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Quick Takes: David Horowitz Will Speak at MLA, 'Tough Questions' for Med Schools, Race and Homecoming, Science Advice, Loan Company Settles, Noose Uproar, President Quits After DUI Arrest, Immigrant Tuition Debate Hits Texas, E-Mail on Adjunct's Past

November 3, 2008
  • The program for the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association is out and there is a surprise speaker: David Horowitz. The long-time critic of the academic left and humanities professors will appear in San Francisco Dec. 29 on a panel on academic freedom, along with Mark Bauerlein of Emory University (himself sometimes a critic of the academic left, but one whose tone would not be confused with that of Horowitz), Norma E. Cantú of the University of Texas at San Antonio, and Cary Nelson of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (who, as president of the American Association of University Professors has frequently criticized Horowitz). Horowitz has repeatedly questioned why academic groups have not invited him to speak at their meetings. He almost was slated to appear at this year's meeting of the National Communication Association, but that plan fell apart. In the past, Horowitz has been critical of the MLA, with a few swipes in his book on "dangerous professors," and with articles his Web site publishes. Via e-mail, Horowitz praised the MLA for the invitation. "It's about time academics behaved like academics and opened a discussion with its critics," he said. He called Gerald Graff, president of the MLA and a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, "one of the few academics with enough courage to write about the problem of classroom indoctrination." But MLA attendees shouldn't think that Horowitz's praise is a sign that he's mellowed. He went on in the e-mail to slam several other academic groups. Said Horowitz: "It is better to listen to your critics and answer them, rather than merely slandering and excluding them, which has been the practice of the AAUP and the AFT and the professional associations since I started my academic freedom campaign 5 years ago." Rosemary G. Feal, executive director of the MLA, said that the session was organized by leaders of the association's Delegate Assembly, who wanted to follow up on discussions last year about academic freedom and student rights. "The MLA convention has always been a site of lively debate, and this session follows in a long tradition," Feal said via e-mail. "The organizers of the session know it will be controversial; they are committed to ensuring that the debate is respectful and that equal time is given to all participants. The audience will also have a chance to ask questions."
  • Medical schools need to confront a series of "tough questions," according to Darrell G. Kirch, president of the Association of American Medical Colleges, who outlined these questions Sunday in a speech at the group's annual meeting. The questions: How do we achieve freedom from conflicts of interest? How do we address the disparity of resources among our institutions and the economic inequality among medical specialties? How do we find true balance in our missions of education, research, and patient care? How do we achieve flexibility and responsiveness in preparing a new generation of doctors? How do we lead improvements to health care quality? Kirch compared the state of medical education to the state of the United States, which has been considering tough questions during this year's election campaign. “Academic medicine has some real strengths, but -- to be blunt -- we also have been avoiding some very tough questions," he said.
  • At some colleges, minority students organize special graduation ceremonies or orientation programs for members of specific ethnic and racial groups. Now, black homecoming events are appearing at some campuses, the Chicago Tribune reported. As with the graduation ceremonies, the additional events are being created by students who say they don't feel particularly welcome at the main homecoming events, and they note that all students are welcome to attend the black-organized events.
  • A coalition of science, education and business groups has sent a letter to Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama urging that the next presidential science adviser be selected by Inauguration Day and receive cabinet rank. President Bush did not appoint his science adviser, John H. Marburger III, until five months into the administration and did not give him cabinet rank. The letter notes that many issues -- health care, energy, economic competitiveness, climate change -- require sound scientific advice, making it "critical that the next president seek out and rely upon sound scientific and technological advice early and often in the new administration." The American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Association of American Universities coordinated the effort, which was backed by a total of 178 associations.
  • Goal Financial, a major provider of student loans, is the latest financial company to reach a settlement with New York State over controversial marketing practices, The New York Times reported. Andrew M. Cuomo, New York's attorney general, said that Goal used mailings that appeared to come from the federal government and was offering iPods and other inducements to use its loans -- potentially confusing borrowers. Goal could not be reached for comment, but the Times reported that it will adopt a marketing code of conduct developed by Cuomo, and will pay $350,000 to a fund Cuomo's office uses to educate students about financial aid.
  • Halloween tends to bring offensive displays at some campuses most years, and this year is no exception. California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo's Crop House -- where students pay reduced rent for caring for campus crops -- this week featured a display with a noose, a Confederate flag, and a sign with slurs about people who are black, gay, or hippies, The Tribune reported. Students denied knowing how the sign got on their house with the other material. Warren J. Baker, president of the university, released a statement in which he said: "Such hurtful and indeed hateful expressions have no place in a university that prides itself on an ethic of openness and mutual respect among all peoples and a commitment to rational and civil discourse. The students have taken a first important step by apologizing for their actions. The department and the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences are working with them to ensure they understand fully the effect of their actions and to pursue options for addressing the impact such incidents have on our community."
  • Rick E. Amidon, president of Baker College's Muskegon, Mich., campus, resigned Saturday, several days after he had been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and a controlled substance, The Muskegon Chronicle reported. Last month, the president of Davenport University resigned after pleading guilty to drunk driving. Three other presidents have also been arrested for drunk driving in recent years.
  • A Texas legislator is trying to challenge the practice of charging in-state tuition to state residents who lack legal documentation of their right to live legally in the United States, The Houston Chronicle reported. The state representative has asked the state's attorney general to review the decision in light of a California appeals court decision that questioned a similar practice. A group of experts on immigration and higher education law are also weighing in, urging the Texas attorney general to affirm current practice as legal.
  • Students and faculty members at the University of Ottawa are debating an e-mail message, widely circulated, that says a new part-time professor has worked as a prostitute, The Ottawa Citizen reported. The e-mail message includes private information about the adjunct, including an e-mail in which she appears to be informing people about her change in availability. The e-mail quoted by the Citizen says: "as you know, i left my full time job about a month ago. i had always planned to ensure another 'straight job' and have managed to land a great gig as a professor at one of the universities in ottawa.... i will be working at the university weekly each wednesday mornings and alternative thursday mornings, for now. this won't change my schedule much and i will still be as available as i have been this summer; it just means i cannot go away during the week other than to ottawa (which was the case when i had a full time job). i could, however, go away between sunday and tuesday, and friday and sunday." While the person who sent out all the information questioned this person's hiring, many students and professors at Ottawa say they are more concerned about the invasion of the instructor's privacy, and are asking the university to defend her.
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