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Quick Takes: FEMA Backs Down in Dispute With Students, Barry U. Freezes Salaries, Audit Questions Chicago State Spending, U. of Toledo Plans Rules for Drug Companies, Boos at UMass, Reforming French Universities, Drinking and Decision Making

May 29, 2007
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency has adjusted rules that had led it to challenge payments to hundreds and possibly thousands of students who attended colleges damaged by Hurricane Katrina. The new rule states that students are eligible for assistance for damages in their dormitory rooms if they lived in dorms for "the major portion of the school year," a standard most of the students can meet. The old interpretation challenged -- and sought repayment for -- such grants that had been awarded on the grounds that the dorm rooms were not students' "primary residence." That standard led FEMA to send many students bills -- for money they did not have. FEMA also announced that it has assigned special caseworkers to handle calls from students to the agency's phone help lines to ease the process of adjusting FEMA bills sent to students under the old rule.
  • Barry University, in Florida, has announced that it is freezing all salaries for the coming academic year to allow the institution to minimize tuition increases, The Miami Herald reported. Barry officials said that the university is facing increased competition from for-profit institutions and from community colleges, especially now that some of the latter are offering four-year programs.
  • A state audit in Illinois has found numerous instances of questionable or undocumented spending by Chicago State University. The expenses included "leadership seminars" on cruise ships, first class airfare, and thousands of dollars on meals and entertainment without any explanation of what purpose the various events served. A university spokeswoman told the Chicago Tribune that "while many of the audit findings report exceptions to university policies and procedures, the substance of the transactions represent valid university business."
  • The University of Toledo's medical school is planning to impose new limits on the activities of drug companies visiting the institution, The Toledo Blade reported. Among the rules will be a ban on all gifts from drug company representatives, a requirement that a faculty member be present when drug company officials talk to students, and requiring representatives wishing to visit to register and attend a two-hour class on dealing with students and residents.
  • Many graduates and faculty members at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst booed Friday when Andrew Card, formerly chief of staff to President Bush, received an honorary degree, The Boston Globe reported. Card did not speak at the ceremony.
  • French higher education will be an early -- and controversial -- target for the reform agenda of the new French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, the Associated Press reported. His government is preparing legislation to give universities the authority to raise tuition rates and to have more control over which students are admitted. Student activists and others are deriding the plans as an "Americanization" of French higher education.
  • Students who binge drink are less likely than other students to have good decision-making skills, even when the students aren't drunk, according to new research that will be published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
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