Lord Mandelson, who as Britain's business secretary has pushed deep budget cuts and other policy changes opposed by many academic leaders, fought back Thursday with a speech in which he said higher education was not receiving more than its share of cuts and that academics needed to be more open to change, The Guardian reported. Academics "think they have a right to be set in aspic in what they do," he said. "They are using the argument about spending reductions as a screen or a cloak behind which resistance to any sort of change and reform can be conducted." He also repeated his call for universities to offer more two-year degrees (in contrast to the traditional three-year program in Britain), saying that such programs could economically respond to increased student demand.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Ivor van Heerden, who was a leading whistle blower in the analysis of what went wrong after Katrina hit New Orleans, is suing Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, charging that he was fired from his position at the university's hurricane research because of anger over his criticisms of the Army Corps of Engineers, The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported. LSU officials deny that he lost his position for that reason, but decline to discuss specifics, citing the confidentiality of employment matters.
Gretchen Bataille announced Wednesday that she is leaving the presidency of the University of North Texas at the end of the month, stunning many on the campus. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. Bataille was named to the position in 2006, and has been a forceful advocate for the institution's push to become a research university. Student leaders, who said that they considered her a strong ally, said they were concerned about the news. No explanation has been offered for the sudden resignation.
Educators and schools -- at all levels -- are experiencing more attacks by government and other officials, according to a report released Wednesday by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The study includes numerous examples of attacks on higher education, such as a scholar in Chad who was attacked with a grenade by government officials after he wrote about a previous regime, and assassination attempts on a Columbian academic who wrote articles linking government officials to the illegal drug industry.
The University of Iowa has canceled a student-run theater's planned showing of a pornographic film this weekend, The Iowa City Press-Citizen reported. A spokesman said: "It is clearly not in the public interest for a public facility at a public institution to be showing a film of this nature. If showing the film were essential to an educational objective, the situation would be different. The intent in this case was to provide entertainment."
Stand With Us, a group supportive of Israel, has placed video on YouTube showing Monday's incident at the University of California at Irvine in which the Israeli ambassador to the United States was repeatedly interrupted with shouts and jeers, delaying and disrupting his talk. The video shows students shouting, the increasingly frustrated responses from university officials and several students -- some of whom were arrested -- being escorted from the auditorium.
U.S. Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), a former physics professor who championed academic research and especially science education during eight terms in Congress, announced Wednesday that he would resign when his current term ends this year. Ehlers taught physics at the University of California at Berkeley and Michigan's Calvin College for more than 20 years before entering Congress in 1993. He has served on the House science and education committees during much of his tenure, and heads the STEMEd Caucus.
Baker University is eliminating five majors -- molecular bioscience, wildlife biology, computer information systems, physical education and political science. The Lawrence Journal-World reported that some courses will still be taught in these areas, and that eliminating these majors at the Kansas institution will save about $400,000.
A Wisconsin judge has ruled that the University of Wisconsin at Madison does not have to reveal the anonymous donor of $15 million for a new music facility, The Associated Press reported. The owner of a bar that is fighting to block the university's building plans sought a court order that would have allowed them to question the donors. Fund raisers expressed concern that if the bar owner had won the right to know the donors' names, other potential donors who want anonymity would have been discouraged from giving. The bar's property could be destroyed in the university's plans for its new facility.
Calvin College has become the first institution covered by a new rule of the American Philosophical Association of requiring any college that violates any part of the association's anti-bias policy to have job listings with the association flagged. The rule was adopted late last year in response to the concerns of many philosophers about having their association list jobs from institutions that do not hire gay professors. One aim of the policy, proponents said, was to then be able to lobby colleges to change their policies. Some philosophers are now trying to do just that with a petition urging the college to accept gay professors. "One might puzzle over a form of Christianity that is committed to the inequality of people, and in particular of job applicants for positions in philosophy. More disturbing, however, is the stigma Calvin College feels entitled to place upon those who are doubly exposed: as lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgendered in a society that has yet to accept them, and as people seeking jobs during difficult economic times," the petition says. "Obtaining academic positions in philosophy is never an easy task; doing so in the face of the current economic climate is nothing less than traumatic. That Calvin College would engage in a most egregious form of discrimination under these circumstances strikes us as not only deplorable but indeed as displaying a lack of basic human concern."
A spokesman for the college said he could not comment on the petition. The college requires faculty members to be in good standing with the Christian Reformed Church (or some similar churches), and Calvin's statement about sexual orientation states that all people should be treated with "respect" and "understanding," and that sexual orientation "seems usually to lie outside the scope of an individual's will." But the statement also says that sexual activity under church teachings is allowed only in heterosexual marriage. The philosophy association's anti-bias policy specifically states that it is not acceptable for colleges to say that they welcome gay people, but only if they are celibate.