Both Harvard and Brown Universities have announced gifts for humanities research that, while not enormous in terms of the largest gifts to higher education, are notable for their emphasis. Harvard is today announcing a $10 million gift to support its humanities center with interdisciplinary research. The gift is the largest in Harvard's history for the study of the humanities. On Saturday, Brown announced a $3 million gift that will support the recruitment of senior scholars and the development of multiyear research seminars in the humanities.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Susan M. Reverby, a medical historian at Wellesley College, has uncovered evidence -- confirmed by U.S. officials -- that American scientists infected hundreds of Guatemalans with sexually transmitted diseases in the 1940s, The Boston Globe reported. The scientists' records indicate that they believed they could test various treatments for the diseases, and they did treat those who were infected, although one died. But the experiments were similar to the infamous studies at Tuskegee in that the research subjects never granted permission to be used in this way (although the unknowing participants in the Tuskegee study, unlike those in Guatemala, had become infected with the disease by ordinary means). Based on the findings of Reverby, President Obama apologized to Guatemalan leaders. (See an interview in Inside Higher Ed last year with Reverby about a book about Tuskegee.)
The Faculty Senate at the University of Johannesburg last week voted to suspend joint research and education programs with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev unless the latter institution meets certain conditions, including adding Palestinian universities to the programs and ending all of its ties to the Israel military. The Senate vote, expected to be adopted by the university as policy, could well end ties between the South African and Israeli universities, especially since many of the ties that Ben-Gurion has to the military are routine in Israel (such as programs to help students who are in the military or who are called up for reserve duty). The move at Johannesburg to cut ties to Ben-Gurion has been endorsed by many South African academics who want to back the Palestinian cause. Ben-Gurion has yet to formally respond, a spokeswoman said. But supporters of Ben-Gurion have criticized the scrutiny the joint research project has received, saying that Israeli universities are being held to higher standards than those in any other country, and that the research that could be cut off helps black South Africans.
President Obama is on Monday expected to announce a new public-private partnership to promote better job training at community colleges, The New York Times reported. The idea behind the program, which would be overseen by the Aspen Institute, is that while some job training programs are effective, many are not, so some public-private effort might help spread information on the concepts in the successful programs, so they can be replicated.
Immigration issues took center stage Saturday in a debate of the gubernatorial candidates in California. The chief issue was the recent allegation that Meg Whitman, the Republican candidate, who has called for tougher enforcement of immigration laws, was responsible for having hired a housekeeper without legal documentation to work in the United States. But the issue of immigrant students also came up. A California State University at Fresno student, who is undocumented, asked the candidates about legislation -- supported by Democrat Jerry Brown and opposed by Whitman -- to create a path to citizenship for students like her. Brown then pointed out that Whitman not only opposes the legislation, but has called for undocumented students to be kicked out of the state's public universities, the Los Angeles Times reported. "She wants to kick you out of this school because you are not documented and that is wrong, morally and humanly," Brown said. Whitman defended her stance, saying "I don't think it's fair to bar and eliminate the ability of California citizens to attend higher university and favor undocumenteds."
Northeastern University, which eliminated football last year, is experiencing increases in the number of applicants and the number of donors since the decision, The Boston Globe reported. While officials there don't claim that the increases are because of the decision on football, they say that the trends debunk the theory that by eliminating football, colleges will undercut alumni or student support.
A new report from the National Academies outlines the reasons why efforts to improve the science and technology work force in the United States cannot succeed without progress at educating more minority students in these fields. For the United States to reach the national goal of having 10 percent of all 24-year-olds holding a degree in science or engineering disciplines, the number of underrepresented minority students in these fields would need to at least quadruple, the report says. The report highlights steps colleges and universities could take -- based on the successes of some institutions -- in attracting and graduating more minority students in science.
Gay students at the University of Rhode Island have ended an eight-day library sit-in following an agreement with the university, The Providence Journal reported. The students said that the university was failing to assure a safe environment for them. Under the agreement, the university will add sensitivity programs to promote tolerance, give gay students "a voice" on several university committees, move up the schedule for adding a chief diversity officer and for a new staff member for the gay center on campus, and turn an existing building into the gay center's new home.
Researchers who used a remote control helicopter to collect samples of whale snot and demonstrated that, "on icy footpaths in wintertime, people slip and fall less often if they wear socks on the outside of their shoes" were among those honored last night with Ig Nobel Prizes, the annual recognition granted to scholarly work that "first makes people laugh, then makes them think." The awards, made by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research, come out just before -- but hardly presage -- the Nobel prizes. In one other award -- and this was almost too easy, wasn't it? -- the group honored BP (and three researchers who wrote a paper on the subject) "for disproving the old myth that oil and water don't mix." A full list of the winners is available here.
A state budget board in South Carolina on Wednesday imposed a partial moratorium on higher education building projects, in a sign of its members' displeasure with big increases in the institutions' tuitions, The State reported. The board's action comes at a time of turmoil in the political climate for higher education in the state, with the departing governor, Mark Sanford, using a purported summit on higher education Tuesday to lash out at colleges for their prices and perceived inefficiency, following deep cuts in state spending over the last two years that have forced public colleges to slash their own budgets. The moratorium restricts the initiation of new development projects at four-year colleges that raise tuition by 7 percent or more this year and at two-year colleges that boost tuition by at least 6.3 percent, although several categories of projects (those financed with private funds, those with safety implications, etc.) are exempted.