Quick Takes: SMU Faculty Splits on Bush Center, More Scrutiny on Lender, Ex-Instructor Admits Fraud, Open Source Project, Study on Possible Alumni Cancer Cluster, GAO on Overhead, $100M for Psychiatric Research, Nobel Theft, Booze and Vomit at Cambridge

March 8, 2007
  • Reflecting sharp divisions on the SMU faculty, the Faculty Senate had a tie vote Wednesday, 13 to 13, on a resolution calling on the university to disassociate itself from a partisan institute that will be affiliated with the planned Bush presidential library, The Dallas Morning News reported. Many professors are worried that the partisan plans for the institute, which would be controlled by the president's foundation and not SMU, are antithetical to academic values.
  • A group of Democrats in the House of Representatives have asked the Education Department to explain why it let the National Education Loan Network keep $278 million in federal subsidies that the department's inspector general said were paid to the lender improperly under a now-closed loophole in federal law. In a letter Wednesday to Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, and nine other lawmakers called the decision not to require Nelnet to return the payments a "serious misuse of federal funds" and asked the department to explain the decision and to department's approach to the controversy.
  • Barry Landreth, a former instructor at the University of Southern California business school, pleaded guilty Wednesday to wire fraud in a case in which he conned students to work as "project managers" in which they sold real estate investments that they didn't necessarily realize were fake, The Los Angeles Times reported. Landreth conned investors out of $1.5 million in the scheme, authorities said. Students weren't aware that they were defrauding investors, many of whom were the students' parents.
  • The Howard Hughes Medical Institute is today announcing a deal with Elsevier to make manuscripts by the institute's researchers that are accepted for publication in Elsevier journals available free online within six months of publication. The pact will cover the unedited manuscripts, not the final versions, and will apply to articles published after September 1, 2007. The articles will be given to PubMed Central, a repository maintained by the National Institutes of Health. According to Hughes, hundreds of articles will likely be covered each year, with payments of $1,000 or $1,500 by the institute to Elsevier for each article.
  • In a joint statement, two Pennsylvania lawmakers said that the Pennsylvania Department of Health stands by earlier findings that environmental conditions are not contributing to cancer cases at Susquehanna University. But, in the aftermath of a Sunday investigation in the local Patriot-News into a possible cancer cluster among young graduates, they announced that the Department of Health had agreed to conduct a study of cancer cases among Susquehanna University alumni who attended between 1995 and 2005.
  • The proportion of National Institutes of Health grant funds awarded to universities to cover their indirect costs of research stayed constant, at about 28.5 percent, from 2003 to 2005, the Government Accountability Office said in a letter released Wednesday. The letter, which was requested by Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the senior Republican on a Senate subcommittee that examines federal management, also examined the biomedical research agency's practices in auditing colleges and universities on their practices in requesting reimbursement for indirect research costs.
  • The Broad Institute on Wednesday announced a $100 million gift from the Stanley Medical Research Institute for work on schizophrenia and bipolar disorder -- the largest gift ever made for psychiatric disease research. The research will involve scholars in genomics and chemical biology. The Broad Institute is a research center of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • The University of California at Berkeley is celebrating the recovery of the 1939 Nobel Prize in Physics, which was stolen last week from the Lawrence Hall of Science at the university, which is named for the late Ernest O. Lawrence, who won the prize and whose widow left it to the university to display. A university statement said that a student who worked in the hall was arrested in the case, and that he told authorities he took the prize on a whim.
  • Excessive drinking and related vomiting have become so bad in some colleges of the University of Cambridge that the British institution is vaccinating cleaning workers against Hepatitis B because of the potential exposure when they are cleaning up vomit, The Cambridge Evening News reported.
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