President Obama on Tuesday created a new Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, and named two university presidents to lead it. Amy Gutmann of the University of Pennsylvania will be chair and James W. Wagner of Emory University will be the vice chair. “As our nation invests in science and innovation and pursues advances in biomedical research and health care, it’s imperative that we do so in a responsible manner," said Obama in a statement. "This new Commission will develop its recommendations through practical and policy-related analyses."
Higher Education Quick Takes
An anti-evolution group -- backed by the actor Kirk Cameron -- has been spending time this week handing out copies of The Origin of Species that feature an introduction that undercuts Darwin's analysis. Cameron helped with the effort at the University of California at Los Angeles, but some students there challenged him, questioning whether the project was deceptive and whether there was scientific validity for his views. And this being a college campus, students filmed the discussion and posted it online.
The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation announced a $20 million plan this week to bolster college going and success in its home state of Idaho. Foundation officials plan to distribute $11 million -- in $1 million increments to 11 colleges in the state -- for scholarships, $6 million to the Idaho Education Network to increase access to relevant data, and $3 million to bolster the state's piece of the national KnowHow2Go campaign, that helps inform students about their postsecondary possibilities.
Mario Rocha, a freshman on a scholarship at George Washington University, is the subject of a profile in The Washington Post -- and this isn't your standard "frosh adjusts to college" story. Rocha was wrongly convicted of first degree murder and spent 10 years behind bars before his appeal won his freedom and he was able to pursue a higher education.
Five adjuncts at Massachusetts community colleges have sued the state, saying that they meet the requirements for receiving health insurance from their institutions but are being denied coverage unfairly, The Boston Globe reported. The adjuncts -- backed by the faculty union for the community colleges -- hope to change the system for determining which instructors qualify for health insurance. State officials declined to comment on the suit.
Responding to claims that police used excessive force to quell campus protests Friday, the University of California at Berkeley will conduct an investigation of the events, university officials announced Monday. The probe will be conducted by the Campus Police Review Board, which includes representatives of students, faculty and staff. The campus police department has already begun conducting its own internal review of the events, including the use of force, officials said. The protest began after 40 people, mostly Berkeley students, occupied a campus building in response to budget cuts and a 32 percent tuition hike recently approved by California’s Board of Regents. The daylong protest in the building drew hundreds more outside, who had confrontations with law enforcement that were widely covered by national media and broadcast on YouTube. Authorities arrested 41 people in connection with the protests.
A foundation charged by federal authorities with illegally providing assistance to Iran has also been making grants for years to universities, The New York Times reported. The grants -- to support study and teaching on Persian language and culture -- went to Columbia, Harvard, Portland State and Rutgers Universities.
The U.S. Education Department is investigating allegations that Virginia Military Institute -- which admitted women more than a decade ago only after a prolonged legal fight -- is discriminating against women today, the Associated Press reported. The allegations -- denied by VMI -- involve the environment at the institute, tenure policies, and rules against marriage and child-bearing by cadets. VMI officials say that they have cooperated fully with the investigation.
Students at the University of North Texas have voted down -- 58 to 42 percent -- a proposal to allow same-sex couples to run for spots in the homecoming court, The Dallas Morning News reported. Many colleges have had men win election as homecoming queens, women as kings, and transgender students in positions as well. At North Texas, students seeking these honors must run with a partner on a ticket, and that raised the issue to some of whether same-sex couples would be permitted, which will now not be the case.
The 32 winners of Rhodes Scholarships for this year were announced Saturday night. While the list of their colleges featured many of those that appear regularly, this year's class was the first ever to have a winner from Truman State University.