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Quick Takes: Student Loan Plan for New York, California Accountability, Purdue Prof Found Guilty of Misconduct, Iowa Accused of Mishandling Allegations Against Athletes, New Approach on Partner Benefits, Dutch Court Backs Professor's Right to Publish

July 21, 2008
  • New York's governor, David A. Paterson, plans today to back the creation of a major new student loan program for the state, potentially providing hundreds of thousands of students with loans at significantly lower interest rates than they now obtain through private borrowing, The New York Times reported. The loan proposal is part of the final report of a special commission on higher education, appointed by Eliot Spitzer during his brief term as governor. The final report -- also due out today -- reiterates many of the themes and ideas of the commission's first report, and calls for a major infusion of funds into higher education. It is unclear, however, how much money and political will are available for these ideas.
  • Mark G. Yudof, the new president of the University of California, has announced plans for new accountability reports for campuses and the system he leads. The first report is expected this fall and will cover topics such as affordability, diversity, research successes and graduation rates. In announcing the planned reports, Yudof embraced the kind of language used by Bush administration officials and others who have charged that universities are not nearly accountable enough for performance. "If someone says, did you have a good year at UC Santa Barbara, or did the Office of the President have a good year, or how is a particular research program doing, we ought not get away with, ‘We're doing great, we had a good year, and if you just sent more money we'd be in fabulous shape.' People deserve an honest answer to the question of how you're doing, and it needs to be backed up by statistical data," Yudof said. Many of the types of information Yudof said would be included are similar to those in the Voluntary System of Accountability, an effort launched last year by the National Association of State University and Land-Grant Colleges and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. The California State University System has been among the most vocal supporters of the voluntary system, but the University of California has opted out, in large part because of faculty skepticism over requirements that participants have some system for testing what students learn in college in a nationally comparable way. Yudof, who helped craft such a system in his previous job at the University of Texas System, said that faculty leaders were currently studying issues related to such testing, and acknowledged that many important university functions are not easily measured.
  • Rusi Taleyarkhan, a professor of nuclear engineering at Purdue University, was found guilty of 2 of the 12 charges of research misconduct reviewed by a special scientific panel appointed by the university. Taleyarkhan in 2002 published papers claiming to have created what was commonly called "tabletop fusion" or "bubble fusion." When other scholars found themselves unable to replicate his findings, questions emerged about the veracity of his work. An earlier Purdue probe found no evidence of misconduct, but the university agreed to a second investigation after members of Congress pushed the issue. A report from the second investigation, issued Friday, did not say that any of the original work was falsified. Rather it found Taleyarkhan had the name of a researcher added to a report on his research even though the researcher played no role in the study. In addition, the panel found that Taleyarkhan falsely claimed in a scientific paper that his findings had been independently verified when they had not been. A statement from Purdue noted that under university regulations, Taleyarkhan has 30 days to file an appeal -- and any punishment for the findings of misconduct would not be announced until after the appeals process runs its course. A spokesman for the university said that there are no punishments set for such misconduct and that the administration would have full leeway, should the findings be upheld. Taleyarkhan's lawyer told The Indianapolis Star that his client was considering an appeal, adding that questions were raised by having multiple investigative panels reaching different conclusions. The lawyer noted that Taleyarkhan has been found both not guilty and guilty of misconduct by Purdue in an 18-month period.
  • The mother of a University of Iowa student who said she was sexually assaulted by two football players has released a letter she sent to the university outlining what she and her daughter say was pressure by the university to handle the matter "informally" and not to press charges with the police, The Iowa City Press-Citizen reported. The letter also says that the university ignored harassment of the alleged victim by friends of the athletes, who have since been charged with sexual assault and maintain that they are not guilty. A university statement released to the newspaper said that Iowa officials advised the alleged victim -- also an athlete -- of all of her options, and considered her interests at all times. Iowa Gov. Chet Culver has called on the Iowa Board of Regents to investigate the allegations.
  • Trustees of Grand Valley State University voted Friday to offer health benefits for unmarried live-in partners of any type -- same-sex couples or any unrelated adults who have shared housing for at least 18 months -- The Grand Rapids Press reported. Michigan universities have struggled to find ways to offer benefits for gay employees partners' in the wake of court rulings barring any benefits that recognize domestic partners as such. As a result, universities have generally been adopting broader categories for benefits, and Grand Valley's policy is the latest such approach.
  • A Dutch court last week refused to block B. Jacobs Raboud, a professor at University Nijmegen, from publishing a paper about security flaws in a card commonly used in transit systems worldwide, CNET News reported. NZP Semiconductors, which produces the card, said that publishing information about the card's flaws would be counter to the public interest. But the court said that no justification had been presented to justify infringing on the academic freedom and freedom of expression of the professor.
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