Iraq's government has suspended classes and barred all political activities and the student union at Mustansiriyah University, in Baghdad, following student protests, the Associated Press reported. Government officials said that they were forced to act because the university was coming under the control of Shiite religious groups.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The University of Colorado has filed a legal request to recover $52,000 in legal costs from Ward Churchill, the controversial professor it fired for research misconduct and who sued unsuccessfully to get his job back, The Daily Camera reported. Colorado law allows prevailing parties in some court cases to seek legal fees from the losing party. Churchill is appealing a judge's ruling denying him his job back and his lawyer indicated that he disagreed with Colorado's legal bill as well.
Michael Pollan, an expert on sustainable food and a target of many in the traditional food industry, will not be giving a solo lecture at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, but will instead participate in a panel discussion -- along with a meat-science expert -- to keep a donor happy. The Los Angeles Times reported that the change of plans followed a threat by a donor to call off a $150,000 pledge for a new meat processing plant on the campus.
The University of California is investigating whether a lecture by a pro-Palestinian speaker -- sponsored by the Muslim Student Union -- violated university rules by becoming a fund raiser, and the university has forwarded to the U.S. Justice Department allegations that some of the funds raised were eventually given to Hamas, The Orange County Register reported. Organizers of the event deny any wrongdoing, and say that the allegations are part of a campaign by pro-Israel groups to limit the activities of groups critical of Israel.
Surveys by two regional groups of financial aid directors suggest that, despite assurances from the U.S. Education Department, many college officials are worried about the impact that proposed changes in federal student loan programs will have on their institutions and students. The Western and Southern affiliates of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators both asked their members whose institutions are still in the lender-based Federal Family Education Loan Program about the impact they envision from President Obama's proposal to shift all federal lending to the competing direct loan program, a change that would be carried out by legislation that has passed the House of Representatives and will soon be introduced in the Senate. Two-thirds of aid officers said that they were "very" or "extremely" concerned about the prospect of making such a shift by July 2010, as the legislation currently envisions, and nearly half said they expected a significant or severe impact on their budgets. Education Department officials have repeatedly sought to assure aid administrators that the many institutions that have made the shift have had an easy time of it.
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded $385,000 to the libraries of Columbia and Cornell Universities to explore collaboration in ways that the announcement says could create "the most expansive collaboration to date between major research libraries." While details on how the collaboration will work remain under development, Anne R. Kenney, Carl A. Kroch University Librarian at Cornell, said possibilities include several models in building collections. The universities might "separately build collections in and share via expedited document delivery or electronic access," or "we might also collectively build one collection in some fields, or continue to collect materials at the local level to support instruction and collectively build at the research level." Other areas of possible collaboration include "combining forces for technical processing," such as acquisitions, cataloging, electronic resource management, and data management, or developing a "shared technology infrastructure," with a possible focus on digital preservation, she said.
The Bill and Melinda Gates and Ford Foundations are throwing their weight -- and a combined $6.1 million -- behind a set of programs at Washington State's community colleges that are designed to increase college completion. The Washington State Student Completion Initiative, which the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges is announcing today, will use $5.3 million from Gates and $800,000 from Ford (plus support from the state legislature) to expand two existing programs and start two others. The initiative will extend the state's Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training program to pre-college and college-level degree programs and increase the financial incentives that are now available, through its Student Achievement Initiative, to public colleges that increase the number of students who reach graduation and other milestones. The community college board will also use the money to enroll more students in 80 "gatekeeper" classes by improving their design and creating online versions of them, with open educational resources. And lastly, seven colleges in the Washington system will use the Gates and Ford money to change their math curriculum in a bid to increase by 15 percent the rate at which students successfully complete remedial math.
Nikole Churchill was crowned as Miss Hampton University this month, a victory that was seen by some as significant because Churchill is not black and Hampton is a historically black university. Churchill wrote a letter to President Obama about both her win and concerns that "my crowning was not widely accepted" and that many "negative comments" have been made on the campus because she is not black. She invited the president to visit Hampton "so that my fellow Hamptonians can stop focusing so much on the color of my skin and doubting my abilities to represent." She told the president that some have called her "lil Obama." The Daily Press published an article about the controversy Tuesday, noting that the campus was divided by whether Churchill should have won, and quoting a pageant official as saying that Churchill did not have the university's permission to have posted her letter to Obama online. Later Tuesday, Churchill gave the newspaper an apology to the university, in which she said of her letter to Obama: "I have now come to regret writing this letter and disappointing the very students that I now represent. I took the comments of a few and blew it out of proportion. In reality, all comments that have been directed towards me and the reception I received at the Hampton University versus Howard University football game on Saturday, October 10, 2009 were genuinely supportive."
Brandeis University on Tuesday agreed not to sell any artwork donated by three individuals suing the university to block a controversial plan -- already on hold -- to sell the noted collection of modern art, The Boston Globe reported. Further, the university agreed to give notice of 30 days to the state's attorney general before selling art donated by others. The pledges came during a court hearing in which a judge rejected the university's bid to have the lawsuit dismissed.
A federal jury has awarded $435,678 to a Massachusetts executive who says he was deceived by the University of Pennsylvania into thinking a master of technology management program he enrolled in and completed was affiliated with the Wharton School, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. University officials declined to comment, but have denied wrongdoing. Court records indicate that while the program had been described as being "co-sponsored" by the Wharton School, the degree awarded came from the engineering school, and the only Wharton recognition students received was a "certificate of completion" signed by deans of Wharton and the engineering school.