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Quick Takes: Skipping Raises to Preserve Jobs, Censorship Alleged of 'Christian' Speech, Ayers Uninvited, Penalties for Abilene Christian, Principles for Dissemination, Failings of Health Coverage, Bogus Aid Requests, Help for Veterans, Facebook Fracas

Quick Takes: Skipping Raises to Preserve Jobs, Censorship Alleged of 'Christian' Speech, Ayers Uninvited, Penalties for Abilene Christian, Principles for Dissemination, Failings of Health Coverage, Bogus Aid Requests, Help for Veterans, Facebook Fracas
February 13, 2009
  • The Inter Faculty Organization, the independent faculty union that represents more than 3,000 faculty members at the seven four-year institutions in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, and the system have reached a tentative contract agreement that calls for no salary increases or annual "step" increases for the next two years. Rod Henry, president of the union, said that some professors might still receive raises in certain circumstances, such as when there is demonstrated inequity or they have passed milestones based on decades of service. But he acknowledged that it was unprecedented to agree to a contract that would mean most professors would not receive raises for two years. Henry said that the budget situation is so bad in Minnesota, with layoffs already starting at some institutions, that union leaders felt it appropriate to make such an agreement. There is no pledge in the agreement to avoid faculty layoffs, but Henry said that the negotiations made clear that the university would seek to minimize job reductions. James H. McCormick, chancellor of the system, praised the union and said that the plan "will allow the presidents of the state universities to have some certainty as they plan for budget cuts for the next two years." He added that the tentative agreement left him "hopeful that maintaining salaries at current levels will result in fewer layoffs and fewer severe program cuts than they otherwise would have planned.”
  • The Alliance Defense Fund has sued the Los Angeles Community College District on behalf of a student at Los Angeles City College who charges that his public speaking professor called him a "fascist bastard" for a speech during which the student read a dictionary definition of marriage and two Bible passages. The suit, which charges censorship of "Christian speech" in violation of the First Amendment, said that the instructor also refused to grade the speech, writing on an evaluation form that the student should "Ask God what your grade is." A college spokeswoman said that officials were reviewing the suit and had no comment on the case, and the professor did not respond to messages. A letter from the college to the Alliance Defense Fund, sent prior to the lawsuit being filed, said that "action is being taken" against the professor involved, but that privacy rules barred the college from disclosing what was happening. The letter faulted the student for not following through on all procedures related to complaining about his treatment. But the letter also said that the college viewed the incident as "extremely serious."
  • Georgia Southern University has called off a visit by William Ayers, who was to give a talk on the campus next month. The university says that security costs led to the decision. Ayers, a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago was once a leader of the Weather Underground, and Republican candidates blasted him repeatedly last year in an attempt to associate his past with Barack Obama. Prior to the campaign controversy, Ayers was a frequent speaker on college campuses, primarily talking about education reform, not his past. When word spread of the invitation to Georgia Southern, some students and alumni protested that it was inappropriate to bring him to campus. A spokesman for the university said that security would have cost $13,000 for the Ayers appearance and that several major parking lots would have been closed. "Georgia Southern University does not endorse the thoughts or ideals of visiting speakers or performers that may be invited to campus," the spokesman said. "However, freedom of speech and the free exchange of ideas are both a part of the fundamental mission of a University. The university has and will continue to support the right of its students and faculty to host a diverse range of programs on campus under the First Amendment." Ayers could not be reached for comment. Millersville University, in Pennsylvania, is also on his schedule for a talk in March, and also setting off a debate, The Intelligencer Journal reported.
  • The National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division II Committee on Infractions punished Abilene Christian University Thursday for a series of recruiting and other rules violations in its track and field and football programs. The former head track coach committed most of the violations, the NCAA found, many of which involved international students. Among the penalties, which included recruiting restrictions and the vacation of victories in which ineligible athletes competed, the university agreed to limit to a total of five the number of foreign athletes on any single team for the next two years.
  • Universities need to take steps to ensure the broadest possible dissemination of professors' research, according to a joint statement issued Thursday by the Association of American Universities, the Association of Research Libraries, the Coalition for Networked Information and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges. Key principles, the four organizations said, are as follows: "Dissemination of knowledge is as important to the university mission as its production. Recognizing the value of the intellectual capital created by the members of the university community, universities should develop strategies for ensuring maximum distribution of the full range of unique and uniquely valuable content produced by the university community. Past norms and practical requirements for dissemination have led to practices of transferring control of access to and use of faculty work outside the academy, limiting the university’s and faculty members’ ability to ensure broad dissemination and wide use. Where the academy has relinquished the ability to manage its intellectual capital to best serve its needs and priorities, it should act to regain this capability. Key functions of traditional publishing must persist. Particularly, valuation and rewarding of high quality faculty work must remain central features of dissemination. As new kinds of digital products emerge from the conduct of scholarship, universities must act to ensure that they become broadly available and that some basic dissemination rights remain within the academy. To ensure the academy’s ability to make its products accessible, it must employ existing infrastructure and continue to invest where needed in technological, organizational, and policy strategies to build capability within the academy to disseminate its work."
  • Massachusetts is considering rules that would require colleges to track students' medical bills that aren't covered by health insurance policies, as well as data on complaints filed by students about health insurance coverage, The Boston Globe reported. The proposed rules, expected to be approved soon, follow reports that many students and their families have been hit with large bills when some medical care has been rejected for reimbursement.
  • Three former employees of Vatterott College, a for-profit institution, have been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of using fake diplomas and false documents to apply for federal aid for students not qualified for the assistance, The Kansas City Star reported.
  • Robert Morris University, in Pennsylvania, is offering veterans who enroll full time in graduate or undergraduate programs tuition-free educations. The program will apply to those who are eligible for the new GI Bill, and will cover tuition costs that remain after those benefits.
  • Supporters of Tony Harris say he was kicked out of Calvin College for a Facebook posting he didn't write. The Grand Rapids News reported that he was expelled over a posting using sexually derogatory terms in reference to a former girlfriend. Harris maintains that his ex-girlfriend had his Facebook password and posted the item herself.
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