Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, June 5, 2009 - 3:00am

Supporters of Zotero, a popular tool for scholars to save and organize digital resources, are celebrating the dismissal by a Virginia judge of a suit by Thomson Reuters over the use of software in the project. Zotero is based at the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. The suit had frustrated many scholars, who viewed it as interfering with a valuable tool.

Friday, June 5, 2009 - 3:00am

The University of California at Los Angeles announced Wednesday that James Franco, the actor and UCLA alumnus, has backed out of his planned speech on June 12 at the graduation ceremony for the College of Letters and Science. A statement from Franco, released by the university, said: "I deeply regret not being able to keep my commitment to giving the commencement speech at UCLA's graduation this year. Unfortunately the date conflicts with me needing to be on location to begin pre-production on my next film. I wish everyone in the 2009 class the best of luck in all of their future endeavors." UCLA says it is searching for a substitute speaker. Some students had opposed the selection of Franco in the first place, but they wanted a replacement months ago, when the university had more time to find an alternative.

Friday, June 5, 2009 - 3:00am

The chancellor of the Texas A&M University System is in an increasingly public fight with the president of the flagship campus at College Station. Mike McKinney has floated the idea that the chancellor's job that he holds might also directly lead the College Station campus, eliminating the job of Elsa Murano, who is the first woman and first Latino to hold the presidency there. Faculty and others oppose the idea of merging the positions. On Thursday, McKinney's first-year evaluation of Murano was released by the university. The Houston Chronicle reported that the chancellor gave Murano average or below average ratings in most category and said that she doesn't carry out policies with which she disagrees. Murano “fails to assume responsibility for decisions. (Should work WITH faculty, not FOR),” the review said. Murano issued a response in which she said: "I completely and absolutely disagree and reject the results of this evaluation.”

Friday, June 5, 2009 - 3:00am

The South Carolina Supreme Court on Thursday ordered Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican, to apply for the $700 million in federal stimulus funds -- most of which would go to public education at all levels -- set aside for the state, The State reported. Sanford has been critical of the stimulus plan and has tried to keep South Carolina from spending most of the stimulus funds. The General Assembly was in a legal dispute with the governor over whether it could order him to take the funds, and the Supreme Court backed the legislators.

Thursday, June 4, 2009 - 3:00am

The Georgia Board of Regents has increased the cap on the use of lecturers at public colleges from 10 to 20 percent of a public college or university's faculty, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Lecturers do not have tenure or research responsibilities, and so tend to teach more courses each semester than do professors. Board officials said that they raised the cap to allow colleges to make more hires, despite tough budget times, in high-demand areas. At the same time, the goal of the program is to keep the tenure-track as the norm for the faculty. The cap does not apply to part-time positions, which have been used to date by many colleges, and some faculty leaders questioned why those slots should not also be capped so more tenure-track positions would be created.

Thursday, June 4, 2009 - 3:00am

An advocacy group for public higher education in Massachusetts has filed a federal complaint charging the state with diverting federal stimulus funds from higher education to other areas, The Boston Globe reported. Massachusetts received a waiver, allowing it to spend stimulus funds designated for education on other areas for the next fiscal year, but the complaint charges that the state is trying to "frontload" spending so that more funds are used under the waiver and less will be available for public higher education. State officials said that they were spending the dollars consistent with their obligations under the waiver, and that they needed the flexibility because of the severity of the budget crisis in the state.

Thursday, June 4, 2009 - 3:00am

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has cut off the access its lobbying branch had to the student information database, The News-Gazette reported. A university spokesman said that there was no reason for those who lobby for the university to have immediate access to student records. Some university officials have worried that the access allowed lobbyists to see and share information about students -- possibly in violation of privacy protection laws. The university has been facing a scandal over the last week, following reports in the Chicago Tribune about the way the university admitted students based on their political connections, sometimes over the objections of admissions officials.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009 - 3:00am

The State Department has pledged to speed up the visa review process for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from outside the United States -- many of whom have been experiencing serious delays, The New York Times reported. The department said it would bring in extra staff to deal with a backlog, and would also adopt new procedures to prevent future delays. Eventually, routine visa applications should be dealt with in two weeks.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009 - 3:00am

Harvard University plans to announce this week that it is creating an endowed visiting professorship in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies, and that it believes that its chair will be the first of its kind in American higher education, The New York Times reported. (In 2003, the University of Maryland at College Park announced a planned bequest to endow such a chair, so Maryland may have bragging rights on the first announced plans.) The Harvard chair will be named for F.O. Matthiessen, a Harvard literary scholar whom -- as described by a draft press release quoted by the Times -- was "an unusual example of a gay man who lived his sexuality as an ‘open secret’ in the mid-twentieth century,” and who “leapt to his death from the window of a Boston hotel room” in 1950, despondent over the death of his partner.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009 - 3:00am

Loyola College in Maryland announced Tuesday that it will no longer require the SAT or the ACT for admission. Those who wish not to submit scores may instead provide an additional teacher recommendation and/or essay. Loyola’s president, Rev. Brian F. Linnane, said in the announcement: “High standardized test scores, while a laudable accomplishment, tell you far less about a person’s talents and potential to succeed in college than course selection, grades earned, personal statements, and extracurricular involvement and achievement. We believe this approach will allow us to become a more inclusive university that recognizes more fully the great depth and breadth of gifts and experiences our prospective students could bring to our community.”

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