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Quick Takes: Next Steps in Blackboard-Desire2Learn Dispute, Hazing Continues, Indictments in Eco-Terror Case, Vassar Adds Aid, Antioch Faculty Sues, No Confidence at Moore, Palomar Clarifies Policy on Grade Changes, NCAA Punishes Brigham Young

March 12, 2008
  • Blackboard won another round this week in its patent fight with Desire2Learn over course management software, but both sides played down the potential impact. The latest development -- stemming from a federal jury's ruling in Blackboard's favor last month -- is an injunction against Desire2Learn selling certain versions of its course-management systems with the disputed technology. The judge who issued the injunction also issued a 60 day stay. Blackboard, not surprisingly, praised the latest development. But the company, aware that many in higher education have feared it would use a legal win to go after open source course management systems developed at many colleges, reiterated its pledge not to do so. Desire2Learn, also not surprisingly, repeated its view that it hasn't violated patent law. But the company said it would soon issue new versions of its systems -- well before the stay expires -- that don't use the disputed technology. So Desire2Learn said that its current and future customers wouldn't see any impact from the case.
  • Colleges and Greek systems like to boast that they have banned hazing, while most students have said for years that hazing continues -- if perhaps more underground than it once was. New evidence of that was presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators. More than half of student respondents in a national survey reported experiencing hazing, even though 44 states have outlawed it. The research was presented by Elizabeth Allan and Mary Madden, professors at the University of Maine College of Education and Human Development.
  • Authorities on Tuesday announced the indictments and arrests of four individuals in connection with a 1999 attack on an agriculture research building at Michigan State University. The Earth Liberation Front claimed responsibility for the attack, apparently because of biotechnology work done in the facility. There were no injuries, but more than $1 million in damages. Lou Anna K. Simon, Michigan State's president, said in a statement: “This was more than an attack on a building and the destruction of valuable property. This was an assault on the core value of free and open inquiry at a research university. We always must be open to ideas that challenge our own, but what we must never allow are disruptions meant to shut down the open marketplace of ideas.”
  • Vassar College announced Tuesday that it is eliminating loans from the aid packages of students with family incomes of up to $60,000. While a number of prominent private colleges have been making such announcements, Vassar is one of relatively few to make the shift with an endowment of less than $1 billion.
  • Faculty at Antioch College have renewed their lawsuit against the board of Antioch University, charging its board with mismanaging the institution and ignoring sound ways that it could avoid suspending operations of the college. Professors withdrew an earlier version of the suit when it appeared that negotiations might permit the undergraduate college to gain independence from the university, but with those negotiations not producing an agreement, and the university board again vowing to shutter the college, talk of the suit resumed. A spokeswoman for the university declined to comment on the revival of the suit.
  • Faculty members at the Moore College of Art and Design have voted no confidence in Happy Fernandez, the president, citing her firing of the president of the professors' union, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Fernandez blamed the vote on the union.
  • Following an incident in which a professor objected to grades being changed without his approval, Palomar College, in California, has established specific procedures to deal with student complaints about grades, The North County Times reported. The new rules require that students start any grievance with the professor, with a dispute that cannot be resolved moving through various stages, but with only limited grounds for challenging a grade.
  • The National Collegiate Athletic Association on Tuesday announced sanctions against Brigham Young University over violations by its men's volleyball team, including inappropriate assistance to prospective recruits who defected from Cuba.
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