Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Antisemitic students at University of California San Diego (UCSD)‏ supported by faculty


California campuses have become the epicenter for anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, and anti-American activism, student groups at UC San Diego led by Students for Justice in Palestine introduced — for the third time — an initiative aimed at divesting university funds from “U.S. companies that profit from violent conflict and occupation.”

In the end, the student groups who had sponsored this odious divestment resolution actually lost their bid to implement it.

Supporters of the divestment initiative immediately proclaimed that the initiative had failed because opponents of the resolution were “racists” and bigots. They claimed opponents pressured the student government representatives to vote down the campaign in a manner that created a “hostile campus climate … for students of color and students from underserved and underrepresented communities,” suffering victims who are now “hurt, [and] feel disrespected, silenced, ignored and erased by this University.”These victimized students and faculty also self-righteously proclaimed in a letter to the UCSD administration that the pro-Israel faculty and staff who spoke against the resolution at the meeting should not even have had a voice in the proceedings: “The fact that they can state whatever they like at public meetings because of academic freedom but while also using their positions of authority as professors or staff for power and intimidation is not acceptable.

Letter from The Board of Directors of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East:

We are the members of the board of Scholarsfor Peace in the Middle East (SPME), a grass-roots community of more than 50,000 academics on 4,000 campuses all over the world, who have united to promote honest fact based, and civil discourse, especially in regard to Middle East issues. We have noted with concern the degradation of civil discourse on campus and the increasing harassment and intimidation of pro-Israel and Jewish students and faculty in Europe, Canada, the United States, and elsewhere.
In response to that concern, the SPME Legal Taskforce recently produced a Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and the Freedom of Speech.

Recent events at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) are a case in point. On February 29, 2012, after having tabled it in the two prior years, the Associated Students of UCSD (ASUCSD, the student government) defeated a resolution calling on the University system to divest from US companies, specifically General Electric and Northrop Grumman. UCSD's Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) had proposed the resolution, alleging that those companies supply components of Apache Helicopters that are sold to Israel and used by Israel's defense forcesagainst the Palestinian "population."After seven hours of contentious public statements and debate, the ASUCSD voted against the resolution.

One of the speakers who opposed the resolution was UCSD University Professor Shlomo Dubnov of the Music department, who heads the campus chapter of SPME. He reported to us that pro-divestment students at the meeting had used abusive language toward anti-divestment students and had called him a racist.

On March 2, leaders of five student organizations (SAAC, MEChA, KP, BSU, MSA, SJP) who had led the pro-divestment initiative sent a letter to faculty, administrators, and members of the UCSD Campus Climate Council "to address the hostile campus climate being created for students of color and students from underserved and underrepresented communities." The letter alleged that pro-Israel speakers at the meeting who referred to themselves as ‘UCSD staff' or ‘UCSD professor' used their positions as University employees to verbally attack students and to even "erase the existence of many individuals in the room."

Their letter also states: "Students report that at this meeting one particular Music Department faculty member verbally harassed a student outside of the 4th floor Forum," presumably referring to Professor Dubnov, who was the only member of the Music Department at the meeting. He asserts that he never engaged in any direct conversation with pro-divestment students in that setting and that numerous faculty, staff and UCSD students can verify that. Professor Dubnov shared the letter and his denial of the allegations with the head of the UCSD Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination, who is investigating these allegations and verifying the specifics with others who were in attendance.

The complaints were never officially filed but sent publicly in a series of emails to the UCSD departments of Ethnic Studies and Critical Gender Studies and to the San Diego Faculty Association (SDFA). Without any fact-finding, the SDFA immediately endorsed the allegations and issued a public statement accusing pro-Israel faculty, and Professor Dubnov specifically, of verbally attacking "students of color."

SPME believes that the SDFA has violated the UCSD code of conduct and compromised its integrity by publishing unproven allegations. We urge UCSD to determine which individuals present at the February 29 meeting were actually using abusive language, and to implement whatever procedures the UCSD codes specify.

Received via email

Work experience is key to gaining a place on top British university courses

State school pupils could be missing out on places at top universities because they are not doing enough work experience, a study suggests.

Work placements are seen as essential or desirable for large numbers of prestigious courses at Russell Group universities, particularly medicine, dentistry and veterinary science.

But state school pupils are less likely than those from independent schools to undertake such placements, the Manchester University study found.

Researchers found university applications from independent school pupils drew on 55 per cent more examples of work experience than those from state school pupils, and the nature of the work was also different.

State school candidates were more likely to cite unskilled work, such as Saturday jobs, than a placement or internship, while independent school pupils were six times more likely than their state school counterparts to cite work ‘experiences’ instead.

Dr Steven Jones, who conducted the research, said debates on university access must ‘recognise that independent school applicants are at an advantage because they have both access to high quality placements and the know-how to exploit it in their personal statement’.

Dr Jones studied admissions requirements at the Russell Group of leading universities and found that work experience was desirable for all veterinary science courses, 91 per cent of dentistry, 88 per cent of medicine, 37 per cent of law courses, 28 per cent of engineering courses and 21 per cent of business and economics courses.

Presenting the findings at a seminar staged by the Education and Employers Taskforce, Dr Jones said: 'There is a need for debates surrounding university access to recognise that work experience is important in the admissions process, and that independent school applicants are at an advantage because they have both access to high quality placements and the know-how to exploit it in their personal statement.'

He said state school A-level students with good grades could end up 'missing' from top universities due to a lack of good quality work experience.

Dr Anthony Mann, director of policy and research for Education and Employers Taskforce said: 'Dr Jones's research provides new evidence demonstrating the high importance of work experience to HE admissions.

'It makes a difference to who gains admission to highly competitive courses which are gateways to attractive professional careers. 'It is important that state schools are aware of its importance and helped to access the sort of placements which independent schools routinely source through their alumni.'

Chris Sydenham, head teacher of the Ellen Wilkinson School for Girls, a comprehensive in West London, said: 'Young people want to do meaningful work experience but placements are often hard to find for those without family or other accessible and usable connections with the working world.'


Australia: Private schooling is clearly better

Randwick Boys High and Randwick Girls High are next door to each other yet separated by a wide divide in academic performance. The boys school ranks 458 on the MySchool website while the girls school ranks 231. So close yet so far apart. Just how distracted are the boys for them to lag so behind the girls in performance?

According to data on the MySchool website, the schools have very similar socio-economic catchment areas, as expected, while Randwick Boys received $1220 more per student than Randwick Girls last year. So why was there such a gap in overall results as measured by the federal government's National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) scores?

I hadn't realised the difference between the aptitude and attention spans of girls was so much greater than boys of comparable social background. Unless there is more to the story. There is. Randwick Boys High is not unusual. It is emblematic of a broad divergence in performances when like-for-like comparisons are made via the MySchool data base and its socio-economic index known as ICSEA.

The disparity is stark when public and private high schools with comparable scores on the ICSEA socio-economic index are compared.

Just down the street from Randwick Boys is the Catholic boys school Marcellin College. Again, the schools are close in every way except academic ranking. They are close on the ICSEA index. Randwick Boys also received $614 more per student than Marcellin College last year.

Yet in the overall NAPLAN scores, Marcellin ranks 122, far ahead of Randwick Boys at 458. Marcellin's ranking is also more than 100 places ahead of Randwick Girls, which wipes out the female superiority factor. Another nearby Catholic boys schools, Waverley College, also ranks much higher than both Randwick Boys and Randwick Girls, at 165.

It's not just about money. Although Waverley rated higher than Marcellin in the ICSEA index, and received almost 30 per cent more income per student, Marcellin delivered more bang for the buck, outranking its Catholic rival by 43 places.

Overall, the MySchool is telling us that private schools are producing a better education than public comprehensive schools even when they have similar resources and similar socio-economic catchment areas. The disparity in performance does not change when the comparison is shifted to girls schools.

Again, the distance between Randwick Girls High and a nearby Catholic girls school, Brigidine College, is not great except in academic rankings. The two schools are a couple of streets apart. They are very close on the ICSEA socio-economic index, with a slight advantage to Brigidine. Financially, they are almost identical. Brigidine received $11,337 per student last year and Randwick Girls received slightly more, $11,444 (both below the state average of $12,539).

Brigidine used its similar modest resources to excel, ranking 120 on MySchool, more than 100 places ahead of Randwick Girls. Another nearby Catholic girls school, St Clare's, Waverley, again with a socio-economic index similar to Randwick Girls, also ranks much higher at 152.

An even more striking gap exists between Randwick Girls and St Catherine's, an Anglican girls school in Waverley. They are only 2.7 kilometres apart and there is not a great socio-economic distance, with St Catherine's ranking 10 per cent higher (wealthier?) on the ICSEA index.

The similarities end there. St Catherine's ranks 52, an elite performance among the state's 783 secondary schools. It also received $21,020 per student, almost $10,000 more than Randwick Girls. That explains a lot.

The difference in incomes came from the pockets of parents, who paid a stiff premium in the expectation of their daughters receiving a markedly superior education than they would at a comprehensive public school. Parents of Brigidine and St Clare's girls also received superior performances for their investment, which usually involves financial strain. These are not rich schools.

Obviously, it is only fair to acknowledge that comprehensive schools are being strip-mined of their best and most motivated students (and parents) by selective public schools and private schools, which now have 40 per cent of the student population.

It is also important to note a wide discrepancy in the percentage of students who come from non-English-speaking backgrounds in the seven schools mentioned here: Randwick Boys 75 per cent, Randwick Girls 55, Brigidine 28, Marcellin 23, St Clare's 21, St Catherine's 13 and Waverley College 7.

The high percentage of non-English-speaking-background students at Randwick Boys would appear to account for the drag in the school's relative performance. But this in itself is not a marker of disadvantage. Many of the best schools in the state have very high percentages of such students.

The top academic school in NSW, James Ruse Agricultural High, has 96 per cent of its students from non-English-speaking backgrounds.

The MySchool data offers an overall conclusion: when private schools and public schools are handed a similar cohort of students and income, most private schools produce clearly better results.

For those with reservations about the MySchool rankings, I share those reservations. However, this is transparency at work.

This is a Julia Gillard-driven initiative that is designed to drive improvements in performances. Soon, the NSW government will introduce a momentous change, giving independence to public school principals.

Headmasters will have to spend a lot more time on management and budgets than they do now. But they will be largely liberated from the NSW Education Department. They will have the flexibility enjoyed by private school principals, and resources can be shifted from the bloated central bureaucracy to front-line schooling.


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