Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009 - 3:00am

Congressional negotiators completed work Tuesday on a compromise spending bill that would provide $167.5 million apiece in the 2010 fiscal year to the National Endowments for the Humanities and for the Arts. The compromise legislation, which would fund the Department of the Interior and several other agencies, would give the two cultural agencies more than the $161.3 million that the Senate proposed providing, but slightly less than the $170 million that the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee would have provided.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009 - 3:00am

The following meetings, conferences, seminars and other events will be held in the coming weeks in and around higher education. They are among the many such that appear in our calendar on The Lists on Inside Higher Ed, which also includes a comprehensive catalog of job changes in higher education. This listing will appear as a regular feature in this space.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009 - 3:00am

Southwestern College, a community college outside San Diego, has been under fire since last week's suspension of four faculty members, following a protest that criticized the administration. With professors saying that they are being punished for expressing their views, the college late Monday issued a new statement -- but that statement (while noting that one suspension has been lifted) only further angered the professors. The statement says: "Four faculty members were placed on paid administrative leave on Thursday, October 22, 2009, and three faculty members remain on paid administrative leave at this time, pending the outcome of the investigation. Please understand that no formal charges or allegations have been made against any College faculty member or employee at this time. The student rally held between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. on October 22, 2009, is not the focus of the investigation. The college is investigating safety and security issues that arose after the approved organized student rally. The college respects, values and is committed to lawful free expression and the student rally provided an opportunity for our students to voice their concerns and to underscore the challenges that all community college students, and community colleges, are experiencing. The college is committed to maintaining a safe environment for our students and staff, which is the focus of the investigation."

College officials did not respond to requests for clarifications on the statement. But Philip Lopez, an English professor who is president of the faculty union, said that the statement only added to the questions about the incident. If the college is now on record as saying that there are no charges or allegations, why is it appropriate to remove faculty members from their classes and ban them from campus, he asked. Lopez said this action violates basic due process rights. "If there are no charges, why were we placed on leave?," he asked. "Rumor? Reputation? Union-busting? Poor personal hygiene?"

Tuesday, October 27, 2009 - 3:00am

Carnegie Mellon University must defend itself against charges that it fraudulently and negligently misrepresented the state of its research on microwave technology to an investor who lost millions on the work, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled Monday. The court's decision, which overturned a lower court's 2007 judgment, finds that the investor in question, Christian Bouriez, presented sufficient evidence to suggest that Carnegie Mellon's alleged misrepresentations -- about whether researchers had “proven” and “demonstrated" that their microwave technology actually worked, among other things -- were a "substantial factor" in the eventual loss of the $5 million that Bouriez invested in the project, which was later the subject of an arbitration process through which Carnegie Mellon was ordered to pay nearly $10 million to its former corporate partner. Carnegie Mellon officials did not respond to a request for comment on the appeals court's ruling Monday.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009 - 3:00am

In 2005, Syracuse University created MayFest, a one-day festival of academic events, with regular classes called off for the day. The Syracuse Post-Standard reported that students responded by organizing massive off-campus parties on that day. So this year, the university has renamed the event -- and will not cancel classes.

Monday, October 26, 2009 - 3:00am

Idaho State University lacks sufficient evidence to justify the termination of a tenured professor charged with a pattern of abusive and disruptive behavior, a faculty panel ruled Friday. Habib Sadid, an engineering professor who has been at Idaho State for more than 20 years, was suspended and barred from campus in August. Sadid has challenged administrators publicly, and in 2005 he organized a no-confidence vote in the university's former president, who later resigned amid protests about his compensation. The panel ruled 4:1 in favor of Sadid, and the lone vote against him came from a faculty member appointed to the panel by the university's provost. In its ruling, the panel said due process had not been followed and they found "the absence of required documentation disturbing." The panel added, "After years of satisfactory evaluations, the short interval to termination without the opportunity for remediation was troubling to the majority, particularly in light of the fact that the recommendation to terminate was based on a claimed long-term pattern of behavior." The panel's findings are advisory, and the university's president is still authorized to terminate Sadid, according to university rules.

Monday, October 26, 2009 - 3:00am

A marine conservationist who has battled with -- and, it appears, lost to -- the University of Alaska and National Sea Grant Program officials over his perceived advocacy and access to grant money says he will leave the university. Rick Steiner had accused Sea Grant officials of pressuring Alaska administrators to strip federal funds from Steiner, citing work that they considered to be inappropriate advocacy for a federal extension agent, and blamed university officials for caving to the pressure. The university rejected Steiner's final appeal this month, and Steiner said in an e-mail Sunday that with the faculty union there declining to pursue outside arbitration, "it is abundantly obvious I cannot do my work from this institution."

Monday, October 26, 2009 - 3:00am

The University of the Free State, a South African institution, has been facing intense criticism over an announcement that it would readmit four white students whose racist videos -- showing the humiliation of black students -- set off a huge debate in the country. The university had said that the decision would be one of racial reconciliation. But now officials are reconsidering. A statement released Sunday said: "In the light of the criticism of decisions related to the [video] matter, the management of the University of the Free State (UFS) has decided to re-open consultations and discussions with all stakeholders concerned in order to deliberate on a way forward for the institution and especially for the staff and students concerned."

Monday, October 26, 2009 - 3:00am

Faculty members at the University of Oregon -- frustrated by their salary levels and dealings with the administration -- have invited the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers to organize the professors there, The Eugene Register-Guard reported. The two groups are exploring a drive to organize faculty members at Oregon State University. While many public colleges have faculty unions, they tend to be at community colleges and regional universities, not at flagship research universities.

Monday, October 26, 2009 - 3:00am

Harvard University is investigating how a coffee maker in one of its medical school buildings became tainted with a potentially deadly preservative used in many laboratories, The Boston Globe reported. Six people who had coffee made there were hospitalized in August, although all were back to work after a day or two.

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