A vehicle owned by a University of California at Los Angeles researcher was firebombed on Saturday, and underground animal rights groups have taken responsibility for the attack. UCLA Chancellor Gene Block condemned the attack, part of a series against the university's researchers. "The actions of extremists who use violent and illegal tactics are utterly reprehensible and beyond contempt," he said in a statement. "UCLA police continue to work with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to bring to justice those responsible for such unconscionable acts, and I encourage anyone with information to come forward." The Animal Liberation Front press office posted a message for the researcher: "We will come for you when you least expect it and do a lot more damage than to your property. Wherever you go and whatever you do we'll be watching you as long as you continue to do your disgusting experiments on monkeys."
Higher Education Quick Takes
The Education Department is reporting significant gains in applications for federal financial aid and in volume in direct lending. Both gains have been expected, but data reported to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators provide some details on the trends. Through the end of February, the department reported processing almost 3 million Free Applications for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms for the 2009-10 academic year, an increase of 20 percent over a comparable period a year ago. The shifts reported in direct lending are also dramatic. As of February 25, direct lending volume was $20.2 billion, up from $13.1 billion a year ago. So far this academic year, the number of loans provided through direct lending is up by 1.6 million and the number of participating colleges is up by 548.
Conventional wisdom has it that economic chaos prompts students to seek college programs that are highly practical and that yield sure job offers. But music programs are experiencing a surge in applications, the Chicago Tribune reported, even as jobs with orchestras and arts groups are increasingly hard to come by. The Tribune reported that applications are way up for music programs at Columbia College Chicago, Northwestern University, the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Indiana University at Bloomington, and DePaul University. Applications have been going up steadily for five years at many of the institutions, with no slowing down this year.
President Obama is expected today to announce that he is lifting limits, imposed by President George W. Bush, on federal support for stem cell research. The restrictions have been widely condemned by scientists as hindering research, and as symbolic of the Bush administration's imposition of ideological tests on science policy. The move by President Obama has been expected; during his campaign, he promised such a shift. His campaign document on science said: "Despite recent advances pointing to alternatives like adult stem cell and cord blood, embryonic stem cells remain unmatched in their potential for treatment of a wide variety of diseases and health conditions. Barack Obama has been a long-term supporter of increased stem cell research. He introduced legislation while a member of the Illinois Senate that would allow embryonic stem cell research in Illinois. Obama has cosponsored legislation to allow greater federal government funding on a wider array of stem cell lines. Obama believes we need high ethical standards that allow for research on stem cells derived from embryos produced for in vitro fertilization, embryos that would otherwise be needlessly destroyed."
The U.S. Education Department on Saturday published additional guidance about how it plans to distribute more than $50 billion in the coming months to help states stem cuts to education programs. While the guidance offers significantly more detail than has been previously available -- noting, for instance, that in applying for money from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, states must assure that they will "establish and use pre-K-through-college and career data systems to track progress and foster continuous improvement" -- it still leaves many questions unanswered.
New York Medical College, a free-standing institution with 1,600 students in M.D., public health and other graduate medical sciences programs, has signed a letter of intent to merge with a university, but won't name the likely partner, The Journal News reported. A spokeswoman for Touro College, while not confirming that it had signed a letter of intent, said that officials there were in "serious negotiations" with the medical college. The New York Medical College is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, and Touro has Jewish affiliations.
Two Texas A&M University students -- who were brother and sister -- were shot and killed Friday in their off-campus apartment, and a student at nearby Blinn College has been charged with the murders, The Bryan/College Station Eagle reported. Also on Friday, students were scared but there were no injuries when a police officer at the University of Illinois at Chicago accidentally discharged his gun while investigating reports of possible gunfire on campus, the Chicago Tribune reported. Also last week, five men who are not students at Fairleigh Dickinson University were arrested following reports that someone was waving a gun at the New Jersey university, the Associated Press reported. And in South Carolina last week, a student at York Technical College was arrested after a handgun he was carrying went off during class. WCNC News reported that the student originally said that he fell asleep in class and that the gun fired when it fell through a hole in his pocket. But the student -- who faces charges of carrying a pistol unlawfully and carrying a weapon on a campus -- then changed his story and said that he was holding his handgun in his pocket and that he accidentally hit the trigger. The professor in the class reported that, after the incident, the student apologized and left the class.
A large crowd greeted Richard Dawkins at the University of Oklahoma Friday, cheering on the biologist as he spoke about evolution and the attacks on science by creationists and others. Some legislators spoke out against the university's invitation to Dawkins. One member of the Oklahoma House has introduced resolutions (which have not been voted on) to express disappointment with the university for giving a forum to the noted scholar because of his "biased philosophy." Another resolution prompted by the Dawkins visit attacked the university's zoology department, saying that it has been "framing the Darwinian theory of evolution as doctrinal dogmatism rather than a hypothetical construction within the disciplines of the sciences." The zoology department offended the legislator in question by having material on the department Web site that explains the science of evolution. Despite a heckler/questioner, Dawkins was able to give his talk and won strong support from the audience. He opened his talk (video of which is on YouTube) by noting the legislative opposition to his visit, and wondering whether the diversity of thought on science that his critics want would extend to the parody produced by The Onion of "intelligent falling" as a challenge to the theory of gravity.
New York authorities on Thursday charged that the son of a University of Chicago professor engaged in identity theft and harassment of scholars with whom his father has a long-standing disagreement about the Dead Sea Scrolls, The New York Times reported. Raphael Golb is accused of creating e-mail accounts in which he pretended to be his father's scholarly critics, and of using those accounts to advance his father's theories. Golb is the son of Norman Golb, who has argued -- in contrast to the views of most scholars of the Dead Sea Scrolls -- that they were not produced by the Essenes. Raphael Golb is accused of using the e-mail accounts to attack the idea of Lawrence H. Schiffman, a leading scholar of the Dead Sea Scross who disagrees with the elder Golb and who teaches at New York University. Norman Golb told the Times Thursday that his son " “is an honorable person,” and “could not have done such a thing.”
The ex-professor and professor whose separate appearances on the college lecture circuit regularly cause controversies appeared together Thursday night -- to still more controversy. William Ayers -- the University of Illinois at Chicago professor who is regularly attacked for his past in the Weather Underground -- traveled to the University of Colorado at Boulder to speak with and on behalf of Ward Churchill, who lost his job teaching there when the university determined that he had engaged in repeated incidents of scholarly misconduct. Churchill maintains that he was fired for his political views, and the joint appearance came just days before a court will consider Churchill's suit against the university charging that he was wrongfully dismissed. Churchill and others have also criticized the university for charging the student group that organized the effort $3,000 for extra security for the event. While the university said that the security enhancements were necessary, students and Churchill said that the fees were an attempt to discourage the event. The Denver Post reported that Ayers, in his remarks, said that the Churchill dismissal could have an impact well beyond his case. "I don't worry about Ward Churchill as much as I worry about the teacher in Denver who teaches social studies and can't bring herself to raise questions because of what she saw happen to Ward Churchill," Ayers said. "The real victims are across the country and across the world and the people we don't know. That is the chilling effect that we should all worry about, those of us who care about democracy."