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Quick Takes: No Strike in Pennsylvania, Faust's First Day, Locked Out at MIT, Michigan Alters Domestic Partners Plan, Diploma Mill Protection Law Expires, American Presidents on Anti-Boycott Trip

July 3, 2007
  • Both the faculty union and the administration of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education posted notices on their Web sites that classes would be held today as scheduled, ending fears of a strike by professors in the 14-campus system. Both notices said that there would be an announcement this morning, which The Patriot-News reported would be a tentative deal on a four-year contract.
  • July 1 is the date that many new presidents take office. One who will be receiving plenty of attention is Drew Faust of Harvard University. On her first workday in the office, Faust sent an e-mail to students and faculty members about plans to encourage Harvard's notoriously independent schools and colleges to work together, The Boston Globe reported.
  • Elsewhere in Cambridge, July 1 marked a more contentious moment as James Sherley, who lost a tenure bid at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, saw his employment end and his laboratory locked, the Globe reported. Sherley went on a hunger strike in February and had vowed more protests if MIT did not grant him tenure, but the institute has said all along that he would not be employed as of this month.
  • The University of Michigan has become the latest institution to alter a domestic partner health benefits plan to comply with court rulings finding that such plans can violate state policies against gay marriage. Michigan's revised plan, designed to keep benefits in place during an appeal of a court ruling in that state, creates a broad category of "Other Qualified Adult" whom a Michigan employee can cover with his or her benefits. By not designating this person as a domestic partner, the university hopes to comply with a February ruling by an appeals court that found the old benefits recognized same-sex partners in a way that violated the state ban on gay marriage. Michigan State made a similar shift in its benefits, as did the University of Kentucky, in response to an opinion from that state's attorney general.
  • A law designed to protect California students from diploma mills expired over the weekend. The Los Angeles Times reported that debate continues over whether a new law should be tougher (as consumer groups advocate) or not (as supporters of for-profit colleges advocate). In a related development, the head of Oregon's Office of Degree Authorization, which is charged with decided which academic credentials the state recognizes as legitimate, wrote a letter to California's governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, alerting him that because of the agency's demise, Oregon would not recognize degrees issued by unaccredited institutions in California as of July 1. "We cannot recognize degrees issued by unaccredited schools unless those schools undergo a state approval process," wrote Alan Contreras, who leads the Oregon office. "The reason for this is to ensure that an appropriate state agency prevents the operation of diploma mills and similar low-end operations."
  • A delegation of American college presidents met Monday night with Israel's education minister to express opposition to the British faculty union's call for a boycott of Israeli academics and universities, Israel News reported.
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