Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, December 28, 2009 - 3:00am

John Runowicz, former budget coordinator for New York University's chemistry department, was charged Wednesday with submitting $409,000 in bogus expenses -- and succeeding for about five years in fooling his employers, The New York Daily News reported. Authorities say that Runowicz gathered receipts from a Manhattan liquor store and submitted them as expenses, believing (correctly it turns out) that no one would pay attention to what the receipts were actually for. His lawyer declined to comment on the case, but Runowicz pleaded not guilty.

Monday, December 28, 2009 - 3:00am

Sarah Thomas on Saturday became the first woman to be a referee in a college bowl game, The Detroit Free Press reported. Thomas was a line judge in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 - 3:00am

Oppenheimer Funds, Inc. announced Tuesday that it had agreed to pay $77 million to the State of Illinois to settle a lawsuit over the company's management of the state's college savings plan. Illinois had alleged in the lawsuit that the company had invested money invested by families participating in the Bright Start 529 savings plan in riskier investments, resulting in big losses in 2008. Oppenheimer admits no wrongdoing in the settlement, but the money it agreed to pay will be distributed to participants in the program. Oppenheimer had previously settled with New Mexico and Oregon.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 - 3:00am

Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania has pledged to improve the women's softball field and provide additional funds for women's athletics to settle a reopened lawsuit under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The university settled a Title IX suit two years ago, but it was reopened after some female athletes said that the university failed to follow through on all of its pledges to improve opportunities for women's programs. While the university denied wrongdoing, it agreed to the additional enhancements.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 - 3:00am

An Ethiopian court has sentenced a Bucknell University professor to death, but the sentence was in absentia as the professor is at Bucknell, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The professor is Berhanu Nega, who teaches economics. He calls the charges of which he was convicted -- that he and four others planned an attack on the government's leaders - a tactic to undermine those like himself who have called for democratic reforms in his home country. "By delivering this sentence they are trying to terrorize the population more than anything else," Nega told the Inquirer. "It is their way of telling everybody if you fight for democracy we will kill you, that is the message they are sending."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 - 3:00am

The British government has urged universities to develop "fast track" college degrees that could be finished in two years instead of the traditional three, The Guardian reported. Government officials said such degrees could save money both for students and the government. University and student groups are skeptical of the idea.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009 - 3:00am

The National Institutes of Health is planning to propose new rules for researchers receiving its grants, requiring that they disclose financial ties to medical entities and barring them from publishing articles that are "ghostwritten" by drug company officials, USA Today reported. The proposed rules follow Congressional inquiries into reports of conflicts of interest by some prominent biomedical researchers.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009 - 3:00am

An adjunct humanities professor has sued the president of Edison Community College, in Ohio, over the president’s refusal to rehire him because he videotaped a contentious board meeting. Quincy Essinger filed a complaint in federal court against Kenneth A. Yowell -- who has led the college for more than 22 years -- five months after Inside Higher Ed reported on the ouster of Essinger and Stephen D. Marlowe, a full-time English professor. Essinger is seeking financial damages for a range of charges against Yowell ranging from defamation to having his First Amendment rights violated. Both Essinger and Marlowe were publicly critical of Yowell and were active in a faculty vote of no confidence in his leadership earlier this year. Marlowe was reinstated in July, after it was noted that he was terminated in violation of his contract. Essinger, however, has not been in contact with the college since and has never been given a formal reason for his not being rehired. Mindy McNutt, former Edison vice president, and Yowell told Inside Higher Ed in July that Essinger’s having videotaped the board meeting was one of Yowell’s reasons for not rehiring him. Monday, Yowell wrote, via e-mail, that Essinger's suit against him and the college "has no merit" and "is replete with factual errors."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009 - 3:00am

The University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa already is on record in favor of skipping a few days of classes to allow students to attend the national championship of college football. Football, it seems, also trumps the legal system. The Christian Science Monitor reported that a state judge agreed to delay a civil trial so lawyers could attend the game. One lawyer's motion requesting the delay said: "Such an event only comes infrequently during a person’s lifetime and is an achievement of such a magnitude that all involved in this litigation should want everyone to fully participate in this achievement."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009 - 3:00am

Ain Shams University, in Cairo, has announced that it will appeal a court ruling allowing its female students to wear a full face veil - the niqab - in campus dormitories, AFP reported. Many Egyptian educators have opposed the wearing of the niqab on campus, and another court ruling is expected soon on a university ban on the niqab during exams. The court's ruling in the Ain Shams case, however, said that wearing the face veil "is one example of freedom that no administrative body or any other body can ban."

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