The San Jose/Evergreen Community College District has agreed to pay $100,000 to June Sheldon, who lost her job as an adjunct biology instructor after students complained about her answer to a question about homosexuality and genetics. Some students accused her of making anti-gay statements, while she said she had provided factual answers that were not accurately described. Under the settlement, the district maintains it did nothing wrong, but it also will remove references to Sheldon having been dismissed from her file.
Higher Education Quick Takes
One of the incidents that will lead to a trial by a U.S. House of Representatives panel of Rep. Charles B. Rangel involves a gift to a college, The New York Times reported. Specifically, Rangel is accused of maintaining a lucrative tax break that helped an oil executive in return for a pledge of $1 million to a center named for Rangel at City College of the City University of New York. Rangel has denied wrondoing.
Sodexo has agreed to pay $20 million to settle issues raised by an investigation by Andrew M. Cuomo, New York State's attorney general, into allegations that the company overcharged the State University of New York System and 21 school districts in the state. The dispute involves a pledge by the company to provide goods at cost -- a pledge that the state says the company violated by failing to acknowledge significant rebates from suppliers.
The Government Accountability Office released a report Wednesday detailing ways for the Department of Education's Office of Federal Student Aid to improve its oversight of lenders and third-party servicers involved in the Federal Family Education Loan Program.
The report urged the department's inspector general to update its FFEL Lender Audit Guide to reflect standards put into place since the guide was last published in 1996. (In a response, Kathleen Tighe, the inspector general, said that a new guide will be out by the end of the year.) It also called for the department to address identified gaps in the policies and procedures used in Federal Student Aid's review of audited financial statements for lender servicers involved in the FFEL program. Those issues, the department said, could be remedied in part by revisions to the guide.
GAO found fewer concerns in the Direct Loan program, but urged the department to step up its oversight as the program grows.
A U.S. Senate appropriations panel approved legislation Wednesday that would give the National Science Foundation slightly less money in 2011 than would proposals by the House of Representatives and President Obama. The measure backed by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies would provide $7.35 billion for the science foundation, compared to the $7.42 billion contained in both the Obama administration's budget proposal and a parallel measure working its way through the House of Representatives. According to a news release from the committee, the NSF's research programs would receive $6 billion, slightly more than the House would provide but on par with the president's request, while education programs would get $892 million, down from the House's $958 million.
Law schools are more likely to hire liberal professors than conservatives, but openings at top law schools are not restricted to those left of center, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, National Law Journal reported. The study was based on analysis of 149 entry-level, tenure-track hires made during 2005, 2007 and 2009. Ideology was assigned based on political donations, Facebook profiles, work experience, publications and the political party of presidents who appointed judges for whom the professors clerked, the National Law Journal said. No ideological identity could be determined for 60 percent of the sample, but for those who could be pegged, 52 were liberal and 8 were conservative.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has attracted widespread attention for its emphasis on college completion (as opposed to access alone). A report being released today by Grantmakers for Education argues that there is a widespread shift toward completion efforts by education philanthropies.
Duke University has suspended the enrollment of new patients in three clinical trials that depend in part on work by a scientist at the university who may have falsely claimed to have been a Rhodes scholar, The News & Observer reported. Duke has placed the scientist, Anil Potti, on administrative leave. (This item has been corrected from an earlier version.)
The Alliance Defense Fund, which is representing Kenneth Howell in the controversy over his teaching at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has given the institution an ultimatum: either assure in writing that Howell will teach his regular courses in Roman Catholic studies in the fall, or he will sue. The letter states that the university has violated Howell's First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Howell has for years been an adjunct at Illinois, but he was recently told he would not have additional courses, following complaints over an e-mail he sent to students. His supporters argue that the e-mail was just an explanation of Catholic teachings on homosexuality and that punishing him for that would undercut the values of academic freedom. His critics argue that the e-mail reflected an attempt to indoctrinate students with faith, not teach them about a faith -- and some question the arrangement under which a Catholic center nominates and pays for adjuncts to teach courses on Catholicism at the university. Illinois officials have appointed a committee to study the academic freedom issues involved in the case.
But a letter sent by the Alliance Defense Fund Monday argues that the committee may be unfair to Howell. "We are concerned that the committee's investigation into this matter is tainted already with bias toward affirming the dismissal. President Michael Hogan commented that the purpose of the committee is to 'reassure ourselves there was no infringement on academic freedom here.' This remark gives us concern that university officials do not appreciate the gravity of the constitutional violations in this situation."
Illinois officials did not respond to requests for comment, but have previously indicated that they were committed to a fair inquiry into the issues.
Harvard University Medical School is setting new rules that will prohibit faculty members from giving promotional talks for drug and medical device makers and accepting personal gifts, travel, or meals from such companies, The Boston Globe reported. The new rules follow scrutiny from Congress over allegations of conflict of interest in federally sponsored biomedical research. Harvard officials told the Globe that they believed the rules would not block legitimate research collaboration between faculty members and companies.