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Quick Takes: Politics Found to Be Irrelevant in Most Courses, Report on Incident With Provost, Controversial Landscaping Bill, Evolution Foes Will Help Shape Texas Science Education, MCAT Will Be Reviewed, New Post for U.S. Education Research Chief

October 17, 2008
  • As David Horowitz and other critics have attacked colleges in recent years as full of liberal indoctrination, many college professors have wondered which campuses these critics had visited. While professors are more liberal than the average American, these faculty members have said over and again, the vast majority of courses focus on accounting or Spanish or composition or whatever -- without much discussion of politics at all. A new book from the Brookings Institution Press finds pretty much what these professors have been saying all along. Closed Minds? Politics and Ideology in American Universities -- by three professors at George Mason University -- is based on both surveys and interviews and finds that there is so much "ideological peace" on campus that political debate is relatively rare and that campuses are rarely the site of sustained political discussions.
  • The short tenure of Steven Hoch as provost of Washington State University has prompted numerous rumors and allegations, including that he took a leave after reporting that he was assaulted by Greg Royer, the vice president of business and finance. As the controversy has grown, the university has been largely silent, but it has now released a previously confidential internal report on a contentious meeting that led to the alleged altercation. The Associated Press reported that the meeting became ugly amid a discussion of a proposed new budgeting model for the university and that witnesses described Hoch's behavior toward other senior administrators as "disrespectful, rude, condescending and arrogant." Hoch did not comment to the AP on the report, in which Royer's move in the hallway -- the basis for the assault allegation -- was found to be defensive. "He was literally in my face and was threatening me. Feeling threatened, I put up my left arm and pushed him away from me with my forearm," Royer said in an e-mail about the incident, which other witnesses said was accurate, the university's report said.
  • A state audit in Mississippi has found that the commissioner of higher education, Thomas Meredith, offered to pay for 2007 landscaping work at his home that had been arranged by Vance Watson, who at the time was a vice president at Mississippi State University and is now the interim president, The Clarion-Ledger reported. Meredith has been on leave during an investigation of the work. Because Watson authorized the work, he is responsible for repaying $12,333 to the state.
  • Social conservatives on the Texas Board of Education have selected three critics of evolution for a six-member panel that will review proposed curricular standards for Texas schools, The Dallas Morning News reported.
  • The Association of American Medical Colleges has announced a review of the Medical College Admission Test, the fifth such review of the test. A panel of medical educators will review how the test helps and could better help admissions committee. While the MCAT has not been as controversial as the SAT, testing critics have raised questions about its effectiveness.
  • Grover J. (Russ) Whitehurst, director of the U.S. Education Department's Institute for Education Sciences, has been named to head the Brookings Institution's Brown Center on Education, the Washington think tank announced. Whitehurst has headed the Education Department's research arm since 2002, and will become a senior fellow at Brookings in January, after the Bush administration shutters its doors.
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