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Quebec students call for free education now that tuition hike is off the table

MONTREAL— One Quebec student group says that with tuition hikes have officially been canceled after months of student strike and elections, it will now champion the idea of free education. The new Parti Quebecois government scrapped a controversial increase in post-secondary tuition fees this week and a hardline student group is now turning to free education as its long-term goal.

CLASSE, which speaks for 100,000 Quebec students, says free education is entirely achievable and used a march attended by several hundred people on Saturday to highlight the issue. “Our struggle for accessibility to higher education is not yet over,” said Jeremie Bedard-Wien, a spokesman for CLASSE.

Free education is not a position that is shared by the province’s two other major student associations and with the proposed hike by the former Liberal government formally cancelled, Quebec has the lowest tuition in the country again. The PQ government has said it favours indexing tuition to inflation but has promised to call a symposium on the issue. Students celebrated a victory on Saturday that had them in the streets for months. Premier Pauline Marois, on her first full day in office, kept an election promise by cutting the Liberal’s proposed tuition hike.
The province’s universities have long said they are chronically under funded and facing shortfalls. By cutting the proposed hike, the province’s tuition stands at $2,168 per year.

Saturday’s march organized by CLASSE was a mostly peaceful event, held under a steady rain. Police and protesters had brief skirmishes during isolated altercations. Montreal police reported two arrests after projectiles were launched and an officer suffered a knee injury. Charges — if any — were not specified. Quebec Solidaire’s David also said Saturday that her party favours a public inquiry into police actions over the course of the entire student conflict — spanning several months and including near-daily protests.

While those marches have come to a halt, student movement organizers warn they are ready to go again in big numbers if need be. “Given that the strike is no longer and many students are in intensive catch-up situations, we won’t see numbers like before,” Bedard-Wien said. “But if the newly elected government decides to attack students, they can expect mobilization to pick up at the same levels as the spring.”

September 24, 2012

Students lift occupation of Universidad de Chile’s main campus

SANTIAGO—The student occupiers of Universidad de Chile’s main campus building turned the building over to university control around noon Wednesday, ending 26 days of occupation. The occupation, or “toma,” which began when a group of about 30 students entered the building early on Aug. 16, marked the climax of a series of student strikes and demonstrations demanding drastic reform of Chile’s education system. The decision to vacate the facility follows a vote Friday at a special meeting of the Federation of Students of Universidad de Chile (FECH), and comes in the wake of increased calls by various university organizations to end the occupation many considered unproductive.

During the first days of the occupation, FECH president Gabriel Boric expressed his hope that it would spark a student movement on the scale of last year’s “Chilean Winter.” “Today (Universidad de) Chile, tomorrow all the other universities,” Boric said. A recent ebb in student protest, however, combined with a continued lack of cooperation from the ruling administration of Sebastián Piñera administration, had led members of the university community to demand a change in tactics.

“(The occupation) puts a property at risk that forms an important part of the cultural heritage of the country, constitutes an act that divides our university community and has become an inadequate strategy,” the University Senate of Universidad de Chile said in an open letter, published on Sep. 6, in support of Pérez’s previous criticism of the toma. In an statement to La Segunda on Wednesday, Pérez sought to establish a campus consensus regarding the matter, stating that the lifting of the occupation “respects the decision of the majority of the university community that occupation is not the most appropriate means to achieve the educational demands that we all share.”

While some may consider the end of the occupation to be a clear setback to the Chilean student movement, the FECH at least has attempted to put a positive spin on it, emphasizing the continued use of the space as a center for student advocacy.

“(The central campus) will enter a new stage of mobilization, because we believe that the forms of mobilization need to serve the political objectives and ours is to deepen the debate about public education,” Boric told Radio Universidad de Chile. “This means we need to have a dialogue between academics, officials and students about what the new state of the central campus is going to be.” The following day, protests were staged in various neighborhoods around Santiago. A march culminating in a rally at the until-recently occupied central campus building was also tentatively planned for Friday.

September 21, 2012

University of California reach settlement in pepper-spray case

CALIFORNIA—The University of California reached a proposed settlement Thursday with UC Davis students and alumni who were hit with pepper spray during a campus protest last November. The UC Regents approved the settlement during a closed session as neither the University’s lawyers nor the lawyers for the Davis students and alumni would comment on details of the settlement agreement which still needs a federal judge’s approval.

A lawsuit was filed in February by 21 current and former students who were pepper-sprayed during the Nov. 18 Occupy-related demonstrations. The incident has already cost the university system plenty of money, including $445,879 to an independent consulting group that conducted an independent review of the pepper-spraying.

The officers captured on a widely-viewed video spraying the seated students in their faces at close range are no longer with the campus police department. The funds for the settlement will come from UC’s self-insurance program, which has about $600 million in reserves, officials said. The settlement comes on the same day a UC report recommended that a university Chancellor or a designee should make any final decisions when police are contemplating use of force during campus protests.

They are among 49 recommendations in a final report that comes after criticism of the force police used during protests last year. The report is designed to help guide the 10-campus system’s future responses to protests. Among other things the report calls for a more measured response relying on more discussion at the beginning of a possible dispute in an effort to avoid the need for police. The report also recommends better training for officers.

September 21, 2012

8,000 Students Strike in Hong Kong

HONG KONG—In an attempt to decisively kill the ‘brainwashing’ program from China, more than 8,000 Hong Kong university students boycotted their classes on Tuesday to protest a Chinese-required law that they described as “brainwashing,” in what has been the largest student demonstration in the city since 1989, the same year as the Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing.

The protest culminated a nearly two-week-long series of demonstrations in front of the main Hong Kong government building over the so-called “Moral and National Education.” Last weekend, the protesters wrang from Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying the crucial concession that the classes will not be mandatory as previously stipulated. But now, dressed mainly in black, demonstrators called Leung Chun-ying to put the kibosh on the plan once and for all. Not only that it not be mandatory, but that it be scrapped entirely.

The education curriculum, if adopted by any school, would teach revisionist history from the Chinese Communist Party, critics say. The curriculum is similar to the patriotic education that is taught in mainland China. The classes would touch very little on the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, or the Tiananmen Square massacre.

September 20, 2012

Quebec’s anti-corruption police raid McGill University superhospital offices

MONTREAL – Quebec’s anti-corruption police squad is conducting an investigation at the offices of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). The police from the Unité permanente anticorruption (UPAC) raided the offices of the superhospital on Guy Street in downtown Montreal early Tuesday morning.

Three minivans and two unidentified police vehicles arrived at the offices since 6:32 a.m.UPAC verified that personnel are being questioned, but did not confirm what led the anti-corruption unit to the MUHC offices.

No arrests have been made, although other searches are expected to be carried out in Montreal during the course of the day. Richard Fahey from the MUHC confirmed that a UPAC investigation was taking place and that it was related to contracts awarded in the Glen Yards site public-private partnership.
The MUHC also said that it is cooperating fully with investigators but would not comment further.
The Glen Yards site has been described as one of the largest construction projects in Quebec history.

The $1.3 billion superhospital and university campus is being built in the west end of Montreal, near Vendome metro station. Several of the companies involved in the MUHC’s public-private construction partnership have been investigated by Quebec’s anti-corruption police.

One of the companies, Louisbourg SBC, is owned by the construction magnate Tony Accurso. Following UPAC raids in April, Accurso was charged with fraud, conspiracy, influence-peddling, breach of trust and two counts of defrauding the government. The arrest came just a few months after the agency that runs Quebec’s building code announced it was temporarily suspending the licences of two construction companies owned by Accurso’s family.

The firms, Constructions Louisbourg, and Simard-Beaudry Construction were found guilty in 2010 of defrauding Revenue Canada of more than $4 million between 2003 and 2008. They were prohibited from obtaining public contracts for four years, although Louisbourg SBC was able to keep its MUHC contracts.

September 19, 2012

Emory to restructure College of Arts and Sciences, eliminate Visual Arts Department

ATLANTA—Emory University has announced a plan to restructure its College of Arts and Sciences. As it embarks on a multi-year program to shore up core strengths and focus on new growth areas, it will eliminate four departments – most notably, the Department of Visual Arts and the Program in Journalism.

Among other changes, the Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts will become an institute without a permanent faculty, and graduate admissions to it will be suspended. The announcement affects six of the seven visual arts faculty members: Linda Armstrong, Sarah Emerson, Julia Kjelgaard, Diane Kempler, Kerry Moore and Laura Noel. Jason Francisco, who is tenured, will move to another department. The faculty will remain through the 2013-14 school year in order to allow students pursuing the joint art history and visual arts major to complete their studies. (The department had no majors.)

September 19, 2012

Artist Shepard Fairey gets probation in Barack Obama ‘Hope’ poster copyright case

NEW YORK—Los Angeles street artist Shepard Fairey received a sentence of two years’ probation and a $25,000 fine in the criminal contempt case involving his “Hope” poster of Barack Obama.

Fairey admitted in 2009 that he destroyed documents and submitted false images in his legal battle with the Associated Press over the use of a 2006 AP photo of Obama as inspiration for the poster. The AP accused the artist of copyright infringement; Fairey maintained that his artwork fell under fair-use laws.

He pleaded guilty in February to one count of criminal contempt for destroying the documents, manufacturing evidence and other misconduct. The sentence handed down Friday by Judge Frank Maas of the Southern District of New York included 300 hours of community service. Fairey will not have to serve jail time.

Legal documents show that federal prosecutors sought a jail term for Fairey. The artist faced a maximum sentence of six months in prison and a maximum term of supervised release of one year.

In a statement following his sentencing, Fairey said: ”My wrong-headed actions, born out of a moment of fear and embarrassment, have not only been financially and psychologically costly to myself and my family, but also helped to obscure what I was fighting for in the first place — the ability of artists everywhere to be inspired and freely create art without reprisal.”

September 11, 2012

Colombia’s cities brace for student protests

COLUMBIA—The major cities of Columbia embrace as students have announced massive protests for Wednesday demanding the government keep its promise on educational reform.  While previous student demonstrations were mainly peaceful, transport in cities like Bogota, Medellin and Cali is likely came to a complete halt when the students took to the street in November last year.

The students claim the government has not kept its word about involving students and universities in the construction of a reform of Colombia’s higher education system. According to student organization MANE, “the government continues to push a reform agenda that will not solve the problems and ignored to the hard work of the MANE and the student community to construct an alternative that achieves to change the neo-liberal model.” The students claim the government continues to push student loans instead of subsidized public education and violates academic autonomy.

The government denies breaking promises made after massive student protests shut down the capital Bogota on several occasions late last year and says that the government is keeping the promises made to the MANE and teachers union Fecode. According to outgoing Minister Maria Fernando Campo, “there are no reasons that justify the organized marches.”

Students and government committed themselves to jointly work on a reform on Colombia’s higher education system in November after the government pulled a reform proposal widely rejected among students.

September 11, 2012

The 9/11 Museum Delayed Another Year

NEW YORK—Due to a budget dispute between New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York State governor Andrew Cuomo, the $1-billionNational September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center site has been delayed until late 2013 or early 2014. Amid the political feud, work on the museum ceased almost a year ago, pieces of its eventual exhibition sit in storage and fabrication facilities upstate and in New Mexico. Meanwhile, the institution’s fundraising efforts have foundered.

September 10, 2012

Teacher Strike Begins in Chicago

CHICAGO — Teachers in the nation’s third-largest school district went on strike Monday morning after negotiations for a new contract collapsed, giving some 350,000 students an unexpected day off but leading to frustrations among parents and indications that a settlement may not be close.

Chicago Public Schools and the union representing teachers have been embroiled for months in a bitter dispute over wages, job security and teacher evaluations. Coming as the school year is in only its second week after the summer break, the strike will affect hundreds of thousands of families, some of whom spent the weekend scrambling to rearrange work schedules, find alternative programs and hire baby sitters if school is out for some time.

Negotiations have taken place behind closed doors since November, concerning wages and benefits, whether laid-off teachers should be considered for new openings, extra pay for those with more experience and higher degrees, and evaluations. District officials said the teachers’ average pay is $76,000 a year.

Teachers have said they are being neglected on issues like promised raises, class sizes and support staff in the schools. By June, about 90 percent of teachers voted in favor of authorizing a strike if a new agreement could not be reached during the summer.

September 10, 2012

Hong Kong’s Leung Cancels APEC Trip as Student Protest Grows

HONG KONG—Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying canceled a trip to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, his first scheduled overseas visit, as a proposed national education program led student protesters to stage a seven-day demonstration. Leung, scheduled to attend the meeting in Vladivostok, Russia, this week, scrapped the trip hours before his departure to “focus on domestic duties,” according to a government press release yesterday.

Protesters began camping out at the government headquarters on Aug. 30 demanding that Leung abandons plans for national education classes that they said portrayed an overly favorable view of Communist Party rule in China. Tens of thousands of parents, students, and social activists marched through Hong Kong on July 29 to oppose plans for the lessons.

“Leung needs to come out and face the students,” said Lau, a woman who would give only her surname out of privacy concerns. “If his intention was to listen, he would have listened days ago.” Lau, who said she works as an office messenger, and her four-year-old grandson were among several thousand listening to speeches critical of the government at Hong Kong headquarters yesterday evening. A police officer at the protests estimated 2,000 people were in attendance yesterday evening. A spokesman for the Hong Kong police wasn’t immediately available to confirm the estimate.

September 7, 2012

Two Amsterdam Museums to Reopen After Major Renovations

AMSTERDAM—For years, two major Amsterdam museums, the Stedelijk and the Rijksmuseum,have been largely closed for renovations, with only some of their prized artworks on public view. But that is about to change. The Stedelijk Museum will reopen to the public on Sept. 23, after eight years of construction during much of which the museum was only partially open. A new wing, designed by the Dutch architect Mels Crouwel, will include more space to show off its world class collection of modern and contemporary art. It will also have more space to present special exhibitions.
And earlier this week the Rijksmuseum announced its grand reopening for April 14th, after a renovation project of nearly ten years. The historic museum building and been restored and new facilities added including a Asian pavilion and a renovated garden. Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch,” the museum’s most famous painting, will be rehung in its former spot in the center of the museum.

September 6, 2012

Artist sale to fund Royal Academy of Arts expansion

UK—More than 100 pieces from stars of the contemporary art and design world are expected to raise around £2.5m.They include work from Royal Academians Antony Gormley and Anish Kapoor, who designed the Orbit in the Olympic Park. The pieces will also be on display as part of an exhibition called RA Now.

The 80 Royal Academians, including Allen Jones, Richard Long, Jenny Saville and Norman Foster, were invited to contribute a piece to the project.Many will be auctioned off in October to help fund the Academy’s expansion to nearly double its size over the next five years.
“The Burlington project’s aim is to make the Academy the leading international centre for visual culture for the 21st Century, offering an independent voice for art and artists,” Le Brun said. Founded by King George III in 1768, academy members are elected by their peers and include practising painters, sculptors, engravers, printmakers, draughtsmen and architects.
Le Brun said the wide range of artists who had donated pieces showed the “depth of their support” for the project, which is the Academy’s most significant expansion for more than a century.
The works will be auctioned on 9 October while the RA Now exhibition will run from 11 October to 11 November.

More than 100 pieces from stars of the contemporary art and design world are expected to raise around £2.5m.They include work from Royal Academians Antony Gormley and Anish Kapoor, who designed the Orbit in the Olympic Park. The pieces will also be on display as part of an exhibition called RA Now.

September 6, 2012

MoMA and Columbia University jointly acquire Frank Lloyd Wright Archives

NEW YORK—The Museum of Modern Art and Columbia University have jointly acquired Frank Lloyd Wright’s archives from the famous architect’s foundation. The acquisition includes 23,000 architectural sketches and drawings, 44,000 photographs, models, letters, manuscripts, and more. All paper-based documents will land at Columbia’s Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, while MoMA will handle the three-dimensional objects.

September 5, 2012

Report shows attendance at U.K. Institutions Dropped During Olympics

LONDON—Over the last four years, the Cultural Olympiad had gathered ambitious art projects across the country, leading to the London 2012 Festival, with its 25,000 artists and 12,000 events.

Yet museums seem not to have benefited from this cultural frenzy. According to the Museums Journal, museums in Central London suffered a massive drop in attendance over the summer. The National Gallery attracted 40 percent fewer visitors during the first week of August, the British Museum lost 169,970 visitors in July, and the National Portrait Gallery, 58,461. Ticket sales dropped at Tate Britain and Tate Modern, and the National History Museum had about 8,000 fewer visitors over July and August.

Even the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, which is part of the Olympic equestrian arena and had extended its opening hours for the occasion, recorded a decreased footfall, losing 11,167 visitors in July, although it saw an extra 63,356 visitors in June. TheMuseum of London also lost 8,264 visitors but experienced a similar increase in June. In Hackney, the Museum of Childhood reported a very modest increase in visitors (291 in June and 558 in July), but twice as many sales in the shop.

According to the report, the only real winner is Much Wenlock in Shropshire, birthplace of Dr William Penny Brookes, one of the inspirations for the modern Olympic games. The local museum received 9,647 visitors in July, three times more than usual.

September 4, 2012

Thousands Rally in Hong Kong Against National Education

CHINA—More than 3,000 Hong Kong residents braved the rain to protest the government’s plan to begin a national education program, which they say is biased toward Beijing. Parents, students and teachers were among those gathering outside the government’s new headquarters on Tim Mei Avenue today, the first of the school semester, demanding the curriculum be scrapped. Demonstrators said they fear the material is biased towards the Chinese Communist Party and may stifle independent thinking.

“The national education program is aimed at fostering blind patriotism among students,” said Joshua Wong, a spokesman for Scholarism, an organizer of the rally. “We fear that many students will be brainwashed.” The authorities intend to extend national education classes, which aim to foster Chinese identity, to secondary schools from 2013 and phase in the lessons over three years.

Today’s rally comes after tens of thousands of parents and students marched against the program on July 29, many clad in black and white to symbolize the contrast between right and wrong. More than 90,000 people attended the July 29 protests, according to Andrew Shum of the Hong Kong Christian Institute, which helped arrange the demonstrations. Police estimated that, at most, about 32,000 protesters were in the procession.

Police estimated about 3,400 people were gathered for today’s rally at 5 p.m. local time. Three members of Scholarism, a student group, have been on a hunger strike outside the building for more than two days.

September 4, 2012

St. John\'s University
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The Hong Kong Institute of Education
St Moritz Art Academy
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University of Applied Arts Vienna