Quick Takes: Iran Charges Scholars, N.Y. Will Study Higher Ed, Wells Fargo Signs Code, Reprieve for Teaching Hospitals, NCAA to Review Players' Progress, University Impostors, Prof Defends Iran's Holocaust Meeting

May 30, 2007
  • Iran has formally charged three Americans -- two of them with academic connections -- with spying, the Associated Press reported. The detention of the scholars has alarmed many American academics, who worry about the safety of those being accused and the ability to work in Iran. Many American academic groups have in recent weeks been rallying behind the case of Haleh Esfandiari, who directs the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, in Washington. Also facing charges are Parnaz Azima, a journalist for Radio Farda, which is supported by the U.S. government, and Kian Tajbahhsh, an urban planner who teaches at the New School. Bob Kerrey, president of the New School, issued a statement calling his detention "unprovoked and without justification."
  • Gov. Eliot Spitzer of New York on Tuesday formally created a special commission to study higher education in the state. The commission -- to be led by Hunter Rawlings, president emeritus of Cornell University -- will examine such issues as the research infrastructure in the state, access to public higher education, and the transition of community college students to four-year programs. Commission members include the presidents of a number of public and private institutions in the state, the head of the faculty union for the State University of New York, legislators and the dean of Harvard law school (from which Spitzer graduated). The City University of New York Faculty Senate issued a statement criticizing the lack of representation on the panel for elected CUNY faculty representatives or community college professors.
  • Wells Fargo, the fifth largest provider of student loans nationally, on Tuesday announced an agreement to honor the code of conduct issued by Andrew Cuomo, attorney general of New York State. Under the code, lenders will not provide payments to colleges or gifts to aid officials in return for being placed on "preferred lender lists." Cuomo noted that with Wells Fargo's decision, the five largest loan providers have all agreed to honor the code of conduct.
  • As advocates for teaching hospitals had hoped, an emergency spending bill that Congress approved on Friday contained a provision that would block the Department of Health and Human Services from carrying out for a year a plan to cut at least $1.8 billion in federal matching funds paid to states for graduate medical education under the Medicaid program. Officials at teaching hospitals and medical schools say the planned cuts, announced last week in the Federal Register, could damage their ability to train medical residents and treat needy patients. The emergency provision was sponsored by Sen. Richard Durbin and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, both Illinois Democrats.
  • The National Collegiate Athletic Association -- regularly embarrassed by reports of graduation rates for Division I men's basketball players that lag behind those of other athletes, and of racial gaps in the players' classroom performance -- has announced a new committee to study ways to enhance the academic performance and graduation rates of basketball players.
  • Impostor Update: A man who posed as an official of the Yale Immigration Law Clinic is facing charges of fraud and grand larceny for fooling immigrants from Ireland into thinking he could obtain the papers to make them legal residents of the United States. The New York Times reported that the clinic doesn't exist, but the man operated out of the Yale Law School library and used a Yale e-mail address. Meanwhile it turns out that the woman who posed as a Stanford University freshman also was a "stealth cadet" in Santa Clara University's ROTC program, where she received military training and equipment despite not being enrolled, the Los Angeles Times reported.
  • A professor at St. Francis Xavier University, in Nova Scotia, has published a defense of attending Iran's conference on the Holocaust in December -- a meeting widely condemned as a gathering for Holocaust deniers. Shiraz Dossa, who has not previously commented on his attending the conference, published an article this week in the Literary Review of Canada in which he accused his university of having "authorized a small Spanish Inquisition" into his attendance at the conference. While some Holocaust deniers were at the conference, Dossa called them a "fringe" part of the meeting and said that he has "never denied the Holocaust" but has "noted its propaganda power." Dossa said that in condemning his participation in the conference, his university "in effect sanctioned a crusade against a Muslim Holocaust scholar, who also happens to be an outspoken critic of Israel's brutality in occupied Palestine." When Dossa's participation in the conference became known in December, the university's president expressed "shock and regret," while also stating that Dossa had freedom of expression and academic freedom.
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