President Obama last week issued an executive order that would speed up the release of classified material to the public, and could lead to the declassification of material that might otherwise have never been made public. Among other provisions, the executive order creates a principle that no records may be classified indefinitely, eliminates the right of certain intelligence officials to "veto" declassification, and orders that information never be classified if "significant doubt" exists about the need to classify. Historians and other scholars have complained for years, and in particular during the last Bush administration, that classification rules were impeding their work. Details about the executive order may be found on the Web site of the National Coalition for History.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Lake Superior State University on Thursday issued its annual "List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness" and several of the 15 words are much used in academe, including "teachable moment," "app," "friend" (as a verb), "tweet" and "transparent/transparency." Several of the other words relate to the economic downturn and efforts to reverse it. These words include "shovel ready" and "stimulus." Wayne State University Word Warriors project meanwhile has released its annual list of "expressive words that have fallen out of use and deserve to return to conversation and prose." Among them: antediluvian, festoon, mendacity and unctuous.
Oakland University discriminated against a disabled student by refusing to let him live in a campus residence hall, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. Micah Fialka-Feldman had sued the Michigan public university a year ago after it declined him access to a dorm, requiring him to take two-hour-long bus rides to get to and from his non-credit classes in a program for cognitively disabled students. Oakland argued that its policies limited dormitory access to degree-seeking students. But U.S. District Court Judge Patrick J. Duggan ruled Tuesday that since Fialka-Feldman's disability restricts him to the non-degree program, the university's policy amounts to discrimination on the basis of his disability. A university spokesman told The Detroit News that its officials were weighing their options in response to the judge's ruling.
This year's annual meeting of the Modern Language Association has featured much chatter about how the terrible job market has changed things. Attendance is down; those on the market seem more stressed than ever (not that they ever didn't seem stressed). Several have asked about whether there is new research, following on last year's panel on MLA sex. on the impact of the economy on conference encounters. We didn't see any such research but a review of Craigslist personals suggests that some academics did have hopes for connections outside of the sessions and cash bars. Only when the MLA is in town will you find listings such as "Hot English dork here, looking to play with another hot English dork." And we guess that most of the time, Craigslist hook-up personals (seeking kink no less) aren't illustrated by the cover of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.
Advocates for Yiddish, which is taught regularly at a small number of American colleges, are dismayed that the University of Maryland at College Park is expected to end support for a full-time faculty slot devoted to the language, The Baltimore Sun reported. University officials cite cutbacks across all programs, not any lack of appreciation for Yiddish literature and culture.
Texas Tech University on Monday suspended its head football coach, Mike Leach, after the father of a player said the coach had punished the athlete because he thought he was faking an injury. The university's statement offered little in the way of details, except to say that administrators were investigating the situation. But news reports filled in some of the gaps. The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported that Leach had ordered a player to stand in a shed at the university's football practice facility for two hours twice within two days, after the athlete reportedly suffered a concussion on Dec. 16. Then ESPN reported later Monday that the player was the son of the network's high-profile college football commentator Craig James, himself a former college football star at Southern Methodist University. James and his wife said in a statement that "with great regret and after consideration and prayer," they had told Texas Tech administrators "that their son had been subjected to actions and treatment not consistent with common sense rules for safety and health." This is the third such allegation of mistreatment of a player at a major college football program in recent weeks.
Questions about offshore medical schools receive attention in an investigation by The St. Petersburg Times. The offshore institutions defend their quality, and note that they are producing many graduates at a time of a medical shortage in the United States. But the article notes that graduation rates at the offshore schools lag those in the United States, and that some graduates are unable to obtain residencies, effectively limiting their ability to practice in the United States, and leaving them in many cases with large debts.
The University of Hawaii will cut faculty salaries by 6.7 percent, beginning Jan. 1, The Honolulu Star Bulletin reported. University officials say that the cuts are needed to deal with budget shortfalls, and that faculty leaders have failed to come up with alternatives. Faculty leaders are vowing to go to court to block the cuts.
Tennessee lawmakers are considering plans to more closely align community colleges with public four-year institutions, The Tennessean reported. The plans are expected to move much of remedial education out of four-year institutions and into the community colleges. In addition, more coordination of curricular requirements is expected to result in paths that are more clear for students who want to start at a community college and then transfer into a four-year institution.
An article in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel explores the way a medical journal has covered topics related to the business that provides millions in royalties to the journal's editor. According to the article, Thomas Zdeblick, a University of Wisconsin orthopedic surgeon, became editor in 2002 of The Journal of Spinal Disorders and Techniques. Since then, the article said, he has collected large royalties from Medtronic while the journal published a series of "positive" articles involving the company's products -- while readers were never informed of the editor's ties to the company. Zdeblick declined to comment for the article.