Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, February 1, 2010 - 3:00am

In the latest twist of a curious legal case involving allegations of identity theft, cyber-bullying, and two-millennia-old religious artifacts, a well-known University of Chicago professor has been implicated in a complex, Internet-based scheme to smear opponents of his work. Norman Golb, a professor of Jewish history and civilization at Chicago, has been mostly a sideline figure since his son, Raphael, was arrested last March after allegedly creating dozens of Web aliases and using them to harass and discredit scholars who disagree with his father’s theories about the origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls. But new court documents point to evidence suggesting that Norman Golb, his wife, Ruth, and their other son, Joel, were aware of the alias-based campaign and may have assisted in carrying it out. Raphael Golb stands accused of harassing various scholars who do not believe that the Dead Sea Scrolls originated in Jerusalem — a theory Norman Golb advocated in a 1995 book. The new documents, released last month, purport to show transcripts of e-mails exchanges among members of the Golb family indicating coordinated efforts to advance Norman Golb’s theories though Web aliases. They also include sharp criticisms of Schiffman, which the prosecution is trying to use as evidence of motive and intent for the identity theft — the only felony charge against Raphael Golb. The evidence was released to the court after the defense moved to suppress it. Norman Golb could not be reached for comment.

Raphael Golb’s attorneys are arguing that the e-mails are immaterial to the case since they do not contain any of the threats, obscenity, or “fighting words” that would constitute harassment. If the state had a compelling interest in limiting criticism, they wrote in a court memo, all of New York’s editorial writers would be in prison.

Norman Golb, meanwhile, said in an e-mail to Inside Higher Ed that he is not privy to his sons' e-mail correspondence and is “certainly unaware of any ‘smear campaign’ in the various articles about the Scrolls controversy attributed to Raphael.” He added: “It is unfortunate that my critics resort to attacking members of my family rather than engaging with me in scholarly debate on the merits.”

Monday, February 1, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of California is rare among colleges in that it has a team that checks out some of the claims that applicants make, The San Jose Mercury News reported. The verification process is random -- about 1 percent of applicants -- but officials believe that the possibility of being scrutinized is enough to keep fictional claims to a minimum. The article noted that while most colleges don't verify claims on personal statements or lists of accomplishments, they do verify test scores and grades by relying on information provided by testing services and high schools, instead of letting applicants self-report.

Monday, February 1, 2010 - 3:00am

A federal judge has ruled that a blind student at the University of California at Los Angeles can use a computer-assisted reading device for the state bar exam, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The student used the device -- which magnifies words and broadcasts them for her -- in law school, but had to sue for the right to use the device on the bar exam.

Friday, January 29, 2010 - 3:00am

An Illinois state representative, Monique Davis, announced Thursday that she will return to Chicago State University a $25,000 statue from the university that ended up in the lawmaker's office the Chicago Sun-Times reported. It remains unclear how the statue ended up in her office. Chicago State officials asked for it back, without success, but pressure grew on Davis to return it after a Sun-Times columnist revealed the situation last week.

Friday, January 29, 2010 - 3:00am

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is talking up his plan to provide an extra $100 million in funds to Florida's universities next year, but not everyone is convinced he has the money. The plan would focus the new money on degrees and programs that result in jobs for graduates or economic development for the state. While legislative leaders say that they like the theory, The Miami Herald reported that they are skeptical of the availability of funds. Crist's budget assumes growing sales tax revenues that will allow for $2 billion in new spending, but legislators are projecting deficits of that size, not extra money.

Friday, January 29, 2010 - 3:00am

A report released today by the Data Quality Campaign assesses progress in state efforts to use longitudinal student-level data to gauge and improve students' progress through the educational system. The report concludes that states have made significant progress in building data systems (with a big financial and policy push from the Obama administration) but far less headway in using the data to change educational practices.

Friday, January 29, 2010 - 3:00am

The Maricopa Community College District's board has authorized Chancellor Rufus Glasper to carry out a series of efficiency moves, The Arizona Republic reported. Among the possible shifts: increases in class sizes, greater reliance on adjunct faculty members, outsourcing of landscaping and a new information technology fee. The consultants who developed the options said that they could save the district up to $48 million a year.

Friday, January 29, 2010 - 3:00am

The Institute for International Education has created an emergency grants fund to help students from Haiti on campuses in the United States. Colleges may nominate up to five students for awards of up to $2,000 to those who are facing financial hardships because of the devastation caused by the earthquake. Details and nomination forms may be found here.

Friday, January 29, 2010 - 3:00am

Negotiators involved in this week's final round of negotiated rule making on revisions to the U.S. Department of Education's regulations on the disbursal of federal financial aid funds said late Thursday they wouldn't be putting much more effort in trying to reach agreement on the most contentious proposal being debated. In draft form, the rule requires that debt repayments be no more than 8 percent of the annual salaries of recent graduates of programs that prepare students for "gainful employment." The panel attempted to make progress on the issue Thursday morning, but differences seemed too large to bridge. Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, said federal and non-federal negotiators agreed they "probably won't get finished" with working out all the concerns over the proposed rule. The group, he added, would instead focus on trying to reach agreement on revisions to all the other rules under consideration and then return to discussion of the debt-to-income ratio Friday if time permits.

Agreement on much-debated rules on incentive compensation for recruiters seemed "close enough," Hartle said, that negotiators agreed to continue discussion Friday. Negotiators would have to reach consensus on the full package of 14 rules for them to be adopted without further revision by the department. Without an agreement on the debt-to-income ratio, or any other issue, the department would be free to make further changes to any and all rules, though it's likely officials wouldn't substantively edit any rules on which the panel reached agreement.

Friday, January 29, 2010 - 3:00am

Rutgers University police have arrested six members of Sigma Gamma Rho sorority, charging them with beating at least three pledges for seven consecutive nights, The Star-Ledger reported. The university and the sorority's national organization immediately suspended the Rutgers chapter.

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