US: California vetoes university transparency bill

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed a bill that would have required foundations and other auxiliary groups tied to California's main universities, California State University and the University of California, to open their list of donors to the public, Inside Higher Education reported on 1 October.

Schwarzenegger said the bill would not "provide sufficient protection for many who rightfully deserve a level of privacy as part of their giving". The University of California and California State University claimed that the bill would have a "chilling effect" on private donations.

The bill had been proposed by Senator Leland Yee, a frequent critic of university governance and spending practices, amid a controversy relating to the refusal of a foundation tied to California State University to reveal the amount it had spent to bring Sarah Palin to campus to speak.

The bill would have made the institutions' subsidiary organisations subject to public oversight by the California Public Records Act. Yee claims that that these subsidiaries allow state universities to hide billions of dollars.

He said that "for a governor who wanted to blow up the boxes and whose rhetoric is filled with platitudes of open government, it is a disgrace and completely hypocritical to then veto legislation to bring real transparency and accountability to our public universities".

South Africa: University threatens to sever academic ties with Israel

The senate of the University of Johannesburg has threatened to end its collaboration with Israel's Ben-Gurion University "unless certain conditions are met", Al-Jazeera reported on 30 September.

In a statement released on 29 September, the university's highest academic body stated that Ben-Gurion University would have to work with Palestinian universities and stop its support for the occupation.

The conditions stated that "the memorandum of understanding governing the relationship between the two institutions be amended to include Palestinian universities chosen with the direct involvement of the University of Johannesburg".

In addition, the university has stated it will refuse to engage in any activities with Ben-Gurion that have "direct or indirect military implications". It said the memorandum of understanding would automatically lapse on 1 April 2011 if the conditions had not been met within six months.

Johannesburg's current partnership with Ben-Gurion began in 2009 and was criticised by the university community, which responded with a petition that brought together intellectuals and activists from across South Africa.

In an essay by Archbishop Desmond Tutu that appeared in a South Africa newspaper on 26 September, he supported a boycott of Israeli universities, claiming that "Israeli universities are an intimate part of the Israeli regime, by active choice... Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation".

Iraq: Academics encouraged to return

The Iraqi minister of higher education has appealed to scholars who have fled the country since the 2003 US invasion to return home, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported on 29 September.

The Scholar Rescue Fund spoke to the Chronicle about a recent conference call held with Abed Thiab al-Ajili in which he stated that although violence persisted, the security situation had improved considerably, adding that physicians and scholars were no longer routinely targeted.

Al-Ajili went on to insist that many outsiders are ignorant about the security situation in Iraqi universities because of distorted media coverage, and that considerable development is taking place within universities.

Construction has begun on 2,000 new residences for faculty members in Baghdad to alleviate the crucial problem of housing for Iraqi academics who fled the country and wish to return.

Iraqi academics inside and outside the country are scheduled to meet in January, at a conference in Amman, Jordan. The meeting is being sponsored by the Institute of International Education, with help from the Post-War Reconstruction and Development Unit at the University of York in England.

The presidents of all of Iraq's public universities will be invited to the meeting. Henry G Jarecki, chair of the Scholar Rescue Fund, has said that the main goal of the conference is "to get people inside and outside Iraq talking as much as possible".

ITALY: Revelation of widespread nepotism in universities

An investigation by the magazine L'Espresso and the newspaper La Repubblica has found that nepotism is the primary cause of decline in Italian universities, the Independent reported on 25 September.

New research has demonstrated the extent to which lecturing jobs are given to family members. At Rome's La Sapienza University, a third of teaching staff have close family members as lecturers, while at the University of Bari, economics professor Lanfranco Massari shares his department with his two sons and five grandchildren.

Overall, the country's higher education institutions are 10 times more likely than other places of work to employ two or more members of the same family.

Roberto Perotti, professor of economics at Milan's private Bocconi University and author of L'universita Truccata ("The Rigged University") expressed concerns about the effect of nepotism on the quality of higher education: "Of course nepotism is connected to lower university standards. If a professor at Stanford gave a teaching job to his wife, there would be an outcry. But then in the top [US] universities, people are there on merit...this is nepotism and corruption, and it's everywhere."

Many Italian academics are allegedly forced to move to UK or US universities to progress on the basis of teaching and research rather than family connections.

No Italian university currently figures in the world's top 200 universities ranking compiled by Times Higher Education.

Turkey: Ban lifted on headscarves in public universities

The Turkish Higher Education Board has announced that academics at public universities cannot exclude women from classes for wearing the Islamic headscarf, Hurriyet reported on 4 October.

This ruling seems to be in direct violation of a Constitutional Court decision in 2008, which stated that the headscarf was not allowed in public universities, and a number of decisions in the Council of State, the country's top administrative court, that ban the wearing of headscarves at universities.

If the ruling receives public approval and is not challenged by the Council of State, it is hoped this would provide a solution to a long-standing controversy about the wearing of headscarves in educational institutions.

The ruling was made in response to a case of a female student wearing a headscarf being excluded from classes at Istanbul University's medical faculty.

On receiving a complaint from the student, the Higher Education Board announced that a student could no longer be removed on this basis and that academics who did so could face investigation. Under new regulations, an academic may only take note of the student's actions and report the incident to the dean.

Belgium: Academic arrested and mistreated by police

A Netherlands-based US professor is accusing Belgian police of abusing her during a crackdown on recent protests for migrant rights, Red Pepper reported on 6 October.

Dr Marianne Maeckelbergh, a professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Leiden, activist and the author of The Will of the Many: How the Alterglobalisation movement is changing the face of democracy, was arrested on 1 October while taking pictures of the arrest by police of activists taking part in the 'No Borders' protest camp in Brussels.

She claims that Belgian police dragged her by her hair, chained her to a radiator, kicked and spat at her, and verbally abused her as well as issuing threats of sexual assault. She has since been released. Police removed her ID card, USB stick and her camera, and have thus far refused to return her property.

Maeckelbergh's academic research focuses on the anthropology of globalisation, democracy and social movements, specifically decision-making processes within the alterglobalisation movement.

The No Borders network is an association of groups and individuals that support freedom of movement and counter migration control and asylum and immigration policy through international border camps, demonstrations and campaigns. It is alleged that around 300 individuals were arrested as a preventative measure by the Belgian police.

* Roisin Joyce is Deputy Director of the Network for Education and Academic Rights, NEAR. Ramin Namvari is an intern.

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