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Quick Takes: Campuses Shaken, RPI Suspends Exhibit, Credit Crunch, Conviction in Lab Arson, Anthropologists Object to Anti-Gay Claims, Adjuncts Unionize, Profs Unionize, Fisk Banned From Selling Art, Probation for Long Beach, Cheeseheads

March 7, 2008
  • Many campuses are dealing this week with the false alarms and jitters that tend to materialize in the wake of a tragedy such as the killings at Northern Illinois University. But at several institutions, the (unrelated) incidents are real. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, officials announced Thursday that the student body president, Eve Marie Carson, has been shot to death. Police have no suspects, but believe her vehicle was taken during the crime. James Moeser, the chancellor, issued a statement calling Carson a "wonderful person and great friend." Hundreds of students gathered to honor her Thursday afternoon. At Auburn University, Lauren A. Burk, a freshman, was shot and killed and her car was found, separate from her, on fire. At the University of California at Davis Wednesday night, a dormitory with hundreds of residents was evacuated when police found explosive materials in a student's room. The student, an economics major, was charged with possession of chemicals to make explosives and possession of explosive materials on school grounds -- both felonies.
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has suspended a video art exhibit, one part of which involves an Iraqi-born artist's work in which a character in a video game is assigned to kill President Bush, The Albany Times-Union reported. The artist said that the purpose of the work is to explore stereotypes in certain real video games, but the exhibit has been criticized by the Republican group at RPI and others who find its topic inappropriate.
  • New Hampshire's student loan agency has stopped offering the private loans it has previously offered to thousands of students, The Boston Globe reported. In additional fallout from the credit crunch, the Massachusetts loan agency has been unable to obtain financing for its loans, the Globe reported.
  • A federal jury on Thursday found Briana Waters guilty of two counts of arson in an attack on a University of Washington laboratory, but could not reach a verdict on three more serious counts, The Seattle Times reported. Waters denied involvement in the attack, for which the Earth Liberation Front has claimed responsibility, apparently on the mistaken belief that university researchers were working on genetically engineered trees there.
  • Focus on the Family, a group that opposes gay rights measures, has angered many anthropologists by issuing a press release this week with the headline: "Anthropologists Agree on Traditional Definition of Marriage." The press release goes on to refer to "a clear consensus among anthropologists" that family units must contain "two types of humanity, male and female." A pro-gay-rights blog called Box Turtle Bulletin noticed the press release and decided to ask "actual anthropologists who surprising are able to speak for themselves," and it turns out that there is no such consensus, as documented in a posting from two prominent anthropologists here, and another one here.
  • Adjunct faculty members at Lincoln Land Community College, in Illinois, have voted to unionize and to be represented by the American Federation of Teachers.
  • Faculty members at North Central State College, in Ohio, voted this week to unionize and to be represented by the American Association of University Professors. Sixty-one percent of those voting backed the proposal for collective bargaining.
  • A state judge has barred Fisk University from selling any of the acclaimed art collection it received in a bequest from Georgia O'Keeffe, the Associated Press reported. Fisk has argued that it needs to sell at least some of the art to gain funds to maintain the rest of the collection, and that it needs money for its primary educational missions. But the judge ruled that the university has a legal obligation to keep and display the art.
  • The National Collegiate Athletic Association placed California State University at Long Beach on probation for three years and endorsed a number of other punishments that the university had imposed on itself for violations in its men's basketball program. The violations include improper benefits, inappropriate phone contacts, and failure of the institution to monitor the program.
  • Many campus movements aim to boycott certain products. In Wisconsin, a state representative has introduced legislation that would bar any University of Wisconsin campus or state agency acting on behalf of a campus from purchasing cheese or "prepared food product" containing cheese -- unless all of the cheese is manufactured or processed in Wisconsin. An aide to State Rep. Jeff Smith, the sponsor, said that while no data are available, the lawmaker has confirmed that some Wisconsin campuses are serving out-of-state cheese. Student opinion appears to be divided -- at least judging unscientifically from op-eds in The Badger Herald of the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Bassey Etim, a senior, in a column called "Wisconsin cheese not just about pride; it affects the whole damn planet," argues that buying out-of-state cheese reflects the waste of American society where food is shipped thousands of miles away while local products are overlooked. Etim also does cite the pride factor, writing that "when visiting Dairy State-funded universities, no one expects to eat Californian or that godforsaken New York cheese." But Tim Williams, another senior, argues in "No matter how tasty, cheese won't solve problems" that giving Wisconsin cheese producers a monopoly is inappropriate, and that the state and its university system have more serious needs than giving more of an edge to the home-state dairy industry. Williams offers this advice: "Wear the cheesehead with pride, Wisconsin -- just as long as there’s a brain underneath."
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