Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, June 23, 2011 - 3:00am

Lake Michigan College has agreed to let a student who is a sex offender remain enrolled, The Herald Palladium reported. The college had moved to kick out the student based on a policy barring those convicted of sex offenses involving minors. The reinstatement involved a challenge to the policy by the American Civil Liberties Union and an agreement on changes to the policy, including an appeals process.

Thursday, June 23, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of Michigan Library will announce today that it will be allowing authorized library patrons to access all of its digitized "orphan works" in full. Students and guests will now be able to access online any texts they would have been able to find in the stacks, Michigan officials said in a press release. This is the latest step in Michigan's attempts to identify and unlock the orphans -- books whose copyright holders cannot be found or contacted -- in its collection. The university announced last month that it is also working to identify more orphans the millions of volumes held by HathiTrust Digital Library, a Michigan-based aggregator of university library collections. Other institutions are preparing making their own orphans available to authorized students and researchers, officials said in Wednesday's press release.

In light of a federal court's recent rebuke of Google's attempts to sell broad access to orphan works through its controversial Google Books Project, experts have speculated that it may be up to Congress to determine how orphans can and cannot be used. Michigan is not waiting around to open up its own orphans to authorized users, a move that it sees as covered by the "fair use" exemptions to copyright law.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, J. Michael Rhodes of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst discusses the benefits of geothermal power and why it isn’t just for Western states. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - 3:00am

A state audit has blasted the management of a transportation research center -- completion of which was to have cost tens of millions of dollars -- at South Carolina State University, The Post and Courier reported. The project is currently $83 million short of funds and has no plans for obtaining them. University officials said that the report provided them with some vindication by disputing earlier reports of up to $50 million in missing funds. The audit accounted for the funds, and said that they had been poorly spent. In one example, the project paid $40,000 for real estate costs for property the university didn't buy. In another case, the university billed and received reimbursement for $200,000 from two federal agencies for the same expense.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON -- Congress's watchdog-in-chief wants to drastically expand the amount of information made public about how the federal government spends its money -- and some research university leaders say the plan would impose a mammoth burden with little benefit to taxpayers. Representative Darrell Issa, chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has proposed the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, which would essentially require a similar level of reporting for all federal grants, contracts and other spending to which the tens of billions of federal stimulus spending was subjected. Under the law, recipients of federal funds would have to report to a single database information about all the money they receive, and a new independent agency would be charged with ferreting out misspending.

With the legislation due to be considered by Issa's committee Wednesday, the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the Council on Governmental Relations issued a statement arguing that the proposed measure, like the Recovery Act, would "impose substantial new costs on universities’ research enterprises, significantly reducing productivity with little benefit to the nation." The groups added: "The public rightfully demands that its tax dollars be spent usefully and wisely. Money is wasted, however, when researchers and administrators are forced to spend their time making needless calculations and filling out forms."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON -- Another federal program important to colleges is due for potentially painful scrutiny from Congressional Republicans. Representative Virginia Foxx, the North Carolinian who heads the House of Representatives higher education subcommittee, announced Tuesday that the panel would hold a hearing tomorrow to look into what its title calls "flawed monitoring of national service programs" by the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps and other programs. Foxx said the hearing was prompted by news reports -- trumpeted in the conservative press -- that the agency had pulled two AmeriCorps workers from a New York City program after determining that they may have engaged in inappropriate lobbying while working for Planned Parenthood.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - 3:00am

First-year enrollment in M.D. programs is projected to increase 2 percent this year, according to a report by the American Association of Medical Colleges, which said that medical schools are currently on track to increase first-year enrollments by 27.6 percent beyond 2002 levels by 2015. The association had set a goal of a 30 percent increase by that time. Despite the progress, the AAMC noted that a growing number of medical colleges are reporting concerns about their ability to continue enrollment increases in light of tight budgets.

Osteopathic medical schools are projecting 5,716 first-year matriculants in fall 2011, up 8.5 percent, according to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - 3:00am

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has refused, 9 to 7, to consider an appeal of a decision by a three-judge panel of the court to uphold the consideration of race in admissions decisions by the University of Texas. The panel's ruling, in January, rejected an argument that the state had shown it could use the "10 percent plan" -- in which all students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school classes are admitted -- to promote diversity without the consideration of race. The decision cited various flaws in the plan, and types of diversity that may not be produced by it.

As is the norm, the judges who voted not to reconsider the case did not issue any statement on their thinking. Five of the judges who would have heard the case issued a dissent expressing strong doubts about the panel's decision. These judges said that the three-judge panel had adopted "a new 'serious good faith consideration' standard of review, watering down" the Supreme Court's requirement for consideration of race only with "strict narrow tailoring. Second, it authorizes the university’s race-conscious admissions program although a race-neutral state law (the Top Ten Percent Law) had already fostered increased campus racial diversity. Finally, the panel appears to countenance an unachievable and unrealistic goal of racial diversity at the classroom level to support the university’s race-conscious policy,"

The plaintiffs who challenged the University of Texas policies still have the option of appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - 3:00am

David Flory, a physics professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University, is in custody in New Mexico, where he has a vacation home. Flory is charged with running a website that arranged prostitution for 200 women and more than 1,200 of their customers, The Bergen Record reported. A university spokeswoman said that the institution was "saddened" by the news and had been cooperating with law enforcement. She declined to comment on Flory's job status. A police official said that Flory said he did not make money from the site, but maintained it as a hobby.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - 3:00am

Yale University, which recently announced that it is phasing out an institute to study anti-Semitism, is creating a new institute to study the same subject. The soon-to-be-gone center received an unfavorable review from a faculty committee, but some in the pro-Israel blogosphere have suggested that its elimination resulted from its willingness to talk about Muslim anti-Semitism in ways that made some uncomfortable. Others, however, including experts in anti-Semitism, have raised questions about whether the original center mixed advocacy with scholarship in a way that may have been inappropriate. The news that Yale is creating a new center (under direct control of faculty members, unlike the original center) was praised by the Anti-Defamation League, which had criticized the decision to eliminate the first center.

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