Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, May 21, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of California, Berkeley's College of Letters and Science is not yielding to calls for it to drop its plan to ask incoming freshmen and transfers to submit a DNA sample to be analyzed for three genes that have to do with the metabolism of food and drinks. A Tuesday Inside Higher Ed news story opened the floodgates of media coverage by other national and local media outlets. Though Berkeley officials have said the assignment is completely optional and anonymous, the project has been a lightning rod for criticism.

Alix Schwartz, the college's director of undergraduate academic planning, said she and her colleagues are "definitely not canceling the program" in response to the backlash. "Even the negative or ill-informed attention" brought to the plan would "add to the dialogue, and dialogue was what we hoped to generate," she said. Some faculty have voiced concerns about genetic testing "but their response is not hysterical, and we are all talking and listening to one another."

In a letter to Berkeley administrators -- and to Mark Yudof, president of the University of California System -- the Council for Responsible Genetics called the project "woefully naïve." While seemingly harmless, the group's president wrote, the test results have "the risk of increasingly being used out of context in ways that are contrary to the interests of the individual, perhaps even discriminatory, and privacy-invasive." The Center for Genetics and Society, a nonprofit based in Berkeley that has no affiliation with the university, has also asked administrators to cancel the program.

Thursday, May 20, 2010 - 3:00am

Republicans in the House of Representatives on Wednesday once again rebuffed legislation (HR 5325) designed to strengthen federal support for academic research. For the second time in a week, an insufficient number of lawmakers voted in favor of legislation to renew the America COMPETES Act, the 2007 law that set out to double federal funding of the physical sciences. Republicans, who unanimously opposed the bill Wednesday, said they supported its goals but continued to believe it would authorize too much federal spending and create too many new programs. Democrats said that they were disappointed that the changes they had made in the legislation since last week were deemed insufficient, and that they would continue trying.

Thursday, May 20, 2010 - 3:00am

Faculty members at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire have voted, 233 to 87, to unionize. The vote follows one last week at the university's Superior campus. Both units will be affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers.

Thursday, May 20, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of California is seeking $500 million in savings by consolidation and coordination of administrative functions such as purchasing, the Los Angeles Times reported. University leaders said that the changes would represent a cultural shift for a system where campus independence has been highly valued, but they stressed that the push to centralization was on non-academic issues.

Thursday, May 20, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of Florida has cleared a professor of any wrongdoing in the case of two graduate students who filmed documentary work for their degrees in Haiti when the university had banned travel there by students, The Gainesville Sun reported. The university inquiry found that the students made the decision to go to Haiti on their own and that the faculty member didn't provide university resources. The university initially barred the students from using the material they shot in Haiti, but backed down amid criticism that the ban was a violation of academic freedom.

Thursday, May 20, 2010 - 3:00am

Members of a Louisiana legislative committee let drop proposed legislation that would have severely restricted the activities of law school clinics in the state, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans reported. The decision by a state senate panel, which came after two hours of debate, was a major (and unusual) setback for the state's powerful chemical industry, which had taken aim at an environmental law clinic at Tulane University that it viewed as hostile to its interests. Tulane's president, Scott Cowen, forcefully defended the clinic at Wednesday's hearing.

Thursday, May 20, 2010 - 3:00am

Canadian academics and government leaders are analyzing the results of an effort to attract top research talent from other countries. As The Globe and Mail reported, the quality of international talent is considered high, leading many to say that the tactic of going after the best with generous offers was effective. A total of 19 researchers have committed to offers at Canadian universities. But as The Montreal Gazette reported, many female academics in Canada are asking why all 19 of those newly recruited faculty stars are men.

Thursday, May 20, 2010 - 3:00am

A committee at the University of Texas will study whether the university should maintain the name of a former Ku Klux Klan leader (who also served on the university's law faculty and in the Confederate military) on a residence hall, The Austin American-Statesman reported. Some on the campus have argued that keeping the name shows insensitivity to minority students.

Thursday, May 20, 2010 - 3:00am

New Jersey's student aid agency may have violated state ethics laws, misinterpreted executive orders on political contributions and other matters, and was governed by a board that was denied crucial information about its operations, according to a highly critical state audit released Tuesday. The state's inspector general's office said in its report on the audit that it had referred the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority to the state ethics commission for a possible inquiry into the "solicitation of a donation from a vendor of the authority by an employee."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 - 3:00am

  • Ronald Ally, chief financial and operations officer for School District U-46, in Illinois, has been selected as executive vice president of finance and operations at Harper College, also in Illinois.
  • Joseph Bekken, director of finance counseling at Grand Canyon University, in Arizona, has been appointed director of financial aid at North Idaho College.
  • Thomas W. Giffin, senior director of development at Clemson University, in South Carolina, has been chosen as vice president for institutional advancement at Coker College, also in South Carolina.
  • Margaret Jablonski, vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been named vice president for student affairs at the University of New Haven.
  • Laurie Koehler, director of admissions at Miami University, in Ohio, has been chosen as dean of admissions at Bryn Mawr College.
  • Troy Miller, associate professor of Bible & theology at Crichton College, has been promoted to chair of the department of Bible & theology there.
  • The appointments above are drawn from The Lists on Inside Higher Ed, which also includes a comprehensive catalog of upcoming events in higher education. To submit job changes or calendar items, please click here.

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