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Students launched an occupation of the gardens outside the offices of the president of Scotland’s University of St. Andrews early this morning, protesting skyrocketing tuition fees.

Scottish tuition rates aren’t just high, they’re also bizarrely structured. Scotland’s universities are free for Scottish students, and free for European Union residents under EU rules that say that member state universities can’t charge more for other EU nationals than they do for locals.

But the rest of Britain isn’t subject to those rules, weirdly, so English, Welsh, and Northern Irish students, falling between the “free for Glaswegians” category and the “free for Latvians” categories, are charged high fees.

At St. Andrews those fees amount to £9,000 a year, which is $14,000 in American money. According to the organizers of today’s protest, that makes the university the most expensive in all of Europe — for those students who pay anything at all.

The high fees for “RUK” (rest of UK) students in Scotland were introduced this summer in reaction to massive fee hikes in English universities. The Scottish government defended the move as an effort to keep Scotland’s universities from being swamped with “fee refugees” from the rest of Britain.

The occupiers intend to stay for 36 hours, symbolizing the full four-year £36,000 fee. They have a Twitter account and a website if you want to learn more.

In a Delhi meeting Monday, Indian education minister Kapil Sibal told Australia’s deputy prime minister that the Australian government needs to do far more to protect the rights and safety of the one hundred thousand Indians studying in that country.

As the two leaders met, thousands of students marched in Australia’s largest cities, condemning government inaction against violence and exploitation targeting their community. “After a decade of neglect,” Australian National Union of Students president David Barrow proclaimed, “local and international students rally together to demand justice.”

The treatment of Indian students in Australia has provoked a diplomatic crisis between the two nations in recent months. Two vicious assaults this spring drew attention to an epidemic of bias crime against Indian students, and prompted a major protest march in downtown Melbourne that blocked a busy intersection for hours. The assaults and the protest, organized by the Federation of Indian Students in Australia, made the ongoing violence front-page news in both countries.

Indian students’ tuition payments represent a major revenue stream for Australian higher education, and the bias scandal has led to a new scrutiny for educational practices as well. Three private training colleges have shut their doors in recent months, amid charges that the for-profit institutions were offering substandard education and defrauding learners.

Update: I’d meant to include these first-person accounts of bias violence, but the link fell through the cracks while I was writing.

A federal appeals court last week overturned rulings from immigration officials that denied asylum to Togolese student activist Messan Amen Kueviakoe.

Kueviakoe, a campus and political activist at Togo’s University of Lome, was beaten and tortured by Togolese police in 2003, and threatened with arrest after he participated in a campus protest in 2004. Fearing persecution, he escaped to the United States, later learning that the friend who had helped him obtain a visa had been killed by the government.

An American immigration judge denied Kueviakoe’s asylum petition in 2006, saying that the account of his persecution that he gave in court testimony was inconsistent with a written statement he gave earlier. The US Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed the judge’s finding, but last week a panel of federal judges rejected it, finding that all three “inconsistencies” in Kueviakoe’s statements were not inconsistencies at all.

  • Immigration claimed that Kueviakoe had called the vehicle he was dragged into by police a car in one statement and a truck in another. The court found that he had used both terms interchangeably in his written statement, that he had identified the “car” as holding ten people, and that his statements had, at any rate, been translated from French.
  • Immigration claimed that Kueviakoe had indicated in one statement that he was “tortured for two days” by police, but in another said that he was only beaten for one day. The court found that Kueviakoe had consistently stated that he was beaten on the first day he was held in custody, and thrown in a jail cell with rats — and denied access to food and drink — on the second.
  • Immigration claimed that Kueviakoe had said that he was “hospitalized for two days” in one statement and hospitalized for three weeks in the other. The court found that Kueviakoe had actually said “I was hospitalized two days after my release [from jail],” and that it was the immigration judge who added the word “for” to his statement.

The appellate court vacated the previous ruling and sent the case back to immigration authorities for further review. Kueviakoe remains in the United States.

Police at Northwestern University will no longer notify federal authorities when they encounter suspected undocumented immigrants except in cases involving felonies or human trafficking.

Student groups had been pressing for a new policy since NU police stopped Ramiro Sanchez-Zepeda on suspicion of DWI on April 26 and turned him over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement when he was unable to produce a driver’s license or visa.

Students had planned a Thursday rally to push for the reform, but NU police chief Bruce Lewis requested a meeting with student leaders on Tuesday and announced the new policy on Wednesday.

The planned protest rally was recast as a celebration of the change in policy and a call to continued activism.

(Via National Student News Service.)


Iowa’s supreme court has unanimously granted legal recognition to same-sex marriages!

More cool details:

  • The ruling will take effect on April 24, three weeks from today.
  • Two of the justices behind the unanimous opinion were appointed by Republicans.
  • The decision is based on the Iowa state constitution, so it cannot be appealed to any other court.
  • It appears that the earliest the decision could be overturned by constitutional amendment is November 2012
  • Such an amendment would require approval by the Iowa state legislature prior to a popular referendum.

The majority leaders of both houses of the state legislature can be expected to oppose any effort to overturn the decision by constitutional amendment — they released a joint statement today hailing the ruling as an example of “Iowa common sense and Iowa common decency.” 

It’s been a long, long time coming, but I know … a change is gonna come.

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StudentActivism.net is the work of Angus Johnston, a historian and advocate of American student organizing.

To contact Angus, click here. For more about him, check out AngusJohnston.com.

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