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Far-right government in Brazil slashes university funding, threatens cuts to philosophy and sociology

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 05/06/2019 - 00:00

First, they announced they were considering withdrawing funding from sociology and philosophy programs. Writing on Twitter a week ago Friday, Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro said, “the goal is to focus on areas that will have immediate return to taxpayers, such as veterinary medicine, engineering and medicine.”

Then, they said there would be 30 percent cuts to three major federal universities: the University of Brasília, the Fluminense Federal University and the Federal University of Bahia. Brazil’s new minister of education, Abraham Weintraub, said the three universities -- all three of which are respected internationally -- are underperforming academically and hold "ridiculous" and partisan events. "The university must have a surplus of money to be making such a mess and organizing ridiculous events," he told the O Estado de São Paulo. The newspaper reported that he gave as examples of this mess "Members of the Landless Workers' Movement inside the campuses, naked people inside the campuses."

Then, they announced that the 30 percent cuts would apply not just to those three universities, but to all of Brazil’s federal universities. Higher education policy experts clarified that the proposed cuts do not affect faculty salaries -- faculty at the federal universities are civil servants -- but instead target the maintenance budgets of the universities, things like electricity and staff travel.

It has, in short, been an eventful 10 days for Brazilian higher education. Experts see the cuts to federal university budgets and threatened cuts to specific programs as ideologically motivated and part of a broader effort by the Bolsonaro government to roll back the signature achievement of former left-wing president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of expanding access to higher education.

“Bolsonaro campaigned on ending supposed leftist indoctrination in schools, so he’s going to make that happen,” said Jason Stanley, the Jacob Urowsky Professor of Philosophy at Yale University and author of How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them, in which he wrote about international attacks by far-right governments on higher education (Penguin Random House, 2018).

“What we’ve been waiting to see is when there would be changes in policies for budgeting. It’s now coming,” said James N. Green, the Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Professor of Modern Latin American History at Brown University.

“First, they were singling out the universities [seen] as particularly intransigent, the Federal University of Bahia, the University of Brasilia and Fluminense Federal University. These are excellent universities, some of the top universities; they also have people within them who have organized events criticizing Bolsonaro,” Green said.

“Then it was made clear that you couldn’t target the universities to cut the funding without any real basis; they decided to expand it to 30 percent across the board, but the intentions were very clear,” Green said. “It’s to punish universities.”

The Estado reported that the initial 30 percent cuts to the three federal universities were part of about $1.5 billion in cuts to the Ministry of Education. "I can cut and unfortunately, I have to cut from somewhere," Weintraub, the education minister, said.

Weintraub, who was nominated for his post in April and is the second education minister since Bolsonaro assumed the presidency in January, has also said that the government’s priority is elementary and secondary education. “In the government plan that elected President Jair Bolsonaro, it was very clear, it was explicit, that our priority was basic education and preschool,” he said in a video posted on Twitter seemingly in response to protests regarding the cuts. “An undergraduate student costs 30,000 reais per year; a student in a day-care center costs 3,000 reais per year. For each undergraduate student I enroll in college, I could have 10 children in a day-care center -- children who are generally in a low-income family, poorer, more needy and who do not have day care for them today. What would you if you were in my position?”

In Brazil, however, the federal government has a relatively limited role in financing K-12 education, which is primarily financed by states and municipalities. “There is a real situation of budget constraints,” said Simon Schwartzman, an expert on Brazilian education and a member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences. “But this kind of decision to cut 30 percent across the board [at federal universities] combines the need to make cuts with anti-intellectual reasons.”

“Announcing this specific set of cuts -- the 30 percent cut -- is absolutely ideologically motivated. There’s no other way to see it, because it wouldn’t be enough money to make a difference in public financing,” said Justin Axel-Berg, an associate researcher of higher education policy at the University of São Paulo. He added that the topic of cuts hadn’t been discussed until two to three weeks ago after Weintraub took office.

“This is a man who has been in his job for less than a month wanting to make an immediate impact,” Axel-Berg said.

Weintraub, an economist who before becoming education minister was a professor at the Federal University of São Paulo, has been a proponent of countering leftist ideology in universities and overcoming what’s described as “cultural Marxism.” He recently defended what he sees as the right of students to film their teachers in the classroom.

“This new minister has adopted this anti-cultural Marxist rhetoric of the entire Bolsonaro administration,” said Stephanie Reist, a postdoctoral researcher in education policy at the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro. “They just say ‘cultural Marxism.’ It doesn’t mean anything, but they’re very much against any kind of critical race theory or feminism, or any sort of critical studies writ large.”

The proposal to defund philosophy and sociology programs has attracted worldwide outrage, though Axel-Berg cautioned that in the era of Bolsonaro it is difficult to separate proclamations on social media that may or may not have substance behind them from serious policy proposals. “How this is going to be achieved, nobody has any idea,” Axel-Berg said. “These aren’t people who have any kind of experience with higher education, with universities. It’s noise on Twitter being played to their electoral base.”

International academics are, however, taking the threat seriously. The American Philosophical Association and the American Sociological Association joined with several other groups in writing a letter protesting the move. Thousands of international academics have signed open letters. One such letter describes the attack on philosophy and sociology as “an attack on the very fabric of a democratic society.” Another letter says Bolsonaro’s “intent to defund sociology programs is an affront to the discipline, to the academy and, most broadly, to the human pursuit of knowledge. This proposal is ill conceived and violates principles of academic freedom that ought to be integral to systems of higher education in Brazil, in the United States and across the globe.”

Stanley, the Yale philosophy professor and author of How Fascism Works, said what’s happening in Brazil should be “a canary in the coal mine” for American academics. “This is not some exotic thing,” he said. “This is an international, worldwide far-right attack on the universities that is if anything more mainstream in the United States than in Brazil.”

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Colorado State, citing potential sex assaults, tries to shut down Undie Run

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 05/06/2019 - 00:00

In an annual tradition, the students of Colorado State University strip to their underwear at the end of the academic year and dash across the campus in what is known as the Undie Run. This is a celebration before final exams, a way of students airing stress in a way that many of them perceive to be harmless.

But administrators want to shut it down.

One of their primary reasons? That participants, particularly women, have reported being sexually assaulted during the run and at parties held afterward -- an argument, students and other critics say, that smacks of victim blaming.

Online and in interviews with Inside Higher Ed, these Undie Run supporters say that linking students’ (admittedly minimal) attire to sexual violence promotes the idea that the survivors were somehow asking to be assaulted if they ran around publicly in their underwear.

Campus rape has been a long-standing issue for colleges and universities, though administrators’ handling of such cases has come under new scrutiny.

Though few colleges have radically changed the way they investigate and judge these cases, they are under new pressure to respond to sexual assault.

“I think that, primarily in my experience, that schools are motivated by press,” said Faith Ferber, a student engagement organizer with activist group Know Your IX. “And if a lot of people are assaulted at this Undie Run, and there’s an article about it, that their school is getting bad press, they have a rape problem, schools are afraid of that. They want to do whatever they can shut those things down.”

Organizers of the run have been hyping it up far before its scheduled date on May 10. But administrators have engaged in a full-court press against the event, saying they will ask police to monitor illegal activity and have emailed parents an explanation of why they are intent on stopping it.

One official, Jody Donovan, the assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students, even wrote on the Undie Run Facebook event from her personal account, listing all the reasons the university will not allow it. She also has responded to students who said that the university’s policies can’t stop them from participating.

“If there is an indication that there will continue to be plans to assemble, there will be a heightened police presence on campus and off campus,” Donovan wrote on Facebook. “If there are plans to assemble off campus, police and university volunteers will also respond. If people assemble, police will take video of the area. Images will be used to follow up on complaints and potential criminal incidents to identify individuals who behave inappropriately.”

An identical message was sent to students and their families -- as well as other colleges in the area, said spokeswoman Dell Rae Ciaravola. This detailed how students could report sexual assaults.

In addition to concerns about sexual violence associated with the run, administrators said they have observed outsiders photographing or filming the run, and they have posted those images online or used them without students’ consent.

Colleges should inform students about potential risks outside sexual assault, said Jess Davidson, the executive director of advocacy group End Rape on Campus. Administrators can flag the potential for students’ pictures to be taken, but ultimately, they’re making the decision, Davidson said. She also said that she thinks the focus on photo taking is a bit of a red herring.

“Most students know if they’re running around in their underwear outside, people are going to be posting it to social media,” Davidson said. “There will be friends taking pictures and putting it up; Instagram stories are going to be happening with the Undie Run. Students are aware of that.”

The university said it estimates the run has forced officials to pay about $150,000 to cover property damages and security, too.

Ciaravola did not respond to additional questions from Inside Higher Ed, including the college’s response over the sexual assault criticism.

Students online blasted administrators and complained the event had gone off without a hitch in previous years.

“My favorite part is when they said it makes it easier for girls to get groped by men when rapists literally hurt women fully clothed,” Andrea Goff, a student, wrote on Facebook. “It’s not about what you're wearing and that’s just another excuse. Don't blame the victim because they wanted to participate in a tradition where we should all be respectful of each other, regardless of how much or little we're wearing. Underwear doesn't change that.”

The organizers of the Undie Run did not respond to request for comment.

Ann M. Little, a history professor at Colorado State, posted to Twitter after she received the emailed warnings for students -- she agreed with administrators

“I understand and agree mostly with the public and personal safety issues our campus police raise about the Undie Run,” Little wrote, adding, jokingly, the easiest way to shut down the jaunt around campus would be to send out administrators and faculty sans clothes.

Races involving partial nudity are certainly not confined to the Colorado State campus. Colleges across the country hold similar rituals, and there are videos online to prove it -- among them the University of California, Los Angeles; UC Irvine; Oregon State University and Northeastern University.

Davidson said that such events always inspire debate about whether they facilitate rape. But she said if Colorado State wanted to help its students, it wouldn’t impose a full ban on the Undie Run. Officials should be teaching students about “bystander intervention” -- how to step in when you witness sexual violence, or offer a ride service so students who have been drinking have a way to arrive home safely, Davidson said.

“It just sends the message that it is the fault of the individual who is running in their underwear,” Davidson said.

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Colleges announce commencement speakers

Inside Higher Ed - Mon, 05/06/2019 - 00:00
  • Alfred University: Marlin Miller, business leader and philanthropist.
  • Baruch College of the City University of New York: Carl E. Heastie, speaker of the New York State Assembly.
  • Boston University: Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences.
  • Chaffey College: Yasmin Davidds, CEO of the Multicultural Women’s Leadership Institute and the Women’s Institute of Negotiation.
  • Cranbrook Academy of Art: Carole Harris, the artist.
  • Drury University: Cheryl Brown Henderson, daughter of the late Reverend Oliver L. Brown, namesake of the Brown v. Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
  • East Tennessee State University: Mike Krause, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission; and Scott Lillibridge, senior medical adviser to the International Medical Corps.
  • Loyola University Chicago: Ellen Alberding, president of the Joyce Foundation; and others.
  • Manchester Community College, in Connecticut: Connecticut attorney general William Tong.
  • Maria College, in New York: Sister Marilyn Lacey, founder and executive director of Mercy Beyond Borders.
  • Monroe Community College, of the State University of New York: Tokeya C. Graham, associate professor of English and philosophy at the college.
  • Park University: Reggie Robinson, vice chancellor for public affairs at the University of Kansas.
  • Ramapo College of New Jersey: Tiki Barber, the author and former New York Giants football player.
  • Randolph-Macon College: Alan B. Rashkind, a lawyer and the college's outgoing board chair.
  • Rollins College: Robiaun Rogers Charles, vice president of advancement at Agnes Scott College; and others.
  • St. John’s University, in New York: Margaret M. Keane, CEO of Synchrony.
  • University of Miami, in Florida: Drew Gilpin Faust, former president of Harvard University; and others.
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EEA pupils at UK independent schools up despite Brexit uncertainty

The PIE News - Fri, 05/03/2019 - 03:11

British independent schools have recorded an increase in the number of pupils from European Economic Area countries despite ongoing Brexit uncertainty, data from the Independent Schools Council has revealed.

According to its annual census the body, which represents more than 1,300 UK independent schools, revealed there are currently 26,370 non-British pupils in ISC schools whose parents live in the UK.

“There are more pupils being educated in overseas campuses than there are overseas pupils in ISC schools”

This cohort made up 5% of all pupils at ISC schools, up slightly from 2018’s 25,165 students.

However, among these pupils, 45% came from EEA countries  – up three points from last year – which “is an interesting finding in light of Brexit,” the census noted.

Additionally, the census showed there are currently 28,910 non-British pupils attending ISC schools whose parents live overseas, making up 5.4% of the total ISC pupil population.

Among non-British pupils whose parents live overseas, the census showed steady growth in pupil numbers from China (up 6% on 2018), while among pupils from Russia, it highlighted four years of decline after a period of steady growth (down 10%).

“Non-British pupil numbers from Hong Kong have been growing since 2016, although have not yet returned to historical highs”, noted the census.

Meanwhile, numbers from the EEA were shown to been increasing since 2017 after a period of decline from 2012.

“It is perhaps surprising to see an increase in the number of EEA pupils at ISC schools given the uncertainty surrounding Brexit,” said ISC chairman Barnaby Lenon in a statement.

“But clearly much value is placed on the broad all-round education independent schools offer [including] their inclusive environments and commitment to supporting the development of globally conscious young people.”

And while most independent schools are small schools serving their local community, added Lenon, “some attract pupils of many different nationalities and these young people have a positive influence on our ability to understand other cultures as well as the country’s economy and our intellectual base”.

As revealed by Oxford Economics in a 2018 impact report, non-British pupils at ISC schools contribute £1.8billion to GDP in the UK, support 39,310 jobs and generating £550m in annual tax revenue.

“It is perhaps surprising to see an increase in the number of EEA pupils”

The census also showed that a growing number of ISC schools are operating overseas campuses, educating a total of 39,616 pupils compared to the 28,910 pupils whose parents live overseas.

According to the data, there are currently 58 such campuses educating a total of 39,616 pupils, up from 47 campuses and 32,330 pupils in 2018.

“There are, therefore, more pupils being educated in overseas campuses than there are overseas pupils in ISC schools in the UK,” noted the census.

Of those campuses, mainland China has the highest number with 26 campuses, educating a total of 15,137 pupils, followed by the Middle East (13), Thailand (5) and Hong Kong (4).

South Korea and Malaysia were shown to have two such campuses respectively.

Earlier in 2019, third-party research firm ISC Research highlighted the growth of “an international style of education” in China, with reasons such as the rise in private education expenditure among Chinese families, Beijing’s amended “two-child” policy, and increased awareness of the benefits of international education suggested for the boom.

The US was revealed to be the most popular destination for higher education outside of the UK

With regards to higher education, the census revealed that of those continuing to higher education, 93% do so within the UK.

For the 5% of pupils that chose to study outside of the UK, the US was revealed to be the most popular destination attracting almost half (47.5%) of ISC pupils going to overseas universities.

However, this is down on last year when over 50% chose to study in the US, it noted.

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StudyPerth rolls out first action plan initiatives

The PIE News - Fri, 05/03/2019 - 02:32

The agency responsible for promoting Western Australian education, StudyPerth, has launched a series of initiatives and marketing campaigns as part of its goal to double the number of international students the region hosts.

“China is a very important source of students for Western Australia”

The initiatives, some of the first to stem from the Action Plan 2019-2025, include Destination Perth, a marketing campaign for Chinese students to address brand awareness issues identified in the lead up to last year’s strategy launch.

“We had suspected for some time that awareness of Perth as a study destination could be better, and the findings from the report confirmed this suspicion: 78% of prospective international students considering study in Australia say they know nothing, or very little about Perth,” said StudyPerth chief executive Phil Payne.

“China is a very important source of students for Western Australia so we wanted to use these findings to inform a strategic approach in China to the promotion of Perth as a world class study destination, and attract increasing numbers of students from this country.”

The campaign encourages Chinese students to think “outside the box” and generated 1.5 million impressions on Chinese social media with its accompanying video.

To help StudyPerth meet the aims of its Employability Project, the agency supported the Australia India Business Council’s mentoring event for Indian students.

The event, held at the Consulate General of India, sought to help Indian students in Western Australia identify and access employment opportunities.

“We hope that by working together with AIBC to empower more of Perth’s Indian students to develop industry connections through mentorships, they will have an exceptional student experience in Perth and share their story through their networks in Perth and in India,” Payne said.

The only state to experience a decline in its international enrolments in 2018, Western Australia has been actively working towards reversing the tide and will play host to the upcoming AIEC and CISA conference.

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