The interim chancellor of North Carolina State University has declared invalid a severance package approved for the former provost by the former chancellor, The Raleigh News & Observer reported. The package for then-provost Larry Nielsen would have extended the provost's pay for three years after he returned to the faculty, which he promptly did -- amid a scandal over the appointment of the former governor's wife to a highly paid position. The scandal ended up leading the sudden resignations first of Nielsen and then of James Oblinger, the chancellor who approved the deal. Jim Woodward, the interim chancellor, said that Oblinger never had the authority to change Nielsen's contract as he did, so the deal will not be carried out.
Higher Education Quick Takes
A special state commission examining the way the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign handled admissions involving politically connected applicants heard testimony Tuesday that these decisions were made at high administrative levels, ignoring admissions officers, the Chicago Tribune reported. Keith Marshall, the university's associate provost, told the panel that he had "disdain" for the process, and that decisions made in the admissions officer were overruled by Chancellor Richard Herman and others. Marshall answered several questions by saying "I take my instructions from Chancellor Herman." The Tribune exposed the "clout" admissions system for those with connections, and set off a major scandal, leading to the state probe. While university officials have repeatedly pledged to help authorities understand what happened, they have declined to release to the Tribune information about the test scores and grades of those admitted, even with names redacted. That stance prompted the Tribune to sue the university on Tuesday.
Two weeks ago the Internal Revenue Service raised the hopes of many campus business officers by suggesting ways it might relax federal rules governing how employers must account for usage of cell phones they provide to workers, regulations that have proved vexing (and expensive) in some federal audits of colleges and universities. But Tuesday it went even further, as Commissioner Doug Shulman announced that the agency would no longer consider employees' use of employer-provided cell phones to be a taxable benefit. "Secretary Geithner and I ask that Congress act to make clear that there will be no tax consequence to employers or employees for personal use of work-related devices such as cell phones provided by employers," Shulman said. "The passage of time, advances in technology, and the nature of communication in the modern workplace have rendered this law obsolete." (Hat tip to TaxProf Blog.)
More than 20 percent of medical schools showed improvement in the PharmFree Scorecard, released Tuesday for 2009, which judges medical schools on how well they prevent conflicts of interest with the pharmaceutical industry. The project is run by the American Medical Student Association, which says that it sees plenty of room for improvement. Of the 149 medical schools in the United States, 9 received an A grade, 36 a B, 18 a C, 17 a D, and 35 an F. Other medical schools received an "in process" grade as policies are currently being reviewed. Two of this year's A grades -- Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Mayo Medical School -- improved from Ds a year ago.
The chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, whose own term is due to end this month, recommended to the system's regents Tuesday that they fire David Ashley, president of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. The letter from Chancellor James E. Rogers to the members of the Board of Regents, recommended that "Dr. Ashley's contract not be renewed and that you consider immediate termination of the contract as president.... [T]he problems that have become the subject of much media attention recently are the problems that I long ago asked him and expected him to correct." Ashley's performance has been the subject of significant news coverage and he returned from a trip to Singapore last week amid rumors that he would resign.
Rep. John Kline of Minnesota is the front runner to be chosen today as the top Republican on the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee, CongressDaily reported. Kline, whose 2nd Congressional District contains St. Olaf and Carleton Colleges, would succeed Rep. Howard P. (Buck) McKeon, who gave up his spot on the education panel to be the senior Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. Kline, a former Marine, is a reliably conservative member of his party.
Bethune-Cookman University, in Florida, announced Tuesday night that it has fired four faculty members for sexual harassment of students, The News-Journal reported. The firings followed an investigation prompted by a student complaint. The university did not reveal details or the names of the faculty members involved, but said that the incidents involved inappropriate conduct with female students. Trudie Kibbe Reed, the president, said in a statement: "This kind of behavior has no place on any college campus -- particularly a church-related, values-based institution like Bethune-Cookman University. But, this isn't something to be swept under the rug. It will be dealt with immediately and with a clear message -- not on this campus, not with our students."
Canada's Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council issued a statement Monday indicating that it has accepted assurances from York University that an upcoming controversial conference that received a grant from the agency is largely unchanged from when the council awarded the funds. The council "accepted their assurance that planning for the conference is proceeding in a manner consistent with provisions of the Grant Holder’s Guide for the program," said the statement -- but that is not ending the controversy. Faculty leaders in Canada say that the additional questioning about the conference shouldn't have taken place at all. The conference is called “Israel/ Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace,” and many of the papers to be given at the conference promote the idea of the "one-state solution" in which Israel and Palestinian areas would be combined into a single, secular state – an idea many in Israel view as equivalent to giving up their right to exist as a nation. Many of the papers also compare the current situation in Israel with that of apartheid-era South Africa. The additional inquiry by the social science council came after Gary Goodyear, minister of state for science and technology, asked for reconsideration of the grant for the conference -- and faculty groups see that request and the council's additional questioning as an inappropriate case of political meddling. The Canadian Association of University Teachers issued a letter to the council Friday saying it was "deeply troubled" that the council complied with the minister's request for an additional review. The letter, to the president of the council, said: "At the very least, you owe an apology to the conference organizers for your failure to protect the integrity of the granting process of SSHRC. You need publicly to assure the Canadian academic community that your bowing to political pressure will not happen again. If you cannot or will not do this, we question your fitness to continue in your present position."
The scandal over admissions at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign -- in which the politically connected received preference, many times over the objections of admissions officials -- is following its provost to California. Linda Katehi, the provost, was recently named the next chancellor of the University of California at Davis, and now legislators want to know what role -- if any -- she played in admissions, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. Katehi declined to comment to a California reporter on the situation last week, leading to a demand from one lawmaker that she respond to "corruption charges." While the legislator was not aware of it at the time, Katehi had distributed a note to some at Davis indicating that she was not involved in the scandal. "I want to be clear to you and others at UC Davis that I was not involved in the admissions decisions," she wrote. "The so-called 'Category I' admissions process was not part of the regular admissions system and was handled at a higher level in the institution," she wrote, adding that she supported "transparent" admissions systems. State Sen. Leland Yee, who is pushing for more state oversight of the University of California, was not impressed with her answer, and told the newspaper: "It's interesting that she says, 'It's above my pay grade,' and that's that.... Is she going to continue this 'see no evil, hear no evil,' approach, and just cover up what may be going on?"
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to consider an appeal of a dispute over the circumstances in which bankruptcy plans that include student loans can include a lower level of repayment than would have been the case under normal circumstances. The court is considering the case of Francisco J. Espinosa, whose repayment plan was seen as too lax by United Student Aid Funds. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit sided with Espinosa, but other circuits have been more favorable to lenders in similar situations.