The U.S. Department of Agriculture has agreed to release more information in the reports that colleges and other organizations that conduct research must file with the agency. The agreement settles a lawsuit by the Humane Society of the United States, which sued the department, saying that it wasn't making the reports public as it should have. While researchers who work with animals have defended their work as necessary, some have expressed worry that releasing more information will attract the attention of animal rights groups.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Two scholarly associations last week issued statements about the Iranian government's crackdown on students and professors at the nation's universities. The Middle East Studies Association sent a letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressing "serious concern over the murders, mass arrests, brutal beatings, and widespread harassment of Iranian university students." A statement from the Executive Council of the Modern Language Association said: "Recognizing with alarm the implications for freedom of thought and expression and in the light of its particular responsibility for the humanities in higher education, the Modern Language Association deplores the attacks on Iranian universities, which endanger students, faculty members, and staff members. We express our hope that the government of Iran will refrain from using violence or other repressive measures in these revered centers of learning and teaching."
Two high-ranking nominees in the Obama administration have been confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Martha J. Kanter, under secretary of education, and Jane Oates, assistant secretary of labor for employment and training, gained the Senate's stamp of approval on June 19, giving them formal authority to dive into their duties. Oates, a longtime aide to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, was most recently New Jersey's commissioner of higher education; Kanter, who was chancellor of California's Foothill-De Anza Community College District, was sworn in Wednesday morning.
The leaders of some British universities found themselves sharing a little more information than expected when a journal published their views -- prior to the chance they had been promised to clear quotes and use of their names, The Times Higher reported. The journal Higher Education Quarterly has since removed the article from its Web site, but not before the Times Higher saved a copy. The newspaper quoted one vice chancellor as fearful of "the faintest hint of revolution." Further, this vice chancellor said: "We all know that education is a commodity that can be bought and sold, often at a very high price.... So universities are busy doing that - charging students a large amount of money to study in England because it is a popular destination. Branding and marketing take the front seat, and education is in the back."
Chowan University, in North Carolina, has become the first college that is not historically black to join the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the nation's oldest athletic league for historically black colleges. The move follows a year in which Chowan joined the conference for football only. Chowan is located near many of the conference's members, and shares values about the role of athletics in higher education, officials said.
The University of the Cumberlands, a Baptist university in Kentucky, has told a youth group from the Broadway Baptist Church, in Fort Worth, Texas, that it has revoked an invitation for the students to stay at the university while working to help the disadvantaged in Appalachia. The Associated Baptist Press reported that the move followed criticism of the church for not being sufficiently anti-gay, as evidenced by its admission that it has a few gay members and that they have served on search committees. The university declined to talk to the wire service about its decision. In 2006, the university expelled a student for being gay.
Last December, NBC News producers approached officials at Goucher College, in Baltimore, asking serious questions about Leopold Munyakazi, a visiting French professor from Rwanda. The producers, accompanied by Rwandan prosecutors, claimed Munyakazi is wanted on charges that he was directly involved in the 1994 genocide in his home country and noted they were working together on a television “series about international war criminals who are living and working in the United States.” In response to the charges, Goucher suspended Munyakazi for the remainder of his time at the college -- without any evidence of wrongdoing. Many human rights officials and Munyakazi himself maintain his innocence, asserting that he is probably wanted because of controversial statements he has made about the 1994 conflict instead. The New York Observer reports that NBC is going ahead with the series on war criminals, entitled “The Wanted,” and it will debut July 20. An NBC press release notes the series will feature "an elite team with backgrounds in intelligence, unconventional warfare and investigative journalism" and that it will focus "on real operators, in search of real targets -- all in an effort to see individuals brought to justice." The press release makes no mention of Munyakazi in a list of suspects to be featured in the series. The Observer muses, “Presumably, NBC News is no longer working with Rwandan prosecutors to possibly arrest Mr. Munyakazi." An NBC spokeswoman did not return a request for comment about whether the series still had an interest in Munyakazi. Kristin Keener, Goucher spokeswoman, said NBC had not told the college if the series would run beyond the two episodes that have been publicly promoted, neither of which will supposedly investigate Munyakazi.
Colleges in most states have, since a national change made in 2006, been granted the authority to spend endowment money from individual funds whose value has fallen below what it was when originally made. A new survey suggests that institutions have taken advantage of that additional flexibility. The study, by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, the National Association of College and University Business Officers, and the Commonfund Institute, finds that as of the end of 2008, 38 percent of survey participants' total endowment funds were "underwater," or now valued below the value of the original gift. While colleges previously were barred from spending an endowment fund to a level below the value of the original gift, the 2006 change -- the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act, which has been adopted in 38 states -- allows colleges to do so. Since the change, the survey found, 11.3 percent fewer colleges and universities have ceased discontinuing all distributions from "underwater" funds, and more are finding ways to use the money to support their institutions.
Colleges are making it more expensive for families to pay tuition bills with credit cards. USA Today reported that a growing number of colleges are adding fees to such payments, to offset the fees colleges must pay the credit card companies. Among the colleges that have adopted or are starting fees, the newspaper said: George Mason, Northwestern, and Wichita State Universities, and the Universities of Southern Maine and Virginia.
Lansing Community College appears to have set a new world record for the largest slab of fudge. The Lansing State Journal reported that the 5,500 pound slab created there beat the old record of 5,050 pounds. The Lansing fudge required 705 pounds of butter, 2,800 pounds of chocolate, and 305 gallons of sweetened, condensed milk. The fudge will now be sold, to benefit local charities, at $10 a pound.