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Quick Takes: White House Backs Purchase of Loans, Creationist Institute Loses Round, New Law Schools Debated, Brown Condemns Pie Attack, Pomona Questions Its Alma Mater, World's Youngest Prof, Jazz Education Group Is Bankrupt, Grateful Dead Archive

April 24, 2008
  • The Bush administration on Wednesday exhorted Congress to pass pending legislation that would give the U.S. Education Department the authority to buy student loans from lenders in the Family Federal Education Loan Program, saying that "prompt action" is needed to ensure that lenders have the funds to make loans to students this fall. In a letter to Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), three administration officials -- Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., and Jim Nussle, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget -- endorsed a House of Representatives proposal that would allow the Education Department to buy loans. The letter also splashed cold water on a proposal, put forward by Dodd and favored by some on Wall Street, that would permit the Federal Financing Bank, without the passage of new legislation, to purchase student loans. Administration officials concluded, the letter said, that the federal agency "does not have the authority under the Federal Credit Reform Act to purchase ... loans" from banks or other non-federal entities. In other developments related to the highly fluid situation involving student loans, Michigan State University announced that, citing concerns about the availability of loans from the guaranteed loan program, it would return to the direct loan program, which it abandoned with much fanfare in 2003 after putting its loan business out for bid. And a study by Student Lending Analytics estimates that a proposed increase in annual limits on borrowing of federal student loans, which was included as part of recently approved legislation in the House of Representatives, has the potential to significantly reduce students' borrowing of more expensive private loans.
  • A committee of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board on Wednesday rejected a proposal by the Institute for Creation Research to start offering online master's degrees in science education, The Dallas Morning News reported. While the full board still must vote, Wednesday's action was a major defeat for the institute, which teaches that evolution did not take place. Raymund Paredes, commissioner of higher education, recommended the vote against the institute's proposal, saying: "Evolution is such a fundamental principle of contemporary science it is hard to imagine how you could cover the various fields of science without giving it the proper attention it deserves as a foundation of science. Religious belief is not science. Science and religious belief are surely reconcilable, but they are not the same thing." Institute officials have said that they may reframe their proposal or sue the board.
  • The push by universities to create law schools continues -- as does the debate about whether they are all needed. The new state budget in New York State includes millions to promote the development of new law schools at two State University of New York campuses (Binghamton and Stony Brook) and at a private institution, St. John Fisher College. The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported that while all three institutions can point to reasons to create the schools, others say the state should do a better job of supporting the law schools it already has. Some of the new law schools elsewhere are taking off. Drexel University's law school, for example, is celebrating provisional accreditation from the American Bar Association 18 months after admitting students -- the earliest possible time the ABA rules allow for such recognition.
  • Brown University is condemning the actions of two people -- at least one of whom is a student -- who threw a pie-like substance Tuesday night at Thomas Friedman, a columnist for The New York Times who was speaking on the campus. Friedman took a few minutes to clean himself up, but continued his talk. Michael Chapman, vice president for public affairs and university relations, issued a statement in which he said: "Freedom of speech is prized on a university campus. While Brown students are encouraged to express their opinions on any subject and in a variety of forums, the university does not tolerate such assaults against a speaker or disrupting the right of others to hear a speaker's perspectives." The statement said that one of those involved was apprehended and identified as a student. "The university will review this incident through its non-academic disciplinary system to determine the appropriate response." The Providence Journal reported that the incident involved paper plates with shamrock-colored whipped cream. After they were thrown at Friedman, one of those protesting threw in the air leaflets that criticized Friedman, saying: "Thomas Friedman deserves a pie in the face because of his sickeningly cheery applause for free market capitalism’s conquest of the planet, for telling the world that the free market and techno fixes can save us from climate change. From carbon trading to biofuels, these distractions are dangerous in and of themselves, while encouraging inaction with respect to the true problems at hand." (The whole episode was caught on video here.)
  • Commencement ceremonies frequently feature a singing of the alma mater, but that won't be the case at Pomona College this year. The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reported that while the song itself doesn't feature any mentions of race, the college has decided to bar it from graduation ceremonies and to study its origins following reports that the song was first written for use after a blackface minstrel show.
  • The Guinness Book of World Records has named Alia Sabur, who grew up on Long Island, as the world's youngest professor, Newsday reported. Sabur, 19, has been temporarily teaching at Southern University in New Orleans and has accepted a permanent position at Konkuk University, in South Korea. Sabur earned her Ph.D. from Drexel University in materials science and engineering.
  • The International Association for Jazz Education has filed for bankruptcy and is disbanding its operations. In a note to members, association leaders blamed its financial demise on "years of dependence" on the annual conference as a source of revenue even though fluctuations in attendance made the meeting an "unreliable" revenue stream, and a fund raising campaign that required advance spending but produced a "meager response."
  • The University of California at Santa Cruz plans to create a research center called Dead Central to house an extensive archive of papers, posters and paraphernalia being donated by the Grateful Dead, The New York Times reported.
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