Quick Takes: Madison Professor Says Remarks Were Distorted, Nebraska Sues Over Visa Delay, To Help the RIAA or Not, Anthropologists Back Coke Boycott, Spellings Ideas Could Shift U.S. News Rankings, Race Debate Barred at Canadian University

March 6, 2007
  • Leonard Kaplan, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, released a letter Monday in which he denied making some remarks about Hmong people that have been attributed to him, and that the context of other remarks was distorted, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Student e-mail accounts of the remarks in one of Kaplan's classes circulated widely, leading for calls for him to be punished, to a student forum, and to an apology from the law dean. But Kaplan said that he never said the things attributed to him. "Had I made the hateful comments strongly attributed to me, I would repudiate them without hesitation," his letter said. "I did not make them." Until Monday, Kaplan had not commented on the allegations.
  • The University of Nebraska at Lincoln is suing the Department of Homeland Security over the continued delay in awarding a visa to Waskar Ari, a Bolivian historian hired to teach at the university, The Lincoln Journal Star reported. The case is one of a series in which academic groups have complained about visa delays or denials to scholars.
  • Universities are starting to announce how they will respond to last week's letters from the Recording Industry Association of America asking them to pass along letters to students who the RIAA believes are violating copyright with music downloads. Northern Illinois University has announced that it will cooperate, but the University of North Dakota says that it doesn't have the computer records that would be needed for it to pass along the letters from the RIAA.
  • The American Anthropological Association's Executive Board has endorsed the boycott of Coca-Cola products, citing "the growing anthropological record of problems in communities where the Coca-Cola Company operates." The push to boycott Coke has been growing on campuses, although some institutions have pulled back from it. The company has repeatedly defended its activities and said that critics have distorted its record.
  • An article in the new issue of U.S. News & World Report, exploring the concerns of many educators about the push from Margaret Spellings, the education secretary, for testing and other measures of student learning, also noted the concerns of colleges about ... U.S. News rankings. The article noted that the rankings heavily emphasize "inputs" (things like SAT scores or admit rates) as opposed to what students actually learn, and it noted instances in which graduates of universities that don't do particularly well in the rankings earn more on graduation than those at institutions favored in the current rankings scheme. So will U.S. News embrace the Spellings approach to focus on outputs and overhaul its rankings? Via e-mail, Robert Morse, who leads the ranking effort (and who didn't write the magazine article), noted that colleges don't like the Spellings agenda so it is unclear whether it would produce new, nationally comparable data. He added: "If it actually happens, U.S. News would very seriously consider incorporating this outcomes information into our present ranking system or possible creating a new outcomes system. Of course, we don't know what the data would look like. However, if there was national comparable exit data, it would be very important information for the public to understand and use as one factor in determining school choice."
  • Saint Mary's University, in Nova Scotia, announced Monday that it was calling off a debate on campus between one of its professors, Peter March, and Jared Taylor, who runs American Renaissance, which promotes ideas of racial separation. In a statement, the university cited security reasons for calling off the program, which was scheduled for today. "The university is committed to fostering academic freedom and free speech in our diverse society; we also have an obligation to provide a safe environment for members of our campus community and those who visit our campus," the statement said.
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