Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, October 2, 2009 - 3:00am

The Ig Nobel Prizes, the annual spoof of the Nobel Prizes, were announced Thursday night. The honors include the following:

  • Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of Newcastle University, in Britain, won in veterinary medicine for showing that cows who have names give more milk than cows that are nameless.
  • Stephan Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael Thali and Beat Kneubuehl of the University of Bern, in Switzerland, won the honor for peace for determining — by experiment — whether it is better to be smashed over the head with a full bottle of beer or with an empty bottle.
  • Javier Morales, Miguel Apátiga, and Victor M. Castaño of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, won in chemistry for creating diamonds from tequila.
  • Katherine K. Whitcome of the University of Cincinnati, Daniel E. Lieberman of Harvard University, and Liza J. Shapiro of the University of Texas, won in physics for determining why pregnant women don't tip over.

The complete list of winners may be found here. The other Nobels kick off Monday with the prize in medicine.

Thursday, October 1, 2009 - 3:00am

Andrew Hamilton, the new vice chancellor of the University of Oxford, wants to bring major scholarships to the university to assure access at a time of rising tuition, The Guardian reported. Hamilton, formerly the provost at Yale University, said that the aid policies of elite American institutions should be a model for Oxford, but the newspaper noted that his embrace of the approach of private American universities may raise fears of also following that model on tuition rates.

Thursday, October 1, 2009 - 3:00am

James Shapiro, a Columbia University English professor, has long been known for his course on the art of the book review. But The New York Observer reported that he is declaring an indefinite hiatus for the class. The reason? Shapiro said: “There are intellectual reasons to teach the course again.... But what’s no longer there is the possibility of training a generation of book reviewers, since, as you know, newspapers around the country are shedding their book reviews, or shrinking these sections.... I see a lot of talent pass through my classrooms, and little opportunity for those talented students to have the opportunity early on … to review and get paid for it.”

Thursday, October 1, 2009 - 3:00am

Joel Thirer resigned Wednesday as athletic director at the State University of New York at Binghamton, following a series of incidents involving the institution's basketball team, The Press & Sun-Bulletin reported. The Binghamton basketball team reached the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament in March, but has faced questions about whether the athletic success was coming at the expense of the university's outstanding academic reputation. In the last week, six members of the basketball team were dismissed, one of them after being arrested on charges of selling cocaine. Lois DeFleur, president of the university, issued a statement saying that she would hire an external consultant to conduct an audit of the athletic program, and that she has directed Kevin Broadus, the basketball coach, to provide her with "a recruitment and supervision plan" for the team, including specific "criteria, processes and practices that will reflect the university's academic and behavioral standards."

Thursday, October 1, 2009 - 3:00am

Southern Methodist University, which enacted numerous new policies in the wake of a series of student deaths related to substance abuse, has made progress but still has problems, according to a new report explored in The Dallas Morning News. For instance, some students have been using a new "amnesty" policy in which students who seek medical help for themselves or a friend do not face sanctions for violating various rules. But many students are unaware of the policy. The report also notes that some academic departments have made a strong push to add Friday class times, as part of an effort to avoid making all weekends last at least three days.

Thursday, October 1, 2009 - 3:00am

The day after a large student brawl at Bethune-Cookman College, two dormitory managers were fired after being blamed for a role in the incident, The Orlando Sentinel reported. The brawl -- termed a riot by some local reporters -- took place after a sprinkler system went off and students were prevented from returning to their rooms. A statement from Trudie Kibbe Reed, president of the university, said that the university's surveillance video and student video revealed the employees "exacerbated an already tense situation" and that some students charged the employees fought a student and later sprayed students with a fire extinguisher. "While I would prefer that other measures were used in crisis situations, I cannot fully blame students for taking action when one of their own was in harm's way. I do not have students who are thugs, who 'riot' with no provocation," the statement said.

Thursday, October 1, 2009 - 3:00am

The University of Phoenix is in discussions aimed at settling a lawsuit filed by former employees who accuse the for-profit college of violating federal law by paying incentives to its recruiters, the institution's parent company, the Apollo Group, announced Wednesday. The lawsuit, which accuses Phoenix of defrauding the federal government and was brought under the federal False Claims Act, is pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals, and the university potentially has billions of dollars at stake. Apollo's announcement said that the company and lawyers for the plaintiffs had requested a 45-day stay of all proceedings in the case. Lawyers for the plaintiffs could not be reached for comment.

Thursday, October 1, 2009 - 3:00am

A federal appeals court on Wednesday directed a lower court to dismiss a patent infringement challenge that Stanford University filed against Roche Pharmaceuticals, finding that the university had not sufficiently protected its rights to an HIV-related technology that one of its researchers developed, in part, while doing work for an outside company that has since become part of Roche. The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit partially overturns a lower court judge's 2005 ruling that invalidated the patents in question; the appeals panel's ruling says the lower court should not have reached that point, because Stanford had essentially let its rights to the invention pass to the researcher, who in turn assigned them to the Roche-owned company. Officials at Stanford did not respond to a request for comment.

Thursday, October 1, 2009 - 3:00am

The Senate on Wednesday joined the House of Representatives in approving legislation that will keep all federal agencies operating through October at their 2009 budget levels, while lawmakers continue to work on spending bills for the 2010 fiscal year, which started today.

Thursday, October 1, 2009 - 3:00am

Students have been occupying the Graduate Student Commons at the University of California at Santa Cruz for a week now, protesting deep budget cuts being carried out at public colleges and universities in California. University officials have to date expressed concern about the situation but have not attempted to remove the protesters, The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported. A statement on the protest Web site, Occupy California, says: "We are occupying this building at the University of California, Santa Cruz, because the current situation has become untenable. Across the state, people are losing their jobs and getting evicted, while social services are slashed. California’s leaders from state officials to university presidents have demonstrated how they will deal with this crisis: everything and everyone is subordinated to the budget. They insulate themselves from the consequences of their own fiscal mismanagement, while those who can least afford it are left shouldering the burden. Every solution on offer only accelerates the decay of the State of California. It remains for the people to seize what is theirs."

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