A former reunions campaign official who is suing Cornell University in a dispute on overtime payments threatened to release e-mail messages that he says show the university will admit mediocre students in return for certain levels of contributions, The Ithaca Journal reported. The employee's former lawyer outlined the issue in a letter to Cornell, suggesting that release of the e-mails would result from failure to resolve the overtime dispute. Cornell responded by saying that the letter "appears to constitute extortion" and adding that the employee was covered by a confidentiality agreement he signed when working at the university. A spokeswoman for the university said she couldn't comment on the case while it was in litigation.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Arizona State University has settled a lawsuit brought by two groups that advocate for the blind, challenging the university's participation in a program in which students were given Kindles for various educational purposes. The organizations charged that the program discriminated against blind people because the Kindle was not designed in ways to enable blind people to use it. The settlement notes that the program at Arizona State was only a pilot and the university is pledging that any future programs would use devices designed to be accessible to blind people. Amazon and other producers of reader devices have said that they are finding ways to make them more accessible to people with visual impairments.
Reports have emerged that meeting space at the University of Oregon has been used for the meetings of an organization with Nazi-style views about Jews and where members have engaged in Nazi salutes. The group holding the meetings has done so for years, but recent reports by those who have attended meetings have angered many. A university spokeswoman said that the group has no affiliation with the university but is able to meet there under a rule allowing emeritus professors to reserve rooms, and an emeritus professor has been doing so. The university is currently reviewing that rule.
Harvard University said in financial filings that it is among 40 colleges that will undergo Internal Revenue Service audits stemming from the agency's broad compliance review in higher education, Bloomberg reported. The news agency, citing statements the university made in papers filed as part of a bond offering, quoted Harvard officials as saying that they have "no reason to believe that the examination will have an adverse effect on the tax-exempt status of the university or any other aspect of the university’s operations.” Harvard and IRS officials both declined to comment to Bloomberg. The IRS sent long questionnaires to 400 colleges last fall.
The University of South Florida on Friday fired Jim Leavitt, the football coach who created the program 14 years ago, after finding evidence backing claims that he had grabbed a player by the throat and slapped him twice, and that he didn't admit the incident during an investigation that found credible evidence that it had taken place, The St. Petersburg Times reported. The decision was based on an investigation that found, according to a university letter to the coach, that "your description … was consistently uncorroborated by credible witnesses, and in fact contradicted." Leavitt denies that he mistreated the athlete. The firing at South Florida is the second recent dismissal of a big-time football head coach over allegations of mistreating an athlete. Texas Tech University last month dismissed its coach, Mike Leach, amid allegations that he ordered a player to be locked in the dark after he suffered a concussion.
The national American Association of University Professors is today joining criticism by its University of Washington branch of the decision of Provost Phyllis Wise to join the board of Nike -- a decision that has become increasingly controversial. Wise has said that she will help encourage responsible corporate governance, but faculty critics have said that her role is problematic, given that the university has contracts with the company and many on the campus want more scrutiny of Nike's labor practice. The national AAUP statement says: "We agree that recusing herself from board discussion of Nike’s contractual relations with the university does not provide a sufficient firewall between the provost and the ethical and political implications of Nike’s international financial and labor practices. And we agree that a chilling effect on faculty research into Nike’s practices is entirely possible if the university’s chief academic officer is identified with Nike’s board."
The University of North Carolina System Board of Governors has adopted new limits on "retreat rights," payments to departing campus chancellors to help them adjust to a return to teaching, The Charlotte Observer reported. Some political leaders in the state have been outraged by reports that some officials have received these payments -- based on their senior administrative salaries -- and then retired rather than returning to teaching. The new rule limits payments to six months at the salary of a faculty member in the department where the former administrator is returning. Until now, the payments were at the level of the administrative salary and could extend up to a year. In addition, a department chancellor who takes the money but doesn't return to teaching will need to repay it. Similar policies are now being considered for provosts and vice presidents.
Members of Congress have been drawing attention to conflicts of interest between biomedical researchers whose research is useful to companies that pay them to consult. Jonathan Gruber, a health economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is facing a different kind of allegation, The Boston Globe reported. He has been speaking with reporters about the health care legislation before Congress without disclosing that he is a paid adviser to the Obama administration on the legislation. He told the Globe that he didn't think his ties were an issue and that he disclosed them whenever asked.
With British universities facing deep budget cuts, some leading research universities are proposing that the government support doctoral education only when students are enrolled in highly ranked departments, Times Higher Education reported. Those advocating the change say that it will preserve the quality of the best programs, while critics are shouting that the idea is elitist and will squelch younger programs with great potential.
Colleges and universities in Taiwan plan to recruit and enroll top students from China, the Associated Press reported. Under a government proposal, students from 40 leading Chinese universities will be able to apply to study at one of Taiwan's colleges.