Quick Takes: Scholar's Win Over Joyce Estate, Legacy Impact, Trade Talk Worries, Colleges to Split With Baptists, Intelligent Design at SMU, Jeb Bush Honor Is Blocked, Cuts at Coastal Bend, U. of Alberta Ends Mandatory Retirement, Mel Gibson Outburst

March 26, 2007
  • In a settlement to a suit that has been closely watched by literary scholars, the estate of James Joyce has agreed  that a Stanford University professor can quote (in a book and on her Web site) from Joyce family letters about the dreams of Lucia Joyce, the author's daughter, The San Jose Mercury News reported. The settlement is viewed as a victory for the professor and possibly the first time that the Joyce estate -- known for its strict control over access to family writings -- has backed down in such a dispute. However, the settlement is specific to this set of writings and does not set the precedent about access that some scholars had hoped to see come out of the litigation.
  • Students who are admitted to college because of their status as alumni children (legacies) or athletes are more likely than other students to drop out of college, according to research published in the journal Social Problems. The analysis also found that minority students admitted at institutions with significant affirmative action programs may be less likely than other students to drop out, but report lower grades.
  • College associations have written to the U.S. officials negotiating a new international trade treaty that they worry about provisions that would make higher education covered by the treaty. Specifically, colleges are worried that inclusion in the treaty -- as currently drafted -- could force American colleges to grant transfer credit for work done abroad that may not be up to the standards of American institutions. Negotiations for trade agreements tend to run for years, but the Bush administration has been pushing for a conclusion to the process. Background documents and the recent letter of concern are posted on the Web site of the American Council on Education.
  • Five colleges in North Carolina are planning a split with the state Baptist convention, and so far it looks like the move will be amicable, the Associated Press reported. Under the plan -- still awaiting final approval -- the institutions would get full control over their board membership, and would give  up financial contributions (about $1.2 million a year for each college) from the convention. The five institutions involved are Campbell, Chowan, Gardner-Webb, Mars Hill and Wingate Universities. In some other states, similar moves have prompted litigation.
  • The departments of anthropology, biology and geology have asked Southern Methodist University to block the Christian Legal Society from holding a conference to promote "intelligent design" as  a legitimate scientific theory, The Dallas Morning News reported. The departments say that the event is designed to give a false impression that these views actually have significant academic support. SMU officials aren't blocking the event, but have stated that allowing it to take place does not signal endorsement.
  • The Faculty Senate at the University of Florida last week blocked a plan to award an honorary degree to Jeb Bush, who recently completed eight years as governor of Florida, The Gainesville Sun reported. Professors questioned whether the Republican's policies had helped the university, but Bernie Machen, president of the university, called the move to block the degree a "horrible mistake." On Saturday, the board of the university's Alumni Association voted to make the former governor an honorary alumnus.
  • The board of Coastal Bend College, a community college in south Texas, has voted to eliminate the jobs of 12 faculty members and 23 support staff employees, The Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported. Officials cited shortfalls in state support.
  • The University of Alberta announced Friday that it is ending its mandatory retirement age of 65 for faculty members. Rulings by Canadian courts have upheld the right of universities to have mandatory retirement policies, but Alberta officials said that eliminating the rule would help in recruiting faculty talent. Other Canadian universities -- such as the University of Toronto -- have also been moving away from mandatory retirement in recent years.
  • Mel Gibson responded to a professor's question about his latest movie with profanity and anger, the Los Angeles Times reported. Gibson was at California State University at Northridge to talk about "Apocalypto," when a professor challenged his portrayal of the Mayans, leading to the exchange. The professor is now demanding an apology.
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