U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the formal launch Thursday of the new National Institute of Food and Agriculture, about which university officials are very excited. The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities anticipates that the institute, which will replace the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, the Agriculture Department's chief provider of academic research funds, will significantly boost the amount of federal funds for ag research that flows to universities. Also Thursday, a conference committee of the U.S. Senate and House approved a compromise spending bill for the Agriculture Departnt that would increase spending on agricultural research to $2.767 billion in 2010, up $174 million over 2009. The National Institute of Food and Agricultur would receive $1.343 billion, $176 million more than what President Obama requested.
Higher Education Quick Takes
An Evergreen State College professor has been placed on leave after an audit revealed that he could not account for at least $50,000 that he collected from students for study abroad trips he organized to Chile, The Seattle Times reported. Thirteen students have settled a dispute with the college over payments and are receiving refunds.
In an attempt to show that there are no "trick questions," the University of Oxford has for the first time released samples of interview questions used in the admissions process, The Times of London reported. Mike Nicholson, Oxford’s director of admissions, told the newspaper: "The interviews are all about assessing academic ability and potential.... The aim is to get candidates to use their knowledge and apply their minds to new problems while allowing them to shine. No special knowledge is required and there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers.” Among the questions released: "What is language?" and "Why might it be useful for an English student to read the Twilight series?"
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.
Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, is proposing that Congress bar the National Science Foundation from supporting research in political science. While the NSF is best known for its support for the physical sciences, computer science and engineering, it has a long history of also supporting work in the social sciences. A statement from the senator said: "The purpose of this amendment is not to restrict science, but rather to better focus scarce basic research dollars on the important scientific endeavors that can expand our knowledge of true science and yield breakthroughs and discoveries that can improve the human condition." While such an amendment is unlikely to be enacted, the American Political Science Association is organizing letter-writing efforts against the measure.
While 89 percent of Latino young adults (ages 16 to 25) say that a college education is important for success in life, only 48 percent say that they themselves plan to get a college degree, according to a new national survey by the Pew Hispanic Center. A report by the center offers an overview of the reasons for this gap -- and identifies financial pressure to support a family as a key issue.
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.
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.
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.