The 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded this morning to Herta Müller, a German writer of novels, short stories and essays, "who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed," according to the Nobel committee. Müller was born in Romania, where her family was a member of the German minority in that country, and her writing and activism in opposition to the CeauÅŸescu’s dictatorship led to her censorship in Romania, clashes with the government and her eventual move to Germany. The University of Nebraska Press published her book Nadirs (in a translation by Sieglinde Lug, a professor of German and comparative literature at the University of Denver). Two of her books are available through Northwestern University Press: The Land of Green Plums and Traveling on One Leg.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Ninety-two percent of the 273 colleges and universities in a sample being tracked by the American College Health Association reported new cases of H1N1 or similar illnesses in the last week studied, up from 91 percent the previous week. The highest rates of activity are in states in the Mid-Atlantic (Virginia, District of Columbia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania). More details and H1N1 resources are available on the association's Web site.
Researchers in Britain, Israel and the United States are sharing the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work on "the structure and function of the ribosome." The three winners are: Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, senior scientist and group leader at Structural Studies Division of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, in Britain; Thomas A. Steitz, Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, both at Yale University; and Ada E. Yonath, Martin S. and Helen Kimmel Professor of Structural Biology and director of Helen and Milton A. Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structure and Assembly, both at the Weizmann Institute of Science, in Israel.
The 2010 edition of the College Sustainability Report Card, being released today, shows that despite the economic woes facing many colleges, many also made significant progress in adopting "green" policies. Grades are awarded based on reporting in a series of categories,including policies on climate change, food, recycling, buildings, transportation, endowments and so forth. A new feature of the project this year is to make the colleges' responses to survey questions public so students or prospective students can examine the status at their institutions and comparison groups. Twenty-six colleges earned A-, the top grade this year. They are: Amherst, Carleton, Dickinson, Luther, Macalester, Middlebury, Oberlin, Pomona,
Smith and Williams Colleges; Arizona State, Brown, Harvard, Pacific Lutheran, Stanford, Wesleyan and Yale Universities; the College of the Atlantic: and the Universities of California at San Diego, Colorado, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington.
Sexually explicit materials continue to create controversies for Maryland's public university system. The Baltimore Sun reported on efforts by system officials, at legislative request, to develop a policy on student displays of pornographic movies. Lawmakers were upset last year about plans to show a porn film, for which a viewing was called off and then restored in part at Maryland's flagship campus at College Park. Under the drafts being considered, any porn film would have to be paired with educational discussions, the Sun reported.
At Towson University, meanwhile, the editor-in-chief has resigned and a controversial sex column will appear only online and not in print, following criticism -- from the university's president among others - over its explicitness. A statement from the newspaper defended the column's content, but said that the student journalists on the staff regret a break in the Towerlight's normal procedures by letting the columns appear anonymously and that the article wasn't written "less provocatively." The column that sparked the criticism was about how to perform several sexual acts. Reactions posted on the Web site back up the claims of administrators that the piece offended many, and also the claims of the newspaper that many students value the frank discussion of sex.
A student's claim that he performed an exorcism on a former student at Berry College has set off a debate about certain religious practices at the institution, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The exorcism has drawn attention to the WinShape program, in which 100 students are given scholarships and tend to live together, while pledging to attend chapel services together and to abstain from using alcohol and drugs. It was during a WinShape program that the exorcism is said to have taken place.
The 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics is being shared by three researchers. Half of the award is going to Charles K. Kao of the Standard Telecommunication Laboratories, in Britain, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He was honored for "groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibers for optical communication." The other half will be shared by Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith, both of Bell Laboratories, "for the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit – the CCD sensor."
A state judge on Monday dismissed many of the key charges against Ray Sansom, former speaker of the house in Florida, and Bob Richburg, former president of Northwest Florida State College, in a case that cost both of them their jobs, The Northwest Florida Daily News reported. The case focuses on allegedly inappropriate ties between Sansom and the college. Sansom directed state funds to the college to build an airport hangar for one of his donors and the college gave Sansom a job. Judge Terry Lewis, in dismissing the charges, stressed questions about the legality of indictments that were based on legislation that Sansom advanced, and suggested that this may be a case of misconduct that just isn't illegal. "Not every wrongful conduct is a crime. Sometimes the remedy for such conduct must be political rather than judicial. This is one of those situations," the judge said.
Colleges that play big-time basketball set ticket prices for their men's teams significantly higher than for their women's teams, and the differential seems to be explained at least partially by institutional discrimination, says a new paper published by the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College. The paper, a summary of which can be found here, says that the sizable gap in ticket prices charged by colleges in Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association occurs even at institutions where the women's teams are highly successful and have big fan followings and "is not accounted for by differences in attendance." The authors of the paper seek to rebut the argument that colleges charge less for events involving women because there is less demand for them. "Because athletics, and particularly college basketball, have an increasingly prominent cultural profile, the practice of effectively de-valuing women on the court has implications off the court as well," they write. "The results support the broader contention that women athletes -- as women in traditionally male arenas -- continue to face institutional discrimination that is camouflaged as sensible economic practice."
The Obama administration on Monday said it was concerned about a Senate spending bill that would provide about $200 million less for the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology than President Obama has sought. The White House made its concerns known in a Statement of Administration Policy about a spending bill for science programs and the Commerce and Justice Departments passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee, which the full Senate began debating Monday. "These two agencies are key components of the President’s Plan for Science and Innovation and the Committee’s reductions would affect important research activities and agency operations in the near term and make it increasingly difficult to achieve the doubling goal for basic research in future years," the statement said.