Quick Takes: Bush Library Appears Headed for SMU, Furor Grows Over Holocaust Deniers Conclave, Teen Drug Use Drops, 'Gross Clinic' to Stay in Philly, Calls for UK Academic Freedom, Belmont's Non-Baptist Trustees, College Embezzler Convicted

December 22, 2006
  • The committee appointed by President Bush to pick the site for his presidential library announced Thursday that it was entering into final negotiations with Southern Methodist University as the site. While the announcement is not a final agreement, it suggests that SMU will emerge as the winner of the competition to be the host of the library. The other finalists were Baylor University and the University of Dallas. SMU, which counts alumna Laura Bush among its trustees, has been pushing hard for the library. But some professors have been worried about the plans, especially recent reports that the president's aides envision a center to promote the president's ideas and to sponsor scholarship that praises his record.
  • Anger is growing at St. Francis Xavier University, in Nova Scotia, over a political science professor, Shiraz Dossa, who attended last week's "conference" in Iran on the Holocaust -- an event condemned worldwide as a platform for Holocaust deniers. More than 100 professors at St. Francis Xavier have signed a letter stating that while they uphold Dossa's academic freedom "to espouse any views that he pleases," they are "nevertheless profoundly embarrassed by his participation in the Holocaust-denial conference," The Globe and Mail reported. Dossa is not responding to requests for interviews, but previously said that he is not a Holocaust denier and that he didn't realize the conference was going to have many such people in attendance. Organizers of the letter -- which does not call for any punishment of Dossa -- said that they didn't find that claim credible, given that Dossa is a political scientist and the conference and its aims were well publicized in advance.
  • A national survey by the University of Michigan found continued declines in the percentages of teens reporting use of illegal drugs.
  • One of the most famous portrayals of medical education, the 1875 Thomas Eakins classic "Gross Clinic," will stay in Philadelphia. The painting shows medical instruction at Thomas Jefferson University, which has owned the painting but upset many in Philadelphia last month by announcing plans to sell the work to the National Gallery of Art and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art for $68 million. The university said that the sale would allow for improvements of its facilities and educational programs -- and agreed to let Philadelphia arts institutions try to match the price. On Thursday, a coalition of philanthropic groups announced that they had raised enough money for the painting to be purchased and displayed by the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
  • Sixty British academics have issued a public letter calling for a change in the law to explicitly protect academic freedom and to give complete freedom of speech to those who teach at universities, The Guardian reported. The professors cite incidents in which colleagues with controversial views have been attacked or the self-censorship of some who wish to avoid controversy. An official of the main faculty union in Britain expressed some caution about the new movement, telling the newspaper: "We should distinguish between the crucial right of an academic to question and test received wisdom and any suggestions that this is the same as an unlimited right of a university academic to express, for example, anti-Semitic, homophobic or misogynist abuse where they were using a position of authority to bully students or staff, or potentially breach the duty of care that universities have towards students or staff."
  • Belmont University, which has sought to redefine its relationship with the Tennessee Baptist Convention to limit the convention's control over the institution, announced Thursday that it had appointed eight new trustees, including seven who are the first non-Baptists on its board. A university statement described the new board members as the "first class of trustees elected to office under Belmont’s plan to broaden representation on its board to include persons who are members of a diversity of Christian churches."
  • A California jury on Thursday convicted a former administrator at Riverside Community College of participating in a scheme with two other former college officials to use their positions to snare $1.2 million in state fundsby operating public safety classes for Riverside and another community college through a private company they operated, the Press-Enterprise reported. William O'Rafferty faces up to 10 years in prison after being convicted on 10 felony charges, including conflict of interest and grand theft, for the scheme in which they . The two other men had earlier pleaded guilty.
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