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Quick Takes: Inquiry at VCU Blasted, Ponzi Scheme at Miami, Postdoc Union, Community College Data, Scientists Who Share, For-Profit Regulation, Governor Gives Up Football Tickets, Court Loss for Men's Sports Backers, New Naming Rules in British Columbia

August 21, 2008
  • David Baldacci, a best-selling novelist and a board member at Virginia Commonwealth University, has sent his colleagues a letter blasting the institution's handling of a recent scandal over a degree awarded to the then-police chief of Richmond, even though he hadn't met requirements. The Richmond Times-Dispatch obtained a copy of the letter, which said: "If handled internally, it would have been a perfect opportunity to ensure everyone -- including accreditation boards and university alumni -- that VCU has in place appropriate safeguards to guarantee the integrity of its university degree.... Unfortunately, instead of a university matter, we have a media circus, the public condemnation of faculty and other school personnel, a full-blown public scandal, allegations of investigatory abuse, and multiple resignations of distinguished faculty." The board is expected to discuss the letter today.
  • Federal officials are investigating an apparent ponzi scheme in which a University of Miami alumnus is alleged to have used university employees and facilities for meetings in which he may have obtained tens of millions of dollars from investors who may now have lost their funds, CNN reported. Andres Pimstein, who reportedly has confessed to the scheme, declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the university said that no funds from Miami were involved, that a few current or former employees may have been involved, and that the university was cooperating fully with the investigation.
  • A state labor board has certified that a United Auto Workers affiliate has obtained more than half of the signatures of postdoctoral researchers at the University of California, enough for the union to engage in collective bargaining on behalf of 5,000 postdocs. The UAW already represents teaching assistants on the campus. A University of California spokeswoman said that the institution was informed of the decision today and now has the chance to either certify the union or appeal, and that no decision has been made.
  • The National Center for Education Statistics has released a special analysis of community colleges to accompany "The Condition of Education," the agency's annual compilation of statistics on all levels of education. Like the larger report, the data generally come from already published studies, but make a useful reference source.
  • While some publishers have been slow to embrace the open access movement with regard to completed scientific works, some scientists aren't even waiting to finish their work to share it. An article in The Boston Globe explores the mindset of those younger scientists who routinely share data online before they have finished projects.
  • The California Assembly breathed new life into controversial legislation to replace the state's long-lapsed regulatory system for for-profit colleges, approving Senate a bill to do so Tuesday one day after the same chamber voted it down, the Contra Costa Times reported. The bill still needs Senate approval.
  • A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld a lower court judge's decision not to bar James Madison University from carrying out its 2006 plan to eliminate seven men's teams and three women's teams. The decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit concluded that the lower court judge ruled correctly in rejecting an advocacy group's motion for a preliminary injunction. The ruling came in a larger lawsuit in which a group of alumni, students and supporters of men's sports known as Equity in Athletics, Inc., is suing James Madison, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the U.S. Education Department over the university's dependence on Title IX in eliminating the teams.
  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican who has pledged to clean up state government, has given up one of the longstanding unofficial benefits of his office. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that he will not accept the 10 prized tickets for each football game Louisiana State University plays at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. Previous governors have used the tickets to entertain legislators and lobbyists, among others.
  • Student groups and others are objecting to new rules on naming buildings at public colleges and universities in British Columbia. The Victoria News reported that colleges will be required to seek approval before naming a building after a person or corporation that contributed to the construction costs, that no building can be named for people or businesses that sell alcohol, tobacco, pornography or illegal products, or for anyone whose name might imply endorsement of a partisan position. Student groups fear that last requirement may force colleges to only seek funds from people or companies seen as friendly to the provincial government in power at the time.
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