Sometimes it's all about expectations. With his March 2009 speech promising to restore science to a place of centrality and honor in federal policy making and to protect it from political interference, President Obama raised the expectations of researchers and higher education generally. So last week, when his administration finally released the "scientific integrity" policy statement that he had promised 18 months earlier, it was widely applauded but seen in some circles as too unspecific and leaving too much up to individual agencies to follow (or not). In a comment reflective of many views in the blogosphere, Albert H. Teich, director of science and policy programs at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said via e-mail that "this long-awaited memorandum represents several steps in the right direction. It's not a one-size fits all approach; the use of 'appropriate' in many places suggests that it allows considerable room for discretion in the way it's implemented by the agencies.... All in all, we are pleased with the memo, but of course a lot depends on steps the agencies take to implement it."
Higher Education Quick Takes
A new poll by Gallup has found that 40 percent of Americans (a smaller share than at times in the past) holds a strict creationist view, believing that God created humans in their present form, 10,000 years ago. There is a link between educational attainment and such beliefs: 47 percent of those with a high school diploma or less are creationists, followed by 44 percent of those with some college education, 37 percent of college graduates, and 22 percent of those with graduate education. A majority of Republicans (52 percent) believe in creationism, while 34 percent of Democrats and independents do so.
Adderall, a drug intended for treating attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, but increasingly used by college students wanting to get an extra academic boost, is widely available for the latter use at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, The Wisconsin State Journal reported. Last year, two journalism students wanted to find out how easily they could buy the drug at the main library: They needed only 56 seconds to accomplish their task.
Five years ago, Inside Higher Ed interviewed a brother and sister -- Jeffrey and Susan Herbst -- who were starting off as provosts, he at Miami University in Ohio and she at the State University of New York at Albany. With the announcement Monday that Susan Herbst will be the next president of the University of Connecticut, they will soon share another title. Jeffrey Herbst started as president at Colgate University in July. They are not the only sibling presidents. The Ender brothers -- Kenneth and Steven -- are presidents of, respectively, Harper College and Grand Rapids Community College. And the Hurley brothers are the power siblings in Buffalo area higher ed, with John leading Canisius College and Paul leading Trocaire College.
Medical students at Sweden's Karolinska Institute were stunned recently when the body to be used in their first lesson on performing an autopsy was none other than a former instructor, The Local reported. Medical school officials say that standard practice is to announce the name of the deceased before the autopsy begins -- to avoid the discomfort of learning the necessary skills on a body students know. While school officials say this was done, students say that they didn't know the name until they saw the tag attached to their former instructor's toe. The president of Sweden's Medical Students Association, Maria Ehlin Kolk, a medical student at Umeå University, said that she was frustrated that the incident had not been prevented. "It is important that an autopsy truly be the educational opportunity that it should be. The question is how much these students learned from the situation," she said.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell announced Friday that he will hold back state funds for Virginia Commonwealth University equivalent to half of the revenue to be gained from a 24 percent tuition increase, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. McDonnell said that the tuition increase -- the largest among the state's public colleges and universities -- was too large at a time of tight budgets for many families. But university officials noted that tuition rates at VCU are lower than state averages, and that the university budget needed to offset the loss of federal stimulus funds.
The soon-to-be head of the House of Representatives education committee told Bloomberg last week that he is looking for ways to block the Obama administration from putting in place new rules aimed at requiring for-profit and other vocational programs to prove they are preparing their graduates for "gainful employment." Representative John Kline, the Minnesota Republican who will head the Committee on Education and Labor when his party takes control of the House in January, told the news service that he would favor that the government put in place an expanded set of disclosures on outcomes for nonprofit and for-profit colleges alike, and that he believed "a pretty broad spectrum” of lawmakers, from both parties, had concerns about the administration's proposed regulations.
One of the latest WikiLeaks revelations concerns a high-level and unsuccessful attempt by U.S. officials to get a job for Ali al-Za'ag, a biological weapons scientist who worked for Saddam Hussein, at Victoria University in Australia, The Age reported. Australia's government blocked the plan by refusing to grant him a visa.
Five adjuncts at East-West University are getting back pay for lost classes and assured course assignments for the next three quarters under an agreement between the adjuncts and the university -- approved by the National Labor Relations Board. Adjuncts at the university had filed complaints about East-West after the university announced that it would no longer need many of their services -- a decision many questioned as it came just as the adjuncts were organized for a union, to be affiliated with the National Education Association. The NEA now plans a new union drive. East-West officials declined to comment on the news.
The Big 10 is creating divisions to deal with its expanding membership, and the recently announced division names of "Legends" and "Leaders" are not going over well. Many fans have made fun of the new division names. The Columbus Dispatch noted that in a recent radio interview with Jim Delany, the conference commissioner, the first question was about whether the Legends name referred to a strip club in Houston. As the article noted, Delany appeared open to reconsidering the names. In the interview, Delany said he realized that no names would get 90 percent approval and that he didn't think it was wise to reconsider based only a few days of ribbing. "But to get a 90 percent not-approval rating was very surprising," Delany said on WGN-AM. "It showed we didn't connect with our fans in a way we wanted to. It's humbling, to say the least. We're trying to build fan bases, not push them away. I think there's a sensibility there we did not connect with or read well." As a result, he added, "we'll have to address the issue about whether it's sustainable. We'll do a little education and let it breathe a bit and probably revisit it a bit after the first of the year."