Quick Takes: MIT Professor Starts Hunger Strike, ETS Sees 'Perfect Storm' in Education, New Challenge on Visa Denial, Lesbian Bias Suit Settled at Penn State, Dalai Lama and Emory, Departing Presidents in Canada, Stem Cell Debate in Australia

February 6, 2007
  • James L. Sherley vowed in December that he would start a hunger strike outside the provost's office at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology on February 5 unless officials reversed his tenure denial. Sherley kept his word on Monday, and started the hunger strike. Sherley, who is black, says that he was a victim of racial discrimination -- a charge MIT denies. As the standoff continues, Noam Chomsky is organizing other MIT professors to sign a petition calling for further examination of the case, The Boston Globe reported. In an e-mail at 1 a.m. Tuesday, Sherley said he was "not hungry yet." He is maintaining a Web page about his protest. In a move that MIT officials say is not related to Sherley's action, the institute appointed a panel to study the impact of race on faculty careers.
  • The Educational Testing Service on Monday released a report warning of "powerful sociological and economical forces" that relate to education and could limit the future economic growth of the United States. "America's Perfect Storm: Three Forces Changing Our Nation's Future" focuses on disparities in skill levels, "seismic" economic changes, and "sweeping" demographic shifts. The report finds that education form is stalled and urges a new commitment to improving education at all levels.
  • The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a new legal challenge against the U.S. government's refusal to allow Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss scholar, to accept faculty positions or attend scholarly meetings in the United States. The ACLU, the American Association of University Professors and other groups have been pushing on Ramadan's behalf -- winning some legal battles, but not getting him allowed in. The ACLU's new appeal focuses on the "ideological exclusion" provision of the Patriot Act, which the group says is being used against Ramadan.
  • Pennsylvania State University and the National Center for Lesbian Rights on Monday announced an out-of-court settlement of a lawsuit brought by a former player against Rene Portland, the women's basketball coach. Portland has long been considered a top coach -- and has long faced accusations that she discriminates against lesbian athletes. While she has consistently denied any bias, Penn State last year reprimanded her in the case that led to the settled lawsuit, which involved a woman Portland believed was a lesbian. No details of the settlement were announced, but a lawyer for the National Center for Lesbian Rights told the Associated Press that Penn State has agreed to take additional steps to protect athletes.
  • Emory University, which has a strong program in Tibetan philosophy, announced Monday that the Dalai Lama has accepted a position as presidential distinguished professor. In that role, the Dalai Lama will visit the campus periodically and will also offer instruction to Emory students and faculty members at the university's study abroad program in Dharamsala. Emory will also create a fund to support scholarships for students from Tibet to enroll at the university in both undergraduate and graduate programs.
  • In an unusual development for Canada, the presidents of three universities have recently left office abruptly, two shortly after they were hired, and academics are debating what these developments mean for the leadership of higher education, The Globe and Mail reported.
  • The University of Sydney is facing criticism on its campus and from other academics in Australia for agreeing not to conduct stem cell research on land it purchased from a Roman Catholic college, Reuters reported. While university officials note that there are no restrictions on its ressearch with stem cells in other facilities, critics say that the university is endangering academic freedom.
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