A research experiment apparently gone awry caused a 2,000-lb. hydrogen tank to explode in a chemistry building at the University of Missouri at Columbia, injuring four, none critically, The Kansas City Star reported. Officials suspected that the explosion was caused by a spontaneous combustion of gases, including hydrogen and nitrogen.
Higher Education Quick Takes
U.S. Sen. Robert W. Byrd, whose nearly 60 years representing West Virginia made him Congress's longest-serving member and brought his state (and its colleges) untold millions in earmarked projects, died Monday at the age of 92. Byrd was never a central player in federal higher education policy making (apart from having a scholarship program named for him), but he was a kingmaker in the appropriations process, and a vocal defender of the use of lawmaker-directed earmarks (often derided as "pork barrel spending"). West Virginia's colleges are dotted with buildings bearing his name.
President Obama announced Sunday that the United States and Indonesia would spend $160 million on programs to encourage educational exchanges and joint programs between the two countries. An essay in Inside Higher Ed by Cameron H. Hume, the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, called for American colleges to expand ties to Indonsian students and institutions.
Legislative leaders in New York are balking at some key parts of Gov David Paterson's budget proposal -- including his plan to give more control over tuition rates and the use of tuition revenue to the State University of New York and the City University of New York systems, The New York Times reported. While the budget battles aren't quite over, that measure is not part of a budget package legislative leaders have put forward.
Both the University of Oxford and Durham University currently have Ph.D. students being detained in Iran on charges widely viewed as political. An article in The Guardian details the very different responses from the two institutions, with Oxford taking an assertive stance on behalf of its student and Durham (as an institution) staying largely quiet and warning that publicity could endanger its student.
The University of Colorado Board of Regents voted 5-4 Friday to appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court to reverse a lower court's finding that the university lacked the authority to ban concealed weapons on its campuses. A statement from the board said: "While individual members of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, like members of society, have differing views on the issue of concealed carry of weapons, the decision to appeal the case is about the board’s authority to govern CU campuses as outlined in the Colorado Constitution. The board believes it is in the best position to make decisions about the learning environment on CU’s campuses." Students for Concealed Carry on Campus denounced the decision, issuing its own statement, which said: "By pursuing a costly legal battle with slim odds of success at the expense of the university – students, faculty, staff and ultimately parents and taxpayers – the CU Board of Regents continues to prove its willingness to put personal politics and authority ahead of the greater good of the entire college."
Many American colleges, citing the violence tied to drug gangs in parts of Mexico, are skipping summer programs there, The New York Times reported. While the violence is very real in parts of the country, some academic experts believe that -- depending on where the programs would be in the country -- the caution may be excessive. Geoffrey E. Braswell, an associate anthropology professor at the University of California at San Diego who plans to lead students on a visit to central Mexico in the fall, told the Times: "To make an analogy, I would not have considered taking students to Mississippi during the early 1960s or to Chicago during the 1968 Democratic convention, but other parts of the U.S. were of course safe for travel. Mexico is that way.”
The United Methodist Church has lifted sanctions and will restore funds to the Claremont School of Theology, the Los Angeles Times reported. Methodist leaders had been concerned that the theology school's recently announced programs for non-Christian clergy suggested a move away from a traditional mission of training Methodists. But Claremont officials agreed to use church funds only on programs focused on Methodist teachings, and said that they would have a separate structure for the programs about and for members of other faiths.
Noting the widespread shortage of nurses, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has issued a report, "Charting Nursing's Future," with numerous recommendations on how states and education groups could increase the supply of nurses. Among the recommendations: Allow master's and doctoral students in nursing to serve as "nursing faculty interns" to relieve some of the pressure on the limited supply for nursing faculty members; allow the use of simulation for some clinical hours and the use of distance education and technology to provide more of the curriculum for nursing students, and the creation of new stipends to encourage nurses to earn master's and doctoral degrees so they could teach. Additionally, in a recommendation that is likely to be controversial with some community college educators, the report calls for a requirement that all associate degree nurses receive a bachelor's degree within 10 years of graduation.
A program to waive application fees for college for one week in Indiana attracted more applications, but also created many problems for colleges, The Herald-Times reported. Many of those who started applications didn't finish them and didn't seem serious about the process, so the colleges and universities reported losing not only the application fee revenue but additional time trying to figure out which applications were serious.