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Quick Takes: Congress Passes Aid Bill, $113M for Berkeley Endowed Chairs, Plagiarism Review at SIU, Adjuncts Charge Age Bias, Donor Relationship Probed, Stem Cell Battle, Protest Disrupts Regents, QB Charged With Murder, Extra Arm, Governor Spellings?

September 10, 2007
  • As expected, both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on Friday, by large margins, approved legislation that would increase the maximum Pell Grant to $5,400 over five years, and cut interest rates on student loans in half -- paying for the changes with huge cuts in subsidies provided to lenders. While Republicans and lenders have opposed parts of the legislation, the outcome has not been in doubt since President Bush announced last week that he was willing to sign the bill, despite an earlier threat to veto the version of the bill passed by the House.
  • The University of California at Berkeley is receiving a $113 million grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to create 100 endowed chairs, with the goal of keeping the top faculty talent that private universities are increasingly trying to raid, the Los Angeles Times reported. The funds will be matched by other gifts to create a large endowment for the chairs. In recent years, top public universities have worried that the salary gap with top private universities has grown too large. The most recent salary data from the American Association of University Professors found that Berkeley was #3 in terms of average salary at public universities for full professors and rival Stanford University was #3 on the list of private universities. But Berkeley's average was $131,300 while Stanford's was $164,300.
  • A new plan has emerged to deal with the accusations that Glenn Poshard, president of the Southern Illinois University system, plagiarized numerous portions of his doctoral dissertation. Poshard had proposed that the educational administration department at the Carbondale campus of the university, which awarded the doctorate, review the allegations. But many experts said that this created all kinds of conflict of interest issues, since the professors in the department ultimately report to Poshard -- and the department declined. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that faculty from a range of disciplines will now be drafted for the review. The Chicago Tribune, meanwhile, is calling for Poshard's ouster. Plagiarism is "an egregious and unforgivable offense for a university president, of all people," an editorial in the newspaper said, adding that the university should "take an unambiguous stand on the importance of academic integrity, starting at the top. Glenn Poshard has to go."
  • Fifteen part-time fitness professors -- many of them with many years of teaching experience and one of whom is Mesa Community College's former president -- have filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, saying that they lost their jobs due to age discrimination, The East Valley Tribune reported. College officials deny bias and say that they are trying to make sure all fitness instructors are up to date on changes in the field.
  • Auditors have questioned an arrangement between Arizona State University's art museum and a donor. The Arizona Republic reported that the university received about $450,000 from the donor over seven years, and used the money to buy art from the donor's company. In at least one case, the university paid more than fair market value for the art, the auditor charged. Arizona State stopped the arrangement after the audit. The donor, Stephane Janssen, told the newspaper that he didn't do anything wrong and that lawyers had advised him that his company couldn't donate art directly to the university and recommended the system he used.
  • Missouri voters narrowly approved certain kinds of stem cell research in a referendum last year, but a group that opposes the research -- Cures Without Cloning -- has announced plans to bring the issue back to the voters next year. On Friday, Gordon H. Lamb, interim president of the University of Missouri System, said that the proposed referendum distorts research being done and would damage the university and limit academic freedom. "This amendment assaults Missouri and Missouri's primary public research university, the University of Missouri," Lamb said in a statement. "In their effort to eliminate somatic cell nuclear transfer research, the group championing this amendment is taking the first step to controlling and impeding Missouri's research agenda and potential for future research. And they are doing so in a way that could permanently destroy the future of research in the state and in its universities."
  • About 100 protesters backing a strike by clerical, technical and health care workers at the University of Minnesota disrupted a meeting of the university's Board of Regents Friday, and 5 of the protesters were arrested, The Star Tribune reported. Wages are the primary dispute in the strike -- by workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. After the meeting ended, the university issued a statement saying: "The University of Minnesota will neither tolerate nor condone the actions of individuals who intentionally disrupt our educational or governance processes. These individuals will be held fully accountable for their actions."
  • The University of New Hampshire on Friday suspended Henri Hendricks from the football team, where he has been backup quarterback, after learning that he faced a murder charge in San Diego, the Associated Press reported.
  • Historians of Virginia and alumni of Christopher Newport University are upset that a massive new statue (a photograph is here) of the sea captain for whom the institution was named portrays him with two arms, even though he lost one, the AP reported. Newport lost an arm, and replaced it with a hook, well before he was captain of the Susan Constant, the largest of three ships that brought settlers to Jamestown, which is currently marking its 400th anniversary. The sculptor told local reporters that the university had decided to portray Newport with two arms. A university spokeswoman said that the president, Paul Trible, didn't remember making a decision on the number of arms, but was pleased with the statue.
  • Both U.S. News & World Report and Eduwonk.com are reporting rumors that Margaret Spellings has her eyes on a new job when she's done as education secretary: governor of Texas.
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