Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

October 1, 2009

Joel Thirer resigned Wednesday as athletic director at the State University of New York at Binghamton, following a series of incidents involving the institution's basketball team, The Press & Sun-Bulletin reported. The Binghamton basketball team reached the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament in March, but has faced questions about whether the athletic success was coming at the expense of the university's outstanding academic reputation. In the last week, six members of the basketball team were dismissed, one of them after being arrested on charges of selling cocaine. Lois DeFleur, president of the university, issued a statement saying that she would hire an external consultant to conduct an audit of the athletic program, and that she has directed Kevin Broadus, the basketball coach, to provide her with "a recruitment and supervision plan" for the team, including specific "criteria, processes and practices that will reflect the university's academic and behavioral standards."

October 1, 2009

Southern Methodist University, which enacted numerous new policies in the wake of a series of student deaths related to substance abuse, has made progress but still has problems, according to a new report explored in The Dallas Morning News. For instance, some students have been using a new "amnesty" policy in which students who seek medical help for themselves or a friend do not face sanctions for violating various rules. But many students are unaware of the policy. The report also notes that some academic departments have made a strong push to add Friday class times, as part of an effort to avoid making all weekends last at least three days.

October 1, 2009

The day after a large student brawl at Bethune-Cookman College, two dormitory managers were fired after being blamed for a role in the incident, The Orlando Sentinel reported. The brawl -- termed a riot by some local reporters -- took place after a sprinkler system went off and students were prevented from returning to their rooms. A statement from Trudie Kibbe Reed, president of the university, said that the university's surveillance video and student video revealed the employees "exacerbated an already tense situation" and that some students charged the employees fought a student and later sprayed students with a fire extinguisher. "While I would prefer that other measures were used in crisis situations, I cannot fully blame students for taking action when one of their own was in harm's way. I do not have students who are thugs, who 'riot' with no provocation," the statement said.

October 1, 2009

The University of Phoenix is in discussions aimed at settling a lawsuit filed by former employees who accuse the for-profit college of violating federal law by paying incentives to its recruiters, the institution's parent company, the Apollo Group, announced Wednesday. The lawsuit, which accuses Phoenix of defrauding the federal government and was brought under the federal False Claims Act, is pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals, and the university potentially has billions of dollars at stake. Apollo's announcement said that the company and lawyers for the plaintiffs had requested a 45-day stay of all proceedings in the case. Lawyers for the plaintiffs could not be reached for comment.

October 1, 2009

A federal appeals court on Wednesday directed a lower court to dismiss a patent infringement challenge that Stanford University filed against Roche Pharmaceuticals, finding that the university had not sufficiently protected its rights to an HIV-related technology that one of its researchers developed, in part, while doing work for an outside company that has since become part of Roche. The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit partially overturns a lower court judge's 2005 ruling that invalidated the patents in question; the appeals panel's ruling says the lower court should not have reached that point, because Stanford had essentially let its rights to the invention pass to the researcher, who in turn assigned them to the Roche-owned company. Officials at Stanford did not respond to a request for comment.

October 1, 2009

The Senate on Wednesday joined the House of Representatives in approving legislation that will keep all federal agencies operating through October at their 2009 budget levels, while lawmakers continue to work on spending bills for the 2010 fiscal year, which started today.

September 30, 2009

Scores of students protested at Bethune-Cookman University Tuesday after a sprinkler system went off in a dormitory and the students weren't allowed back in, The Orlando Sentinel reported. Some television stations called the incident a riot, but other reports said that was a stretch. But the Sentinel did report that at one point, students were charging toward a dean's office, and that someone threw a chair through a window. A statement from the university said that the sprinkler system went off after a student placed clothing on a sprinkler. The statement said that the incidents were being investigated. A student blog -- Cookman Rebels -- offers a more critical look at the day's events.

September 30, 2009

Students who live at Dunster House at Harvard University are angry that bars have been placed in front of the rare books in the Dunster library, preventing anyone from handling the books, with at least one graduate student suggesting that the change appeared to be an "anti-intellectual" move. The reason for the change, university officials told The Boston Globe, is that several of the books in the prized collection had been stolen, and the university needs a security plan.

September 30, 2009

An adjunct at the State University of New York at Binghamton, who in February was quoted in The New York Times as saying she received pressure to go easy in grading basketball players, has lost her position at the university, the newspaper reported. Sally Dear has taught human development at Binghamton for 11 years and said that this week she received notice that she would have no courses to teach, effective next semester. "I'm fired for being ethical," Dear told the Times. The Binghamton basketball team has achieved unprecedented (for the university) athletic success, but many have questioned whether the program was advancing in ways that hurt the university's strong academic reputation. The university dismissed six athletes last week. A university spokeswoman, noting that the SUNY system is facing deep budget cuts, denied any link between Dear's statements about the athletic program and the loss of her position.

September 30, 2009

Some college presidents work hard to set examples for students. At Northampton Community College, in Pennsylvania, Arthur Scott not only got a flu shot, but let himself be filmed doing so (with the video going to YouTube) to encourage students to get the shots. Meanwhile, Jeff Olson of North Arkansas College is trying to publicize a new lottery in the state that will support college scholarships. The Harrison Daily Times reported that he expressed his support by spending $10 on tickets (alas, without a win). Another college president, Allen Meadors of the University of Central Arkansas, spent $10 on tickets and made a total of $21. He pledged to give the $11 he gained to the university's foundation.

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