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Quick Takes: Bush Signs Higher Ed Act Renewal, McGill Adjunct Killed in Afghanistan, Protests Over Midsummer's Dismissal, Delay on Immigrant Students, 2 Colleges Merge in Vermont, Texas Eases Conflict of Interest Rules

August 15, 2008
  • President Bush on Thursday signed much-delayed legislation to renew the Higher Education Act, the law that governs most federal college and financial aid programs. The president did not say anything about the legislation in signing it, probably because the Bush administration was unhappy about numerous aspects of the bill, including that it would create more than 60 new programs and bar the U.S. education secretary from promulgating rules to govern accreditation. But the signing prompted renewed praise for the legislation from its Democratic and Republican Congressional sponsors.
  • Jacqueline Kirk, an adjunct in education at McGill University, was shot and killed by Taliban forces Wednesday while working in Afghanistan for the International Rescue Committee. Kirk, who received a Ph.D. from McGill in 2002, conducted research on adolescent girls and she was founding co-editor of a new journal, Girlhood Studies. Heather Munroe-Blum, McGill's principal and vice chancellor, issued a statement in which she said: “This is truly tragic. Jackie was engaged in important work trying to improve the lives of people in Afghanistan, which was closely tied to her research on women’s access to education in developing countries. That her life should come to such a brutal end while working to help others makes this an even greater tragedy. This was a cowardly act that deserves widespread condemnation."
  • Scholars are protesting the dismissal -- still unexplained -- of Patricia Parker as editor of a third edition of Arden Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. A Web site and petition created by critics of the Parker's removal notes that Cengage Learning now owns the Arden project and said that "there is concern that Pat's termination is in part an effort to elevate corporate profitability over the principles of scholarly diligence and thoroughness."
  • The North Carolina State Board of Community Colleges is expected to vote today on a proposal to hire a consultant to study the issue of admitting undocumented students – despite the fact that the system received clarification from U.S. Department of Homeland Security in July that federal law does not limit their ability to enroll. An earlier interpretation by the state attorney general to the contrary was the basis for the community college system barring illegal immigrants in May. The issue has become political dynamite in the state. The July 9 letter from Immigration and Customs Enforcement indicates that "individual states must decide for themselves whether or not to admit illegal aliens into their public post-secondary institutions."
  • Woodbury and Champlain Colleges, both in Vermont, are merging and will create the Woodbury Institute at Champlain College. Over the next academic year, few visible changes are expected, and a statement announcing the merger said that, after that, Woodbury's faculty members may be able to obtain additional assignments at Champlain. Neither college offers tenure-track positions and all Woodbury courses are taught by adjunct or part-time faculty members.
  • The University of Texas Board of Regents voted Thursday to ease conflict of interest rules for trustees who oversee university investments, The Houston Chronicle reported. In 2000, the board barred co-investment by trustees and the endowment fund, but the board will now permit co-investing up to 5 percent of the endowment fund. Board members said that the change was needed to insure that they could provide investment tips to endowment managers without limiting options for personal investments.
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