Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 2, 2009

Pacific Oaks College announced Wednesday that it is seeking to be merged into another institution. The California college has long been known for its highly personal, non-traditional approach to training teachers. But for several years, it has struggled financially and faculty members have accused board members and the former president of failing to understand the institution's values. A board statement Wednesday said: "The merger option was regarded as the best course of maintaining and preserving the 62-year old college’s mission, tradition, and philosophy. A sharp decline in student enrollment over the past few years combined with projected budget deficits placed the college’s future in jeopardy."

April 2, 2009

The Texas Senate's version of a budget bill for the next biennium would bar the use of state funds for stem cell research. While the measure could be stripped for the final budget bill in a House-Senate conference, the measure's inclusion has angered many scientists, who have been pleased that President Obama has ended the Bush administration's limits on federal funds for the research. A ban on the use of state funds would make it difficult for faculty members at public universities to conduct such work, even if federal funds were used for the studies. Eighteen prominent Texas scientists have sent a letter to legislators blasting the measure and arguing that it would hurt science in the state, The Texas Monthly reported.

April 1, 2009

About 28,000 applicants to the University of California at San Diego, who were rejected a month ago, recently received an e-mail from the institution congratulating them on their admission. The bad news, the Los Angeles Times reported, is that the e-mail was an error and all of these students were in fact rejected. Mae Brown, admissions director, sent out a subsequent apology. "We recognized the incredible pain receiving this false encouragement caused," she said.

April 1, 2009

These are tough times in scholarly publishing, and several presses have eliminated jobs. At the University of New Mexico Press on Tuesday, some who lost jobs -- or fear that they will lose jobs in outsourcing of some operations -- responded by sending out a "press release" to reporters, to authors, to donors and others. The release, posted on some Web sites, takes issue with the layoffs and included phone numbers for senior officials at the press. Luther Wilson, director of the press, said in an interview that some of the statements about him in the release were not only false, but may be libelous, and said he was consulting a lawyer. He said that none of the steps taken by the press, or being considered, are being done lightly or without consideration of the impact on those involved.

April 1, 2009

A House of Representatives committee on Tuesday approved legislation designed to improve coordination of federal science education programs. The measure (HR 1709), which was drafted and passed by the House Science Committee, would establish a panel to oversee and ensure the effective interaction of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education programs sponsored by the various federal research agencies.

March 31, 2009

House and Senate leaders last week introduced the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which provides a pathway to permanent residency to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children (aged 15 or under) and who attend college or serve in the military for at least two years. The original DREAM Act was first proposed in Congress in 2001; in October 2007, the Senate blocked a vote on it, 52-44 (60 votes were needed).

March 31, 2009

Prosecutors have dropped all charges against Ben Chun Liu, a postdoc at the University of California at San Francisco, who was charged in October with trying to poison a co-worker, Bay City News Service reported. The case attracted considerable attention at the time of Liu's arrest, but authorities now say that there is no evidence that he was trying to poison anyone and that the substance suspected by the co-worker of being poison would only have been dangerous in massive amounts.

March 31, 2009

Fairfield University, in Connecticut, announced Monday that is will no longer require that all undergraduate applicants submit SAT scores. Applicants will now have the option of submitting an essay instead of the the test scores. The university announcement said that its internal research and national studies suggested that high school grades provided the best indicator of a student's abilities. Karen Pellegrino, director of undergraduate admission, said the policy change was "in keeping with Fairfield's mission that values the whole person in both the selection and education of our students."

March 31, 2009

Students from ethnic groups in the Middle East and surrounding regions are pushing the University of California to add a "Middle Eastern" box on admissions forms, saying that they do not feel comfortable with either "white" or "other," the Los Angeles Times reported. At the University of California at Los Angeles, groups representing Arab, Iranian, Afghan and Armenian students are pushing for the change. They are basing their campaign on the success of Asian American groups in getting the university -- and many other colleges -- to consider different Asian subgroups in admissions.

March 31, 2009

Following the decision by Boston College to bar a planned speech Monday by William Ayers, students instead devoted the day to talking about academic freedom. College officials said that they called off the Ayers event because of the sensitivity in Boston to a 1970 police killing that, while not viewed by experts as linked to the Weather Underground, is associated with the Weather Underground by some residents and by many conservatives on talk radio. Ayers, a University of Illinois at Chicago professor, was once a leader of the Weather Underground. The Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union was among the groups that on Monday condemned the college's actions. A letter from the ACLU charged that the college has "abandoned its own mission statement, which expresses a firm commitment to academic freedom."

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