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Quick Takes: More Criticism of Brandeis, Strike Ends at Canada's York U., Colleges Spent $100M on Lobbying U.S., Reforms Urged for Medical Education, Strategies for Remedial Ed, NSF's Porn Problem

January 30, 2009
  • About 100 students and others held a protest at Brandeis University Thursday, objecting to plans to close the art museum and to possibly sell its 6,000 works of art, many of them modern masterpieces, Bloomberg reported. While officials originally said all of the art would be sold, possibly for hundreds of millions of dollars, there has been some backtracking on the sale -- although not the museum closure. Meanwhile, art and museum groups continue to heap criticism on the university, which says it needs money right now more than an art museum. On Thursday, statements of condemnation were issued by the American Association of Museums and the College Art Association. The latter's statement said in part: "The teaching of art and art history in higher education is untenable without the direct study of physical works of art, and it appears the Brandeis Board of Trustees has disregarded the kind of scholarship and creativity that have been the hallmark of [association] members for nearly one hundred years."
  • Legislation enacted in Ontario Thursday forced the end of a strike by teaching assistants and part-time faculty members at York University, clearing the way for the first classes since November 6, The Canadian Press reported. Under the legislation, those on strike must return to work. Their union and the university must agree on a mediator for arbitration or the government will appoint one. Union leaders criticized the new law for effectively removing their right to strike, and said the legislation would encourage universities to avoid making reasonable contract offers. Ontario's government has been criticized by others for letting the strike linger.
  • Colleges and other education organizations reported spending more than $100 million on lobbying the federal government in 2008, passing that milestone for the first time, according to the Center for Responsive Politics' Opensecrets.org project. Lobbying spending by educational organizations had hovered at about $90 million annually in the three previous years, but jumped to $102 million in 2008, according to the center's data, ranking the industry seventh behind pharmaceuticals, electric utilities, insurance, oil and gas, business groups, and computer/Internet companies. The State University of New York reported more lobbying spending than any other educational entity, at $1.62 million (nearly $1.9 million when all parts of the SUNY system were included), followed by the career college giant Corinthian Colleges Inc. at $1.3 million and the University of Texas System at $1.16 million. A complete list -- based on the institutions' reports to Congress -- can be found here.
  • Medical education needs serious reform to reflect changes in the way health care is provided in the United States, according to a new report from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation. Among the reforms suggested: more instruction on how to be part of a health-care team, more instruction in community-based settings and other places besides hospitals, more of an emphasis on public health education, and an increased focus on self-directed learning in light of the way medicine will continue to evolve once today's students graduate. The Association of American Medical Colleges issued a statement in which it said that many of these reforms are already taking place.
  • New strategies are needed to reduce the need for remedial education and to improve its quality, according to "Bridging the Gap: How to Strengthen the Pk-16 Pipeline to Improve College Readiness," a report released Thursday by the New America Foundation. The report urges increased attention to college readiness and also more study of remedial efforts in colleges to determine which ones are successful.
  • Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican who is leading several probes of higher education and research agencies, has a new target: National Science Foundation officials who view pornography while on the government clock. Grassley is demanding documents from the NSF that relate to its own findings about porn use on the job. Politico reported that the foundation had found that a number of employees were engaged in these activities and that one “senior official” was found to have spent 20 percent of his working hours over a two-year interval “viewing sexually explicit images and engaging in sexually explicit online ‘chats’ with various women.”
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