New Jersey's student aid agency may have violated state ethics laws, misinterpreted executive orders on political contributions and other matters, and was governed by a board that was denied crucial information about its operations, according to a highly critical state audit released Tuesday. The state's inspector general's office said in its report on the audit that it had referred the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority to the state ethics commission for a possible inquiry into the "solicitation of a donation from a vendor of the authority by an employee."
Higher Education Quick Takes
Republicans in the House of Representatives on Wednesday once again rebuffed legislation (HR 5325) designed to strengthen federal support for academic research. For the second time in a week, an insufficient number of lawmakers voted in favor of legislation to renew the America COMPETES Act, the 2007 law that set out to double federal funding of the physical sciences. Republicans, who unanimously opposed the bill Wednesday, said they supported its goals but continued to believe it would authorize too much federal spending and create too many new programs. Democrats said that they were disappointed that the changes they had made in the legislation since last week were deemed insufficient, and that they would continue trying.
Faculty members at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire have voted, 233 to 87, to unionize. The vote follows one last week at the university's Superior campus. Both units will be affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers.
The University of California is seeking $500 million in savings by consolidation and coordination of administrative functions such as purchasing, the Los Angeles Times reported. University leaders said that the changes would represent a cultural shift for a system where campus independence has been highly valued, but they stressed that the push to centralization was on non-academic issues.
The University of Florida has cleared a professor of any wrongdoing in the case of two graduate students who filmed documentary work for their degrees in Haiti when the university had banned travel there by students, The Gainesville Sun reported. The university inquiry found that the students made the decision to go to Haiti on their own and that the faculty member didn't provide university resources. The university initially barred the students from using the material they shot in Haiti, but backed down amid criticism that the ban was a violation of academic freedom.
Members of a Louisiana legislative committee let drop proposed legislation that would have severely restricted the activities of law school clinics in the state, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans reported. The decision by a state senate panel, which came after two hours of debate, was a major (and unusual) setback for the state's powerful chemical industry, which had taken aim at an environmental law clinic at Tulane University that it viewed as hostile to its interests. Tulane's president, Scott Cowen, forcefully defended the clinic at Wednesday's hearing.
Canadian academics and government leaders are analyzing the results of an effort to attract top research talent from other countries. As The Globe and Mail reported, the quality of international talent is considered high, leading many to say that the tactic of going after the best with generous offers was effective. A total of 19 researchers have committed to offers at Canadian universities. But as The Montreal Gazette reported, many female academics in Canada are asking why all 19 of those newly recruited faculty stars are men.
Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, this week nationalized Santa Inés University, a private institution, boasting to students that tuition would now be free, the Dow Jones News Service reported. Many students aren't pleased in the least. Carlos Chavez, a student leader who is not related to his president, said, "He's going to impose his revolutionary, Marxist, socialist agenda on us students, and he'll kick out good professors who allow us to study capitalism."
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Sen. Arlen Specter's defeat in Tuesday's Democratic primary in Pennsylvania will end a political career in which the senator was frequently a key ally of advocates for biomedical research and education. Specter, a Republican until last year, was for many years the ranking Republican on the Senate appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over spending on education programs and the National Institutes of Health -- and he backed spending increases in both areas, in particular for the NIH. Joe Sestak, who defeated Specter, doesn't differ from him significantly in views on those issues.