Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 1, 2010

The Medical College of Wisconsin has announced that it is ending the use of live pigs in laboratories in which first-year students are taught about the cardiovascular system, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The college has been criticized for the use of the live animals in the lab program. Officials of the medical school said that the change was part of broader shifts in the curriculum and was not a result of the criticism.

March 1, 2010

The American Political Science Association announced Friday that it will move its summer workshop for African scholars from Uganda to a yet-to-be-determined location elsewhere in Africa. The association planned the meeting well before the current debate there about legislation that would impose severe penalties -- including execution in some cases -- for gay acts. A statement issued by the association noted that "legal hostility" toward gay people is a problem in almost all African nations. But Uganda poses "unique" problems, the association said, in part because of the breadth of the proposed legislation, which covers some thought as well as behavior, the statement said. The association has been studying the issue and hoping that the legislation would be withdrawn or defeated, but at this point, plans need to be made, so the APSA decided to move the meeting. "We cannot commit today to send staff and scholars to work in Uganda safely on topics that include the study of sexual identity in politics, and we of course must not remove these topics from our agenda for the workshops," the statement said.

February 26, 2010

Adjuncts at St. Francis College, in New York, voted this week to unionize, affiliating with New York State United Teachers, American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. The vote was 96-47, with union organizers saying that adjuncts needed better pay and benefits. The vote creates the latest collective bargaining unit among adjuncts, who unlike tenure-track faculty members can be unionized at private as well as at public institutions. College administrators opposed the union drive, arguing that collective bargaining was not needed and producing videos of adjuncts who said they didn't want a union.

February 26, 2010

Albion College, in Michigan, has announced plans to eliminate the equivalent of 15 full-time faculty positions (about 10 percent of the faculty), in anticipation of enrollment declines in the years ahead, The Jackson Citizen Patriot reported. The college says that some of the job cuts will come through early retirement, but others may not. Faculty leaders say that they are concerned about how positions -- especially of tenured or tenure-track faculty -- are going to be selected for elimination.

February 26, 2010

President Obama on Thursday announced the 2009 recipients of the National Medal of the Arts and the National Medal of the Humanities. In the former category, the Oberlin Conservatory of Music was honored for its impact on the world of music. Humanities medals are going to, among others, Robert A. Caro, the biographer of Lyndon Johnson and Robert Moses; Annette Gordon-Reed, a professor of history at Rutgers University and the author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family; David Levering Lewis, a professor of history at New York University and the biographer of W.E.B. Du Bois; and William H. McNeill, a historian at the University of Chicago who played a key role in launching the study of world history as a field.

February 26, 2010

After days of intense debate, much of it with racial overtones, over a recent step competition, Coca-Cola, the sponsor has declared co-winners, the Associated Press reported. Step has historically been associated with historically black fraternities and sororities, so many were surprised when a white sorority from the University of Arkansas won the Sprite Step Off on Saturday, and some observers charged that there must have been scoring irregularities. In the discussion on YouTube of the winning performance by the Zeta Tau Alphas, many of the comments reference that they are white. On Thursday, Coca-Cola announced that a review had uncovered a "scoring discrepancy" and that the scores between the first and second place teams were so close that they would share the prize money and the first place honor. The new co-winning team, whose members are black, is from Alpha Kappa Alpha at Indiana University.

February 26, 2010

The University of Alabama at Huntsville has started the process of firing Amy Bishop, the faculty member facing murder charges in the killings of three of her colleagues this month, The Huntsville Times reported. Already, the university has suspended Bishop without pay, retroactively to Feb. 12, the date of the murders.

February 25, 2010

Microsoft announced Wednesday it is extending its "identity federation" services to its college and university clients who use [email protected], the company’s integrated e-mail, calendar, instant messaging, and online file storage suite. An “identity federation” is a group of institutions that allows students, researchers, and employees who need to access password-protected Web sites at multiple institutions to use a single log-in identification and password. With thousands of institutions worldwide already using [email protected], the federation is already built, said Cameron Evans, Microsoft’s chief technology officer, in an interview yesterday. Evans compared the service to the driver’s license system, where a person who acquired a driver’s license in Maryland can use it to drive or verify I.D. in each of the other 49 states, rather than having to acquire and carry around 50 different licenses. Identity federations are currently a hot topic in campus IT; Educause last year recognized several companies that had applied the concept to higher education with its Catalyst Award.

February 25, 2010

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate whether Liberty University violated its tax-exempt status by throwing its weight behind a Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates. The request states that Liberty's leaders used Liberty Champion, "ostensibly a student publication but one that is actually subject to university control, to run a series of articles" attacking the Democratic candidate (who lost narrowly) and backing the Republican. Americans United also said that Liberty "twice arranged for a 'voter guide' published by the Virginia Family Foundation to appear in the Champion" and that the guide "distorted" the Democratic candidate's views. Further, the complaint states that on Election Day, a senior Liberty official "drove around campus with the College Republicans, rounding up voters." Liberty officials told The Lynchburg News & Advance that the claims were "bogus" and part of a campaign of harassment by the group against the university.

February 25, 2010

The Illinois Senate on Wednesday approved legislation to reform a system in which legislators can give out college scholarships to anyone they want -- a system that has led to a series of cases of such scholarships going to those with ties to campaign donors, the Chicago Tribune reported. The Senate didn't go as far as backing the elimination of the scholarships, which some reform groups have urged. But the Senate would ban the award of scholarships to anyone whose family could be linked to a campaign contribution without the last five years. Further, family members of recipients would be banned for five years from making a contribution to the legislator who awarded the scholarship. The measure now moves to the House of Representatives.

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