Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - 3:00am

Reed College has clarified just what laws were cited when federal and state authorities summoned its president last week to a meeting to request that he crack down on drug use at the institution. Only one statute -- known as a "crackhouse" law -- was cited, and not another statute that could result in a loss of federal eligibility for student loans, college officials now say. In an e-mail to students after his meeting last week, Colin Diver, the president, said "In the course of the conversation, the U.S. Attorney pointedly referred to a federal statute that makes it a criminal and civil offense for anyone knowingly to operate any facility for the purpose of using illegal drugs. We were also reminded of federal legislation that allows all federal funding -- including student loans -- to be withdrawn from any college or university that fails to take adequate steps to combat illegal drug activity." The U.S. attorney contacted Inside Higher Ed and said he never threatened to invoke any law involving federal student loans. Diver now says that while the U.S. attorney "referred to .. federal legislation that could be applied to the college if it failed to crack down more forcefully on drug use," he never cited the Drug-Free Schools Act, which is the legislation that could have resulted in loan eligibility ending. Diver said he sent the U.S. attorney's office a copy of his e-mail to students before distribution and that no one flagged a problem with his mention of the other law. All parties now agree that only the crackhouse law -- under which Reed could face large fines, but not any loss of loan eligibility -- was cited.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - 3:00am

The National Institutes of Health approved an additional 13 stem cell lines as eligible for researchers to use while receiving federal funds, The Washington Post reported. Scientists have been anxious for approval of more lines, and praised the move.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - 3:00am

The U.S. Education Department announced on Monday that it would propose new regulations governing student privacy rights in the next several weeks. In an announcement in the Federal Register, the department said that it would revise rules to carry out the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, with two goals in mind. One would be to "strengthen enforcement" of the law, commonly known as FERPA; the other would be to "clarify" how states can use information from statewide longitudinal data systems to inform policy decisions without running afoul of the student privacy law. The regulations are likely to be controversial, especially on the latter point; privacy advocates argue that the Obama administration risks running afoul of federal law in how it is encouraging states to collect and share data about students' academic performance with work force agencies within their states and, potentially, agencies in other states.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - 3:00am

Brandeis University is seeing debate over the selection of Michael B. Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States, as commencement speaker. The university's announcement of the choice noted that Oren -- whose recent talk at the University of California at Irvine was interrupted repeatedly, setting off a debate on free speech -- has been both a scholar and a diplomat. An editorial in The Justice, the student newspaper, said, "Although under different circumstances he could have been a fascinating speaker to bring to the campus, Mr. Oren is a divisive and inappropriate choice for keynote speaker at commencement, and we disapprove of the University's decision to grant someone of his polarity on this campus that honor. For the administration, Mr. Oren's invitation constitutes at best naiveté and at worst disregard concerning the reality of the range of student political orientation on this campus." Others writing in the paper have noted that Oren is likely to draw protests, detracting from graduation day. Still others have written in support of the selection, with one column saying that he is worthy to address graduates because of his "academic excellence, rigorous research practices and fearlessly honest writing."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - 3:00am

Internet sites that obsess over college admissions were abuzz Monday with a rumor about a Facebook posting claiming to be about someone admitted to Harvard University whose admission had been revoked following some rude comments on his Facebook page. The rumor spread from one site to another to another, even many of those posting it noting things that gave them doubts about the veracity of the story. Inside Higher Ed called Harvard, where a spokesman assured us that the rumor is "not true."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - 3:00am

Legal scholars and bloggers are increasingly debating whether law school is a worthwhile investment to make, the Chicago Tribune reported. Many are discussing the idea of a "bubble" similar to the one that devastated the subprime mortgage market. Here's how the article summarized the theory, as suggested by Christine Hurt, a University of Illinois law professor: "Double-digit tuition increases in the last 25 years have priced law schools out of reach for many. Yet the promise of a career at a big law firm with its six-figure paychecks kept boosting enrollment. Easy credit allowed more students to finance their law degrees. All of a sudden law firms lay off droves of attorneys and limit the number of new hires, leaving graduates out of work with more than $100,000 in loans to repay."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - 3:00am

A new nonprofit group -- Professors Without Borders -- announced itself Monday, with the goal of sending faculty members abroad to promote public health and sustainability, and to build infrastructure that will help developing and disadvantaged nations. The idea grew out of the Fulbright New Century Scholars Program. A first on-the-ground project will take place in August in Thailand, and work is also being explored in Haiti and other nations.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - 3:00am

The American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Association of American Universities have issued a new handbook with detailed legal resources to help colleges recruit and retain faculty members and students in science fields. The handbook notes legal challenges to some forms of affirmative action, but suggests that many practices that promote diversity are on solid legal ground.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - 3:00am

Faculty members at Bates Technical College, in Washington State, have voted no confidence in the college's leaders, The Seattle Times reported. The vote followed the issuing of layoff notices to 45 faculty members. Faculty leaders say that the layoff notices are inappropriate at a time of surging enrollments. Lyle Quasim, the president, defended the layoff notices, saying that he didn't expect that many people to lose their jobs, but that union contracts required him to give the notices now to have the option of eliminating jobs later.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - 3:00am

The Newfoundland and Labrador government announced Monday that the College of the North Atlantic had overpaid employees working at its branch in Qatar by about $5 million, CBC News reported. The government also announced that it was accepting the resignation of Jean Madill as president of the college.

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