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Quick Takes: Iowa Will Require Harassment Education, New Entry in College Rankings Business, Trying to Explain Controversial Program, A Donation Disappears, Sweden Gets More Expensive, Bad Writing Contest

August 14, 2008
  • The University of Iowa plans to require all faculty and staff members to undergo sexual harassment training, The Des Moines Register reported. The announcement follows allegations that a professor -- currently on leave pending an investigation -- asked several female students to let him grope their breasts in return for higher grades.
  • Forbes has entered the college rankings business with a methodology it designed with Richard Vedder, an Ohio University economist whose Center for College Affordability and Productivity regularly criticizes colleges on costs and other issues. The methodology: 25 percent based on student evaluations in RateMyProfessors.com (a site criticized for the way students can manipulate it), 25 percent on how many alumni, adjusted for enrollment, are listed in Who's Who in America, and then 50 percent based equally on three factors: average student debt at graduation, the percentage of students graduating in four years, and the number of students or professors -- adjusted for enrollment -- who have won awards like Rhodes Scholarships, Nobel Prizes and other honors. Small liberal arts colleges that are well endowed do well in these rankings, while many large flagship public universities do not.
  • James H. Ammons, the new president of Florida A&M University, held a telephone press conference on Wednesday to answer questions about how -- when he was chancellor of North Carolina Central University -- that institution started a degree-granting program in a church outside of Atlanta, run by a donor and board member, without the permission of North Carolina officials or accreditors. Ammons said he didn't remember many details of the project, but that the opportunity to enter "a new market" was attractive. He said he assumed that proper permissions had been obtained, and said that "no one has more appreciation" of the accreditation process than he does. He said that opening such programs isn't "anything novel" for public universities, but he said he could not identify a similar program run by another university. While accreditation officials have said that the degrees awarded are not legitimate, Ammons said he hoped that officials would "do the right thing" and find a way to honor the degrees.
  • Westminster College, in Utah, saw a $3.4 million pledge from a local entrepreneur disappear when he started to face criminal charges and lawsuits -- with no real money headed to the college. An article in The Salt Lake Tribune traces the pledge and its aftermath.
  • Sweden's government is planning to end its policy -- an increasingly rare one in the world -- of extending its free tuition policy to students from anywhere, The Local reported. European students would continue to be able to enroll tuition-free, but those from outside Europe would be charged tuition to reflect university expenses. Financial aid will be available. Lars Leijonborg, the higher education minister, is quoted as saying: "Our primary argument is that it is unwise of a country not to benefit from a payment system which obviously exists. Why should these students pay money to American or British universities, but not to Swedish [ones]?”
  • San Jose State University's English department has announced the 2008 "winners" of its Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, which honors the worst possible opening lines for fiction. This year's winning entry, by Garrison Spik, is as follows: "Theirs was a New York love, a checkered taxi ride burning rubber, and like the city their passion was open 24/7, steam rising from their bodies like slick streets exhaling warm, moist, white breath through manhole covers stamped 'Forged by DeLaney Bros., Piscataway, N.J.'" Various runners-up and other honors may be found on the contest Web site.
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