Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

August 20, 2009

The recently rediscovered mental health records of Seung-Hui Cho, the 2007 Virginia Tech killer, were released Wednesday, providing little insight into how he turned into a mass murderer, The Washington Post reported. The records indicate that he was never treated at the university's counseling center, despite a judge's order that he get treatment there.

August 20, 2009

Michael Cox, professor of music theory and composition at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's School of Church Music since 1990, has taken early retirement, rather than ending his membership in Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, as he would have had to do to continue to teach, the Associated Baptist Press reported. The seminary, which requires faculty members to be affiliated with churches that share its faith, recently said that Broadway Baptist did not meet its tests because it was not sufficiently strong in condemning homosexuality.

August 20, 2009

Most college financial aid officers oppose the Obama administration's plan for expanding but significantly altering the Perkins Loan Program, according to a survey released Wednesday by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. The administration's proposal, unveiled as part of the president's budget blueprint for 2010, would turn the program from one that provides about $1.5 billion in loan funds to students at hundreds of institutions to a broader one that provides about $6 billion to students at many more colleges. But several aspects of the proposal -- including ending the practice of the government paying interest on the loans while borrowers in college, and requiring significant matching funds from colleges -- earned opposition from the aid officers surveyed. Nearly four in five said they preferred the current version of the program over the proposed one.

August 20, 2009

Brandeis University has settled a lawsuit challenging its ability to replace a science building. The Wall Street Journal reported that Brandeis has agreed to name a lab after the donor of the building slated for demolition. That donor was the great uncle of a man who sued, arguing that in accepting the donor's funds, Brandeis had agreed to maintain a building named in the donor's honor.

August 20, 2009

Gov. Steve Beshear, Democrat from Kentucky, recently appointed a colleague with a rather checkered past to the Board of Directors of the West Kentucky Community and Technical College, in Paducah. Early last month – and hidden among a long list of appointments – Beshear tapped Larry Kelley, former member of the governor’s commerce cabinet transition team and now real estate agent in Wickcliffe, for board membership. Kelley, however, is a convicted felon and pleaded guilty to three counts of credit card fraud in 1994. At the time, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that Kelley, then a lawyer, had “obtained nearly $5,800 in cash and goods” by “fraudulently obtaining, receiving and using a credit card” from a dead woman, of whose estate he was the executor. Following this, Kelley resigned his post as Ballard County Attorney, and he was disbarred by the Kentucky Supreme Court. Currently, the Kentucky Bar Association does not have his name listed as a member. The news of Kelley’s appointment to the community college board was reported yesterday by Page One, a news blog about politics in the state.

August 20, 2009

Despite the economic downturn, 67 percent of parents believe in their ability to meet the cost of their children's college education, according to a poll being released today by Sallie Mae and Gallup. However, there are less encouraging signs too. In the last year, the percentage of parents "extremely worried" that the value of their savings and investments would be low increased to 31 percent from 17 percent. Parents also remain worried about tuition increases, the poll found.

August 19, 2009

An article in The New York Times details the common practice of drug companies offering to ghostwrite articles in scientific journals in the names of prominent professors. The article describes how professors are recruited, an apparent reluctance by universities or federal agencies to police the practice and the growing pressure from Sen. Charles Grassley to get the National Institutes of Health to crack down on the practice.

August 19, 2009

Four more University of Illinois trustees have volunteered to quit in the wake of a scandal over trustees and politicians using their influence in the admissions process, the Chicago Tribune reported. Gov. Pat Quinn has threatened to fire those who don't resign, as has been recommended by a special state panel that investigated the admissions scandal. The latest resignation offers mean that seven of the nine gubernatorially appointed trustees have offered to quit, but two are holding out -- with one threatening to fight in court to stay on the board.

August 19, 2009

The University of Pittsburgh will not accept a bequest of $225,000 from George Sodini, who opened fire in a health club this month, killing three women and injuring nine before killing himself, The Tribune-Review reported. Sodini was a graduate of Pitt and the bequest became public this week. But Pitt announced that it believed any available funds from the bequest should go to victims of the shootings and their families.

August 19, 2009

Erasmus University, in the Netherlands, has fired Tariq Ramadan from a visiting professor position he held, citing his having hosted a show on Iranian television, the Associated Press reported. Ramadan is a leading thinker on Islam who teaches at the University of Oxford. He has been engaged in a lengthy court battle to come to the United States for academic positions and to talk with academic groups -- and the last decision in the case was favorable to him, but not final. Erasmus said that it was wrong for Ramadan to continue to participate in anything in Iran after the crackdown there that followed the elections.

In response, Ramadan posted a statement on his Web site saying that his actions are being misinterpreted, and that while he believes in engaging Iranians, he has repeatedly criticized violence, discrimination and other actions. "When I agreed to host a television program on Islam and contemporary life, I chose the path of critical debate. I accepted no obligations," he wrote. "My guests have included atheists, rabbis, priests, women with and without headscarves, all invited to debate issues like freedom, reason, interfaith dialogue, Sunni versus Shi’a Islam, violence, jihad, love, art, to name only a few. I challenge my critics to scrutinize these programs and in them to find the slightest evidence of support for the Iranian regime. My program proclaims its openness to the world; all guests are treated with equal respect."

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