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Quick Takes: Gender Gap in Tenure at MIT, 'Obsession' and Free Speech, Obama's National Service Plan, Academics for Ron Paul, RIT in Dubai, $200M for U.S.-Canadian Telescope Project, University's Crime Report Upheld, Grawemeyer for Education

December 6, 2007
  • Only 1 of the 25 faculty members granted tenure at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology this year is a woman, The Boston Globe reported. Over the last decade, the number of women granted tenure has ranged from 0 to 8 in a year while the number of men granted tenure has ranged from 10 to 24. The article, which followed a feature in MIT's in-house paper showing the faces of this year's tenure winners, also noted a gap (but a smaller one) in tenure rates. An MIT analysis of junior faculty members who could have vied for tenure found that 41 percent of women and 48 percent of men were awarded tenure. MIT officials pointed to a number of steps they are taking to diversify the faculty, but Susan Hockfield, the president, said it was "unsettling" to see all the male faces in the MIT paper.
  • Florida's attorney general, Bill McCollum, has sent a sharply worded letter to the University of Florida, saying that a vice president of the institution may have limited students' free speech rights by criticizing posters put up last month to publicize a showing of the controversial documentary, Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West. Campus Republican groups sponsored the event, and their posters said: "Radical Islam Wants You Dead." The university's vice president for student affairs, Patricia Telles-Irvin, responded by sending a message to all students in which she called on those who put up the posters to apologize and said that the language on the ad "reinforced a negative stereotype ... and contributed to a generalization that only furthers the misunderstanding of the religion of Islam." In the attorney general's letter to the university (not yet released to the public, but posted on the Phi Beta Cons blog and confirmed by the university), McCollum said that Telles-Irvin "has chilled free speech" at the university and that she didn't have the right to say, as official university policy, that the posters were wrong. "This may be the view of Dr. Telles-Irvin, but a great many Americans would disagree and argue that it is essential to the discussion and understanding of this war that the terrorists be properly and correctly labeled as radical Islamists who by their very actions clearly want us dead. Students and student organizations who hold this latter view should not be stifled in their free expression of it," McCollum said. He urged the university to consider "appropriate remedial action" for what happened. A university spokesman said that Bernie Machen, the president of the university, and McCollum spoke on the phone Wednesday about the letter, but that he could not provide details of the conversation.
  • Sen. Barack Obama proposed several expansions of national service programs Wednesday. In a speech at Cornell College, in Iowa, Obama called for the creation of a new tax credit worth $4,000 for college students who are willing to complete at least 100 hours of community service a year. In addition, Obama called for a major expansion of AmeriCorps, and the creation of new, specialized cohorts within the program to focus attention on specific issues. The new programs would be: Classroom Corps, Health Corpsw, Clean Energy Corps, Veterans Corps and Homeland Security Corps.
  • A group of professors, many of them associated with libertarian schools of thought, has formed to back the presidential candidacy of Ron Paul, who while not rising significantly in Republican polls has been attracting attention with his anti-spending, anti-war campaign. Academics for Ron Paul calls him the candidate best able to solve the "profound problems" facing the United States. In addition, the group notes Paul's defense of academic freedom, as an opponent of campus speech codes and also of the "Academic Bill of Rights," which Paul has argued would squelch controversial discussions on campuses.
  • The Rochester Institute of Technology announced Wednesday that it plans to open up a degree-granting campus in Dubai. Courses are expected to start next year, with initial offerings for part-time graduate students in fields such as electrical engineering, computer engineering, mechanical engineering, finance and service management. By 2009, full-time graduate offerings will be in place, and in 2010, RIT Dubai will begin offering undergraduate programs.
  • The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation is giving $200 million to the California Institute of Technology and the University of California for construction of the Thirty-Meter Telescope, which is being managed by those universities as well as the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy.
  • Johnson & Wales University did not defame a former student at the Rhode Island institution when its officials -- to fulfill its obligations under the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act -- published a crime alert that named him as the alleged perpetrator of an assault on the campus, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit described its decision as the first at the appellate level to assess the notification requirements of the federal campus crime reporting law. The three-judge panel ruled that Johnson & Wales officials acted reasonably in assuming "that the University had a responsibility under the Act to issue a timely notification about the incident," even if that expeditious reporting led it to publish incorrect information about the alleged perpetrator.
  • The University of Louisville has announced that the $200,000 Grawemeyer Award for Education will go to three professors for their work on promoting school readiness for young children. The winners are Edward Zigler, Walter Gilliam and Stephanie Jones, for their 2006 book, A Vision for Universal Preschool Education (Cambridge University Press). Zigler is a professor emeritus of psychology at Yale University who helped develop the nation’s Head Start program, and who also founded a child development and social policy center at Yale renamed in his honor in 2005. Gilliam is a Yale psychologist who now directs the Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy. Jones, a Fordham University psychologist, studies the social and emotional aspects of early childhood and adolescence.
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