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Quick Takes: Ontario Union Wants Boycott of Israeli Academics, Obama's College Costs Discussion, More Scrutiny of Congressional Earmarks, U. of California Refunds, Gotham Book Mart's Legacy at Penn

January 7, 2009
  • Leaders of a union of teaching and research assistants, and other employees, in Ontario's universities are proposing that Israeli academics be barred from speaking, teaching or conducting research at the province's universities unless they condemn Israel's actions in Gaza, The Globe and Mail reported. The proposed boycott would not necessarily apply to Israeli-born Canadian academics or to Israeli Arabs. The proposal is already being attacked by some academics. In a column in The National Post, a University of Ottawa professor writes: "Why is boycotting Israeli professors wrong? Where to begin? From the pedagogical absurdity? From the political counter-productivity? From the violation of every principle of academic freedom?" Canada's primary faculty union, the Canadian Association of University Professors, issued a statement Tuesday condemning Israel's actions in Gaza, but the statement did not endorse a boycott of Israeli academics. James L. Turk, executive director of the association, said in an interview that "we don't see that the way to express our opposition to what a government is doing is by penalizing academics in that country."
  • The Obama transition Web site is sponsoring an online discussion on college costs -- noting both the interest of many in the issue and the recent death of Claiborne Pell, who as a Democratic U.S. senator from Rhode Island led the fight to create the grant program named for him. Numerous comments deal both with policy alternatives and the personal situations of individuals trying to pay for college.
  • Fresh off a presidential campaign in which Congressional earmarks topped the agenda of the losing candidate, Democratic leaders in Congress on Tuesday announced that they would ratchet up scrutiny and disclosure of lawmakers' pet projects for colleges and other constituents. The heads of the Senate and House appropriations committees said that, building on changes made last year that helped bring down the amount of legislator-directed earmarks by 43 percent over 2006, they would require members of Congress to post information about their earmark requests on their Web sites at the time of the request, "explaining the purpose of the earmark and why it is a valuable use of taxpayer funds," and require Congressional panels to publish tables of earmarks the same day that a Senate or House subcommittee reports its bill. The appropriations leaders said that in the coming fiscal year, they would cut earmarks back to 50 percent of the 2006 level, and hold them below 1 percent of all discretionary spending in subsequent years.
  • The University of California has agreed to repay a total of $33 million to former students who successfully challenged a 2003 tuition hike as unfair, given promises they were made that tuition would not go up, The Contra Costa Times reported. While the university denied wrongdoing, it lost one appeal of a court ruling in the state, and the California Supreme Court declined to consider the case. About 35,000 former students will share the settlement, with some receiving as much as $12,000.
  • The 2007 closing of the Gotham Book Mart -- a bookstore known for rare books as well as literature, and the site of key literary events in New York City -- upset many book lovers. Thanks to an anonymous donor, some 200,000 items from Gotham's collection are now headed to the library of the University of Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the collection includes materials from the personal libraries of Anaïs Nin and Truman Capote, and books printed by the Black Sparrow Press, known for its cutting edge literature.
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