Quick Takes: Senate Passes Science Bill, Agenda for Graduate Education, Appeals Court Blocks Suits Against Texas A

April 26, 2007
  • The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed legislation to authorize increases in numerous science research programs and to create new programs to promote math and science education. The legislation has broad, bipartisan support and the House has passed similar measures, although in a range of bills. The White House has expressed support for the goals of most of the legislation, while raising some questions about the size of the programs (and their funding levels).
  • The Council of Graduate Schools is today releasing a report outlining an agenda for improving graduate education. The report outlines a series of goals for universities (encouraging graduate students to apply knowledge in "real world" settings, attracting more minority students to science fields) and policy makers (providing more financial support, reforming visa rules), as well as for business leaders.
  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has ruled that Texas A&M University enjoys immunity as a state agency and may not be sued in connection to a bonfire collapse in 1999 that resulted in the deaths of 12 students. State universities are generally difficult to sue, but plaintiffs argued that a "state created danger" justified the suit. The appeals court ruled that the "state created danger" theory was not clearly established law at the time of the bonfire accident and so the university was entitled to immunity.
  • About 2,000 mid-level administrators at Rutgers University have voted to unionize with the American Federation of Teachers. The union announced Wednesday that an "overwhelming majority" of employees in the unit had signed cards requesting union representation. New Jersey allows a "card check" system to unionize, without a full-scale election.
  • Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe much criticized by human rights groups, isn't worried about the moves afoot to revoke his honorary degrees. A spokesman for Mugabe told The Herald, a pro-government paper, that he has earned seven degrees and "does not lose sleep" over the push to take away the honorary doctorates. The spokesman suggested that Western universities are the ones who should be concerned. "Honorary degrees are exactly that, an unsolicited honor from the giver," he said. "The president did not accost anyone to confer the honor. If anything, those Western universities improved their international profile by associating themselves with the president." Among the institutions where some want to see the honorary degrees revoked are Edinburgh University, in Scotland, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Michigan State University.
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