalised on 20 March after losing consciousness as a result of a respiratory condition worsened by his detention. SAR has issued an action alert calling on the authorities to ensure his well-being while in detention.

Baghi was arrested at his home on 28 December 2009. He was detained without charge and taken to an undisclosed location. Since then, he has reportedly been held in solitary confinement without access to his lawyers or medical care. SAR also said Baghi had not been permitted regular visits with his family.

Scholars at Risk (SAR)

TAIWAN: Students warned about studying in China

The Ministry of Education has warned Taiwanese high school students against studying at universities in China until important amendments were passed to key education laws. According to the Taipei Times, the ministry issued the call in response to China's latest policy to attract top students from Taiwan to its universities.

The policy announced by Beijing allows top Taiwanese students to apply directly to Chinese universities without having to take the standard entrance examination. The Department of Higher Education said while China's new measure may sound attractive to Taiwanese students, Chinese diplomas and degrees are not yet fully recognised in Taiwan.

Key amendments to the University Act, the Vocational School Act and the Act Governing the Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area, need to be passed by the legislature before they are recognised.

Taipei Times

ISRAEL: Controversy over Gaza video conference

Tel Aviv University has allowed international critics of Israeli foreign policy to take part in a video conference on 15 April entitled, "Voices from Gaza", Israel National News reports.

Participants included American professors who have reportedly voiced support for terrorist groups. Several American professors were connected to residents of Gaza during the video conference who accused Israel of causing a humanitarian crisis. Professor Uri Hadar, who is known for his radical views, was responsible for moderating the discussions.

The event aroused anger among supporters and staff members. University officials defended the conference as an expression of academic freedom. Staff also argued the event should not be considered a conference, as most speakers were appearing by video.

Israel National News

ETHIOPIA: Science academy launched in Addis Ababa

Ethiopian scientists have fulfilled a decades-old ambition by setting up the country's first science academy, Nature reports. The launch of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences on 10 April in the capital Addis Ababa, brought the nation in line with a growing number of African countries establishing such organisations to promote quality in research and offer science advice to governments.

Demissie Habte, a paediatrician who was dean of medicine at Addis Ababa University from 1983-89, was elected the academy's president. The EAS will start with a founding membership of around 50 fellows from the natural and social sciences. New fellows will be elected by the members each year, although the small number of senior academics in the country will limit the membership at first.

Nature News

THAILAND: Academics and students seek peaceful solution

A group of academics from Thammasat and Chulalongkorn universities called on the government to revoke the state of emergency currently in force in Thailand. According to The Nation, the group also called on supporters around the world to join them in pressuring the government to avoid the use of violence in the ongoing struggle between red-shirt protestors and armed troops.

The Thai government was asked to take responsibility for the clash at Kok Wua Intersection on 10 April, which ended with 24 people killed and 863 injured.

Media outlets and websites have been blocked from showing the events that unfolded on that day. The Nation reports a group from the Student Federation of Thailand performed a public pantomime that depicted the scene of bloody clash between protesters and troops. They also called on the government to stop using violence against protestors.

The Nation

CHINA: Earthquake kills more than 100 students

More than 100 students and 12 teachers lost their lives in the earthquake which struck Qinghai Province in China on 14 April. Rescue efforts continue as China's President Hu Jintao cut short a visit to Brazil and cancelled planned stops in Venezuela and Peru to come home, describing the quake as "a huge calamity which resulted in big losses of human life".


* Jonathan Travis works for the Network for Education and Academic Rights