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Quick Takes: State Panel Criticizes Virginia Tech, Oregon to Rethink College Budgets, Christopher Newport Goes SAT-Optional, Probation for Dumping Chemical, NEH Fills Key Slots, Crackdown in Iran

August 30, 2007
  • The death toll in April's mass murder at Virginia Tech could have been lower if university officials had done a better and speedier job of notifying the campus that the first shootings had taken place, a special state panel has concluded. The report (which was posted online late last night on the Web site of Virginia's governor's office) will be released officially today, but detailed accounts of it appear in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Virginian-Pilot, and other publications. According to the accounts, the report also found that university officials did not understand federal privacy laws, and as a result did not share information that might have alerted others about the mental state of the student who did the shootings, and might have led to his treatment. Despite these and other criticisms, the report suggests that once the shootings started, there may have been no strategy -- including a lockdown -- that would have prevented some further deaths, although perhaps not as many as took place. The report seems more critical than internal studies of the university's handling of the crisis, released last week, but despite calls from some family members of those who were killed, Gov. Tim Kaine (D) told reporters Wednesday that he continued to support Virginia Tech's president, Charles W. Steger, and other top officials.
  • Oregon officials are creating a "postsecondary quality education commission," which will try to figure out how much money public colleges need to succeed and how to measure success, the Associated Press reported. Details on exactly how the commission will go about its work are up in the air, but it reflects the national accountability movement encouraged by lawmakers.
  • Christopher Newport University, in Virginia, has changed its admissions policy so that applicants with a 3.5 grade-point average in high school (in a college preparatory program) or in the top 10 percent of their high school classes will not need to submit SAT scores. Officials said that they were concerned that some applicants with strong academic records were being rejected because of test scores. While many private liberal arts colleges have been dropping the SAT as a requirement, Christopher Newport is a public university.
  • Daniel Storm, a pharmacology professor at the University of Washington, has been sentenced to probation, 80 hours of community service, and a $5,000 fine for dumping a flammable chemical down a laboratory sink to avoid paying normal costs for legal and safe disposal, The Seattle Times reported.
  • The National Endowment for the Humanities is filling some key slots that have been open. William Craig Rice, president of Shimer College, will become director of the education division. Suzanne Lodato, a program officer at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will become director of the division of preservation and access. And Thomas Phelps, who has been acting director of the public programs division, has assumed that position on a permanent basis.
  • Iran is stepping up monitoring of all university faculty members, and is now requiring them to report to security authorities prior to any foreign travel -- scholarly or not, The Guardian reported. The ostensible reason is to fight the recruitment of Iranian academics as spies.
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