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Quick Takes: Harvard Approves Gen Ed Reforms, Intelligent Design Backer Appeals Tenure Denial, Pace President Quits, File Sharing Shut Down, Out Coach Out of Job, Canadian Dispute on Distance Ed, Budget Fight, Push for Tax Credits, The Summers Settlement

Quick Takes: Harvard Approves Gen Ed Reforms, Intelligent Design Backer Appeals Tenure Denial, Pace President Quits, File Sharing Shut Down, Out Coach Out of Job, Canadian Dispute on Distance Ed, Budget Fight, Push for Tax Credits, The Summers Settlement
May 16, 2007
  • As expected, Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences on Tuesday approved a final set of changes in the university's general education requirements. While there has been considerable tinkering and quibbling over parts of the plan, it has been widely praised -- at Harvard and elsewhere -- as a much needed shift. The changes outline certain broad subject areas as required, while giving students choice within those subject areas.
  • Guillermo Gonzalez, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Iowa State University, is appealing his tenure denial, and his fellow supporters of "intelligent design" are saying that he is being punished for his views, The Des Moines Register reported. Gonzalez has gained fame and some notoriety at Iowa State for supporting the theory, which is widely viewed by scholars in biology as sham science. Iowa State issued a statement outlining the tenure process and noting that Gonzalez was evaluated and rejected for tenure by his department, department chair, a college committee, a dean, and the provost. Gonzalez has the right to appeal to the president, and his appeal is pending.
  • David Caputo, who has been under fire as president of Pace University, will retire June 3, Crain's New York Business reported. Faculty and student groups have pointed to funding shortfalls at a time that top administrators have earned generous salaries.
  • Ohio University announced Tuesday that unauthorized file sharing on its network has "virtually stopped" after two weeks of monitoring for unauthorized file sharing. Notices from the Recording Industry Association of America about illegal file sharing dropped from nearly 10 to 50 per day down to almost zero, the university's chief information officer said. Ohio's original plan to block all peer-to-peer file sharing other than for students and faculty members who requested exemptions was controversial for potentially limiting valid uses of the technology. But since then, Ohio has upgraded its system to filter out illegal file sharing while leaving most legal file sharing untouched.
  • Kyle Hawkins -- a rarity in college athletics as an openly gay male coach -- has been told that his contract for leading the University of Missouri at Columbia's club lacrosse team will not be renewed, the Associated Press reported. Officials and team members said that Hawkins was not losing his job because he is gay, but because of concerns about his practice philosophy and his reputation outside the university. Before he came out, Hawkins gained a wide following on a Web site about gay athletic issues, Outsports, by writing as "Frustrated Coach" about what it was like to be a closeted coach at a university with a major athletic program.
  • A legal dispute in Canada -- in which the British Columbia Supreme Court banned Vancouver University Worldwide from granting degrees -- illustrates the difficulties governments face in regulating distance education, Maclean's reported. While the institution has its headquarters in the province, officials say that the degrees are printed, signed, and awarded elsewhere -- so the government shouldn't have regulatory authority.
  • Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are sparring over a provision in the proposed Congressional budget resolution. GOP lawmakers said in a letter Tuesday that the provision would allow Democrats to use the budget reconciliation process, which is designed to raise funds to reduce the deficit, to inappropriately enact policy changes that would help the government's direct student loan program at the expense of the guaranteed loan program. College leaders are watching the outcome of this fight closely, because the provision in question -- which would allow the mandatory spending portions of the Higher Education Act to be attached to budget balancing legislation -- is very much designed to use savings from reduced subsidies and increased fees for lenders to bolster the Pell Grant and other student aid programs, as well as to cut the deficit.
  • A think tank that promotes help for low- and moderate income families is urging Congress to revamp federal higher education tax credits to make them more widely available to the needy -- ideally by making them refundable, so that even citizens who don't pay significant taxes can benefit from them. Officials of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities discussed a new report on the subject during a conference call Tuesday in which they urged the Senate Finance Committee, which is preparing to release a set of proposals to alter the college tax breaks and other federal tax policies, to ensure that the changes benefit low- and moderate income students and families more. Some proposals under consideration by the committee would expand existing benefits for the middle class, while others would make the Hope and Lifetime Learning tax credits -- or possibly one merged tax credit -- available to recipients further down the income ladder. Class tensions have surrounded the tax credits ever since they were created in the second term of the Clinton administration, and given the limited availability of federal funds now, any plan to alter the breaks are likely to exacerbate those tensions. And the discussions are especially fraught for higher education officials because Finance Committee leaders are contemplating requiring any new funds for college tax breaks to be paid for with revenue from higher education, too -- possibly by eliminating the tax-free nature of tuition benefits for college employees, which has long been a target for some in Congress. A spokeswoman for the Finance Committee said Tuesday that it was premature to discuss the panel's plans.
  • When Lawrence H. Summers moved out of Harvard's presidential home, he wasn't short on housing options. The Boston Globe examined details of his settlement with the university -- reported on a Harvard tax form -- and found that in addition to a year's sabbatical, he received salary additions and a $1 million home loan, which requires only interest payments from 2010 to 2014 and payments on principal and interest after that.
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