Quick Takes: Saint Peter's President Dies in Fall, The Secretary's Summit on Higher Ed, NIH Priorities in Tight Budget Year, Suit Over Residents' Social Security Payments, Beer Pong Research

December 28, 2006
  • The president of Saint Peter's College, the Rev. James N. Loughran, died in an apparent fall at his campus home over the weekend, The Star-Ledger of Newark reported. Father Loughran, who had been president of the Jesuit institution in New Jersey since 1995, had also served as president of Loyola Marymount University, acting president of Brooklyn College, and interim president of Mount Saint Mary’s College during his long career. He also served on the faculties and in administrative roles at Fordham and John Carroll Universities.
  • The "summit" that Education Secretary Margaret Spellings promised (or threatened, as some in higher education undoubtedly view it) to hold as part of her plan to carry out the recommendations of her Commission on the Future of Higher Education will take place in Washington March 21-22, the Education Department said in invitations sent out just before Christmas. In e-mail notices that invited college groups to nominate other participants, Sara Martinez Tucker, the new under secretary of education, said the summit was designed to "focus on galvanizing action and distributing leadership and accountability across all sectors." Its work will emphasize five key priorities, she said: "aligning K-12 and higher education expectations; increasing need-based aid; using accreditation to support and emphasize student learning outcomes; serving adults and other non-traditional students; expanding affordability through increased transparency of costs."
  • The National Institutes of Health has issued guidance on how it will attempt to meet the demand for new grants in a year in which its budget will be flat -- while applications continue to increase. Priorities (in order) are: to maintain a number of new investigators comparable to the average of the most recent five years, to support first-time grantees applying for their first renewal and who receive review scores near the typical score for awarding continued support, to provide grants to "the greatest extent possible" to established grantees with insufficient other support and who receive review scores near the normal level for continued support. Each institute will also have "flexibility to adjust its policies for funding other mechanisms according to its specific scientific and programmatic imperatives."
  • The University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic have sued the federal government to try to recover $2.8 million in Social Security payments made by medical residents at the two institutions, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.
  • Who says Science and Nature publish all the vital research breakthroughs? A loyal reader pointed us to The GW Hatchet, George Washington University's student paper, with breaking coverage of a study by two seniors on dangers associated with beer pong. The focus of the study wasn't binge drinking, but bacteria that can spread when players share glasses, use balls that have fallen to the floor and otherwise engaged in potentially unsafe activities. Eight people played beer pong for three hours, going through a 30-pack of beer, all in the name of science, although it is unclear whether GW's institutional review board was involved. Shared water cups appear to be the biggest source of bacteria, the students found -- after analyzing their beer pong tools under microscopes. The students stressed that they weren't trying to discourage beer pong, but to encourage safe play. "There is no reason our report should prevent you from getting drunk," Morrissey said. "But we're happy to be breaking ground in the evolutionary field of drinking game biology."
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