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Quick Takes: Loyalty Oath Backed in California, Math Education Blasted, Arizona in China, Higher Ed Act Views, AG Won't Get Medal at BC, European Quality Control, Board Dispute Settled, Money for Retreats vs. Money for Adjuncts, Immigrant Ph.D.'s

March 5, 2008
  • The California attorney general's office on Tuesday issued a letter backing the way California State University East Bay fired an instructor who wanted to modify the loyalty oath required of all state employees. Cal State has been much criticized by faculty and employee groups for its decision to dismiss Marianne Kearney-Brown, who tried to insert the word "nonviolently" before a pledge of support for the U.S. Constitution. Many Cal State employees -- including some posting comments at Inside Higher Ed -- have said that they made similar changes in the past, and did not get fired as a result. But a letter to Cal State from Jacob A. Appelsmith, senior assistant attorney general, released by East Bay Tuesday, said that Kearney-Brown's situation was handled correctly. Appelsmith noted that the oath does not require anyone to commit a violent act. He said that Kearney-Brown appeared to be acting "in good faith," but said that court decisions backed a strict interpretation of the oath requirement. Allowing Kearney-Brown to modify the oath would "introduce uncertainty and equivocation," he wrote. For these reasons, he said, Cal State acted "appropriately in requiring Ms. Kearney-Brown to sign the oath as written."
  • Sixty University of Washington professors have written the Legislature saying that many college freshmen have such poor math skills that they can't solve middle-school level problems, the Associated Press reported. The professors, many of them scientists, said that reforms of math education need to take into consideration the ability (or lack thereof) of students to enroll in programs in college that require some reasonable level of math knowledge.
  • The University of Arizona has announced a deal in which it will provide the intellectual content for certain degree programs -- and in some cases the degrees -- at Nanjing International University, which has yet to be built, but which aims to reach an enrollment of 10,000 within 10 years of opening.
  • The American Council on Education and other higher education groups have laid out their recommendations for how negotiators for the Senate and House of Representatives should craft a compromise bill to renew the Higher Education Act. Among the groups' recommendations: Congress should (1) merge House and Senate proposals on college prices, creating lists of the 5 percent of colleges that raise their tuitions the most but not requiring the institutions to create Quality Efficiency Task Forces; eliminate the Education Department's accreditation advisory committee by June 2008; and adopt Senate language on peer-to-peer file sharing so that colleges would not have to develop plans to explore technology-based deterrents to illegal downloading.
  • Boston College's law school is standing by its decision to have the U.S. attorney general, Michael B. Mukasey, speak at commencement this year. But The Boston Globe reported that the law school will not award him its Founders Medal, viewed as the institution's top honor. School officials said they were trying to separate the graduation address -- which may feature figures in public life, some of whom are bound to be controversial -- from the honor of the medal. Others at Boston College view the announcement as an attempt at a compromise with many who object to Mukasey's appearance, citing his refusal to say that waterboarding is a form of torture.
  • A new organization was announced in Brussels Tuesday with the goal of helping European academics determine which "quality assurance agencies" (entities in some ways equivalent to accreditors) are reliable. The goal of the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education is to give colleges a sense of the range of agencies they might use, if their national laws permit. The new registry is the latest manifestation of the Bologna Process, which is promoting the "harmonization" of European higher education. Four groups created the new registry: the European Association for Quality Assurance in HIgher Education, the European Students Union, the European University Association, and the European Association of Institutions in Higher Education.
  • Kentucky lawmakers have reached a settlement of a legal dispute over charges that the former governor appointed too many Republican trustees to university board, in violation of requirements for party balance. The Kentucky Post reported that the settlement will not remove any of the trustees appointed by former Gov. Ernie Fletcher, but will require Gov. Steve Beshear to make his appointments in a way that brings the boards into compliance. Since Beshear is a Democrat, the requirement appears unlikely to cause him much pain.
  • The trustees of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, in North Carolina, spent nearly $16,000 for a retreat at a fancy resort at the Biltmore Estate three months before eliminating 26 part-time faculty jobs, citing lack of funds, The Charlotte Observer reported. The funds for the retreat could have covered a dozen of the positions for a semester, the newspaper reported.
  • New data in Canada show that 49 percent of the country's Ph.D.'s and 40 percent of those with a master's degree are immigrants, The Globe and Mail reported.
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