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Quick Takes: Cal State Faculty Authorize Strike, Scrutiny of Lenders Intensifies, Gates Will Give $122M for DC Scholarships, Big Gift for Faculty Salaries, American Indians and Higher Ed, Probe at Moscow State

March 22, 2007
  • The California Faculty Association on Wednesday announced that 94 percent of members who voted had authorized a strike by professors if current negotiations with the at the California State University System administration falter. Such a strike would be the largest of its kind in American higher education. The faculty union, affiliated with the National Education Association, has been in disputes with the administration for months about pay and other issues. In a statement about the strike vote, John Travis, president of the union, said that professors "are tired of the way in which they are being treated" and that they want to be paid "at the same level as our peers." Charles B. Reed, chancellor of the system, issued his own statement, in which he said that contingency plans were being made in the case of a strike. (Union officials have said that rolling strikes would be more likely than systemwide actions.) Reed stressed that the university has "gone to great lengths to come to a settlement" and that it is continuing to do "everything we can."
  • And the water only gets hotter for student loan companies: U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) on Wednesday asked 16 lenders to submit documents about the companies' dealings with colleges in the federal guaranteed student loan program. The senator's inquiry comes on the heels of a similar investigation by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, and as news reports (including this one from Reuters) indicates that Cuomo plans to bring some sort of legal action today against one lender. Details were not available last night. Kennedy said that his review aims to explore "a number of disturbing lender tactics" (such as trips to conferences, tickets to sporting events, and the like) that "raise serious questions about whether students’ best interests are being served when lenders and schools establish relationships to offer student loans." He added: "These practices are inappropriate, and they need to stop. My investigation aims to uncover the facts concerning such inappropriate arrangements.” Kennedy, who heads the Senate's education committee, has promised heightened scrutiny of lenders in the new Democratically controlled Congress. As the scrutiny of lenders grows, they are hitting back: Sallie Mae on Tuesday strongly rebutted a CBS News report last week about the Cuomo and Kennedy inquiries, saying the report had wrongly sullied its reputation and that of a University of Texas official with "patently false" charges.
  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will today announce a $122 million grant to provide 2,000 students from Washington, D.C. high schools with scholarships and mentors for college over the next 15 years, The Washington Post reported. The scholarships will be worth up to $10,000 a year for a maximum of five years.
  • Washington and Lee University on Wednesday announced a $33 million gift (which would need to be matched by $33 million in other funds raised by the institution) with one purpose: raising faculty salaries. A spokesman said that it was hard to say exactly what the gift would mean in terms of individual professors' pay, but that the university currently believes it is below the average of peer institutions, and that the funds will enable it to catch up.
  • A new report, "The Path of Many Journeys: The Benefits of Higher Education for Native People and Communities," summarizes data on the historically low college-going rates of American Indians as well as some signs of increases in recent decades. The report also details the impact on tribal groups and tribal colleges of having more members with college degrees. The report was released this week by the Institute for Higher Education Policy and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium.
  • Authorities at Moscow State University, one of Russia's top universities, have started a formal investigation of student claims that the sociology department is in decline, and that department leaders have embraced offensive nationalistic thinking, The New York Times reported. One of the student appeals for help said that the dean's office had distributed a brochure that quoted with approval from the anti-Semitic "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," the Times reported.
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