Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009 - 3:00am

The University of Pittsburgh will not accept a bequest of $225,000 from George Sodini, who opened fire in a health club this month, killing three women and injuring nine before killing himself, The Tribune-Review reported. Sodini was a graduate of Pitt and the bequest became public this week. But Pitt announced that it believed any available funds from the bequest should go to victims of the shootings and their families.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009 - 3:00am

Erasmus University, in the Netherlands, has fired Tariq Ramadan from a visiting professor position he held, citing his having hosted a show on Iranian television, the Associated Press reported. Ramadan is a leading thinker on Islam who teaches at the University of Oxford. He has been engaged in a lengthy court battle to come to the United States for academic positions and to talk with academic groups -- and the last decision in the case was favorable to him, but not final. Erasmus said that it was wrong for Ramadan to continue to participate in anything in Iran after the crackdown there that followed the elections.

In response, Ramadan posted a statement on his Web site saying that his actions are being misinterpreted, and that while he believes in engaging Iranians, he has repeatedly criticized violence, discrimination and other actions. "When I agreed to host a television program on Islam and contemporary life, I chose the path of critical debate. I accepted no obligations," he wrote. "My guests have included atheists, rabbis, priests, women with and without headscarves, all invited to debate issues like freedom, reason, interfaith dialogue, Sunni versus Shi’a Islam, violence, jihad, love, art, to name only a few. I challenge my critics to scrutinize these programs and in them to find the slightest evidence of support for the Iranian regime. My program proclaims its openness to the world; all guests are treated with equal respect."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009 - 3:00am

Agnes Scott College has decided to no longer require the SAT or ACT for admissions. College officials cited research prepared last year by the National Association for College Admission Counseling as well as internal work suggesting that test scores weren't essential to make good admissions decisions. Those who opt not to submit scores will either have to have an interview or submit a graded writing sample. American University is experimenting with a plan to go test-optional by offering that choice this year to early decision applicants only. A spokeswoman said that option would still be open to early decision applicants who are deferred and moved into the regular admissions pool.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009 - 3:00am

An academic study has found that the colleges of the University of Oxford were more likely in 2002 to offer undergraduate spots to male than female applicants, even though the female applicants had better grades, The Guardian reported. Oxford officials said that the data are out of date, but also denied that any discrimination took place in 2002.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009 - 3:00am

In this budget year, many faculties (unionized or not) have been asked by administrations to accept salary cuts or freezes or other modifications of their work arrangements. The Collective Bargaining Congress of the American Association of University Professors issued a statement Tuesday urging faculty groups to resist such calls -- unless they receive more power in shaping the direction of their institutions.

"The AAUP thereby resolves that faculty should work to turn this situation around, and should not give their pay away in temporary measures that do not structurally readjust higher education’s direction," says the statement. "Turning the situation around means that faculty should (a) gain access to full information about institutional finances and all other strategically relevant data, ensuring that institutions open their books to shed light on the institution’s overall condition; (b) exercise a fuller voice in analyzing and making recommendations about budgets and strategic directions, opening the boardroom door to take a central role in institutional decision making; & (c) pursue measures that reverse the long standing trends and protect the core academic functions of higher education, opening up educational opportunity by reinvesting in educational expenditures."

The full statement may be found here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009 - 3:00am

Authorities arrested four people Monday at a protest at the University of California at Berkeley over the continued tenure there of John Yoo, a law professor who during work in the Bush administration wrote several memos used to justify the use of torture on suspected terrorists, the Associated Press reported. Yoo's position at Berkeley has been defended by law school leaders on academic freedom grounds, but others have argued that his actions were so reprehensible that normal standards shouldn't apply.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009 - 3:00am

Many University of California professors are urging a federal judge to alter the proposed settlement of the suit against Google over its plans to build a mammoth digital library, The New York Times reported. The professors are not asking for the settlement to be blocked, but to be altered, arguing that the authors' groups that started the litigation didn't adequately represent the interests of academic authors, who share their concerns about Google dominating access to older works, but who are more likely than other authors to value the ideals of open access.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009 - 3:00am

Ever since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, Southern University has complained that its campus there has not received the federal help to which it was entitled. On Monday, that dispute was settled with the announcement from Janet Napolitano, secretary of homeland security, that Southern's New Orleans campus will receive $32 million to allow it to rebuild four academic buildings, The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009 - 3:00am

With the new academic year starting and colleges expecting many outbreaks of H1N1 virus, one of the first outbreaks is at Oklahoma State University. Three cases have been confirmed and many more are expected, NewsOK.com reported. All of the cases have been mild.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009 - 3:00am

Nicholls State University’s redesigned mascot has angered some alumni who find it has a striking resemblance “to a soldier from Adolf Hitler's Third Reich or a member of Soviet Russia's Red Army.” The Times-Picayune reports that the university spent $30,000 to rebrand the logo of Col. Tillou – the mascot named after Francis Redding Tillou Nicholls, university namesake, former Louisiana governor and Confederate officer. The new logo replaces an older one – with a white-bearded man wearing a gray uniform – that was retired in 2004 after a local chapter of the NAACP found it offensive. One alumnus told The Times-Picayune that “the new image seems evil, faceless and inhuman." The university plans to stick by the new mascot logo, for now. Those skeptical of it are reserving judgment until they see the university's soon-to-be-unveiled costumed mascot. (This corrects an earlier version of this brief.)

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