Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - 3:00am

University of California officials are contemplating a widescale boycott of the Nature Publishing Group because of concerns over ever-rising prices of the publisher's journals, according to a letter sent to UC faculty members last week. The letter from the California Digital Library, which is part of the university's Office of the President, says that Nature has said that it will increase by 400 percent the price of the systemwide license it charges UC for access to its 67 journals in 2011. The letter warns that unless Nature sticks to its current licensing agreement, the university's faculty will encourage the system's libraries not only to "suspend their online subscriptions entirely," but also urge professors to decline to participate in the publishing group's peer review process, resign from editorial boards, stop placing job ads in its journals, and "cease to submit papers" to them, among other things.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - 3:00am

Claremont School of Theology will announce today that it will add training for Muslims and Jews to its curriculum this fall, making it the first "truly multi-faith American seminary," the Los Angeles Times reports. The Times article quotes religion experts praising the decision as a "creative, bold move" that reflects the growing interdisciplinarity in religion as in other fields, but it also notes that the California seminary's shift has strained its relationship with the United Methodist Church, which cut off funding for the institution in January, citing a "substantial reorientation of the institution's mission."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - 3:00am

The American Association of University Professors, which holds its annual meeting this week in Washington, will present its Alexander Meiklejohn Award for Academic Freedom to Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, for her outspoken defense last year of the right of Roman Catholic colleges to have a range of speakers on their campuses. McGuire devoted her commencement address last year to the controversy over President Obama's visit to the University of Notre Dame to give the commencement address there. Anti-abortion groups organized protests and urged Notre Dame to withdraw the invitation because Obama favors legal abortion rights. In her talk, which she adapted to an essay that was published on Inside Higher Ed, McGuire said that this kind of "religious vigilantism" was an affront to academic freedom and to the open traditions of Catholic higher education.

The Meiklejohn award -- last given in 2003 -- goes to academic administrators who have made major defenses of academic freedom. The AAUP citation for McGuire states: "President McGuire has a reputation for speaking out on topics other college presidents will not touch. She understood clearly that the drama that unfolded last year on the Notre Dame campus would affect the future of all Catholic colleges. She spoke out when others did not. Her passion for justice, for the salutary benefits of open and rigorous debate, for what is simply right did not allow her to keep silent. Her voice has provided inspiration, encouragement and guidance to the leaders of Catholic colleges and universities across the country and, in fact, to all those in the academy who must resist the forces of censorship and repression."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010 - 3:00am

Just weeks after the University of California, Berkeley made national headlines by asking incoming undergraduates to submit genetic samples for an orientation program about the emerging field of personalized medicine, Bay Area rival Stanford University said Monday that it will offer DNA analysis to some of its students this summer.

Unlike at Berkeley, though, the project will be limited to medical and graduate students enrolled in the School of Medicine's summer session elective "Genetics 210: Genomics and Personalized Medicine." Faculty and administrators anticipate that about 50 students will sign up for the course, which was approved only after months of debate and the assurance that several precautionary measures would be taken.

The course will run for eight weeks, meeting once a week. After the second class, students will decide whether to have their own DNA tested and will get to decide whether they would like the sample to be processed by Navigenics or 23andMe, the two companies licensed to perform the tests in California. They will be asked to pay $99 for the test, so that they seriously consider any decisions they make.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010 - 3:00am

John Mason, Eastern Washington University’s provost, resigned last week, days before the Faculty Senate was to hold a no confidence vote on his leadership, The Spokesman-Review reported. A university spokesman said he resigned over health concerns. But faculty members and deans have complained over his hiring decisions and changes he made in the curriculum

Tuesday, June 8, 2010 - 3:00am

Two articles look at how easy it is for students' path to college to be derailed by issues of paperwork. The Democrat and Chronicle looks at a Rochester 18-year-old from the Dominican Republic who can't show a birth certificate or proof of her mother's death a decade ago, and who is being held up from getting into college as a result. (After the article ran, she received help clearing up the problem.) The Sun Sentinel reports on a private high school that -- out of dispute over a work-study obligation -- will not release the transcript of a student who needs it to enroll at a university that accepted him.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of Dubuque has abandoned plans to buy part of the campus of Sheldon Jackson College, an Alaska institution that stopped operations several years ago amid financial difficulties, The Telegraph Herald reported. Dubuque officials were looking to buy only part of the campus, for selected academic offerings, and said that the idea was scrapped because some Sheldon Jackson trustees wanted only to sell the entire campus for a plan to revive the college.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010 - 3:00am

Newberry College announced Monday that its sports teams will be known as "Wolves," a name suggested by students. Newberry stopped using its old name, "Indians," in 2008, after the National Collegiate Athletic Association pushed members to stop using Native American names. While figuring out its future name, Newberry was among three colleges without names for their teams.

Monday, June 7, 2010 - 3:00am

While most colleges do not want students to bring their pets to campus, a minority of institutions are creating pet-welcoming dormitories, The New York Times reported. The article focuses on Stephens College, a women's institution in Missouri, which not only is letting students bring pets to a dormitory, but has set up a kennel to take care of animals when students are not in their rooms. Two years ago, The Boston Globe reported on a cat-friendly approach at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The downside to this trend (and to students sneaking in pets at colleges that don't allow them) is apparent in reports in some college towns about increases in abandoned pets at the end of academic years.

Monday, June 7, 2010 - 3:00am

President Obama announced last week that he would nominate Subra Suresh, dean of the School of Engineering and the Vannevar Bush Professor of Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to be director of the National Science Foundation. Suresh joined MIT in 1993 as the R.P. Simmons Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and since then has held joint faculty appointments in the departments of mechanical engineering and biological engineering, as well as the division of health sciences and technology. From 1983 to 1993, Dr. Suresh was a faculty member in engineering at Brown University. He has been elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Indian National Academy of Engineering, the Indian Academy of Sciences in Bangalore, the Royal Spanish Academy of Sciences, the Academy of Sciences of the Developing World, and the German National Academy of Sciences.

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