Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

The Week in Higher Education

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

The Week in Higher Education

Article excerpt

The cancelling of a conference on Israel that was due to take place at the University of Southampton this month has prompted uproar among many academics, who say that the decision is stifling freedom of speech. Plans for the event, titled International Law and the State of Israel, were already on a knife-edge after attracting considerable criticism from Jewish groups and MPs, with communities and local government minister Eric Pickles describing it as "a one-sided diatribe". A spokesman for the university confirmed last week that it had now decided to withdraw permission for the event, but insisted that this had "not been influenced by the content of the conference or any representations made to the university", but "purely on concerns about the safety of conference attendees, staff, students and the public". In response to the decision, the conference organisers issued a statement saying that they plan to "launch legal efforts at the High Court", with barristers acting for them filing "grounds for an urgent judicial review of the decision". More than 9,000 people have also signed a petition to the university, calling on it to "uphold free speech and allow the conference on Israel and international law to proceed".

Letters, page 32

The University of Houston has been criticised for paying film star Matthew McConaughey $135,000 (£91,000) to speak at its May graduation ceremony, reported Inside Higher Ed on 2 April. The Interstellar star will donate his fee to charity, but there was still unhappiness in many quarters, with some readers thinking that the university's 1 April announcement was a joke. One Houston resident paraphrased the actor's catchphrase that the fee was "not alright, alright, alright", while an academic wondered what the university paid its adjunct professors. But an agency for celebrity speakers said that some could command up to $500,000, and it was a great way to advertise the institution. "Quite honestly, this is not out of the norm," said Margo Sarlo, director of marketing at All American Entertainment.

The University of Oxford's Boat Race crew will hope for better luck this weekend than their women's team, who had to be rescued by a lifeboat during training, BBC Sport reported on 2 April. …

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