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Quick Takes: MacArthur Fellows Named, UMass Won't Give Credit for Campaigning, Professor Ordered to Do His Own Grading, Student Arrested After Death Threats, Colleges Urged to Rethink Career Ladder, Aid Shift at BU, New Town-Gown Group

September 23, 2008
  • For 25 lucky people, many of them academics, today is the day they are officially named MacArthur Fellows. The program -- frequently called the "genius" fellowship -- is sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and recipients are awarded $500,000 in no-strings support over the next five years. This year's academic winners are: Kirsten Bomblies of the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology; Wafaa El-Sadr of Columbia University, Andrea Ghez of the University of California at Los Angeles, Stephen Houston of Brown University, Alexei Kitaev of the California Institute of Technology, Susan Mango of the University of Utah, Diane Meier of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, David Montgomery of the University of Washington, John Ochsendorf of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Peter Pronovost of Johns Hopkins University, Adam Riess of Johns Hopkins, Nancy Siraisi of Hunter College, Marin Soljacic of MIT, Sally Temple of the New York Neural Stem Cell Institute and Rachel Wilson of Harvard University. Complete biographies on these and past winners are available on the foundation's Web site.
  • The University of Massachusetts at Amherst has called off plans by a chaplain to arrange for students to receive independent study credit for work on behalf of Barack Obama's campaign, the Associated Press reported. University officials said that they originally thought the program being organized would have involved nonpartisan efforts to encourage voting. When officials found out that the effort was on behalf of a specific candidate, they said it would be inappropriate.
  • Indiana University at South Bend has ordered Otis Grant, a professor, to start doing his own grading. The South Bend Tribune reported that the university found that he had been using a woman who was never a university employee to grade student papers. The university, which has sanctioned the professor but not revealed how, also received complaints about his language in class and that he improperly called off some class sessions. Grant did not respond to the newspaper's requests for comment.
  • Randy Thurston was arrested Monday, and Polk Community College shut down one of its campuses out of concern that he might shoot people there, a Florida ABC affiliate reported. According to police, Thurston -- who was both a student and part-time employee at the college -- was suspended after being accused by several people of sexual harassment. He was arrested after his therapist told authorities that he planned to go to campus and shoot everyone who accused him.
  • A new report from the American Council on Education, "Too Many Rungs on the Ladder? Faculty Demographics and the Future Leadership of Higher Education," links trends in employment patterns to the need for the next generation of college administrators. Because of the widespread use of adjuncts, there are fewer young faculty members in the kinds of permanent tenured or tenure-track positions that typically lead to advancement, the report says. The data -- from 2003-4 Education Department reports -- are not new, but the trends have continued. The report notes that only 3 percent of professors who are 34 or younger hold permanent positions.
  • Boston University is the latest institution to shift some funds from merit to need-based aid. The Boston Globe reported that the institution has found that some of its scholarships for top graduates of Boston high schools go unused, while other graduates of Boston high schools can't afford BU. As a result, the university is reallocating, putting an emphasis on need.
  • Clemson University will be the site of a new organization, the National Town-Gown Association, which will promote healthy relationships between colleges and their localities, The Greenville News reported.
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