Quick Takes: New Types of GRE Questions, Student Arrested Over Threat, Churchill Sues, Simon Fraser Apologizes to David Noble, Jones Nomination Advances, Goucher Goes SAT-Optional, Ad Questioned in Historical Society Magazine, Lender Ends Alumni Deals

July 26, 2007
  • The Educational Testing Service has announced that there will be some new types of questions on the verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning sections of the computer-based Graduate Record Examination, starting in November. The new verbal question type requires the test taker to fill in two or three blanks within a passage from separate multiple-choice lists. Currently, the verbal section contains text completion questions that require test takers to fill in one blank within a passage from a single multiple-choice list. The new quantitative question type will be a numeric entry question that requires test takers to type their answer as a number in a box, or as a fraction in two boxes. Sample questions are available on the ETS Web site. ETS had been planning a major overhaul of the GRE, but called off that plan in April, opting to phase in changes gradually.
  • A freshman at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville was charged Tuesday with making a terrorist threat after authorities found a message threatening a "murderous rampage" comparable to the killings at Virginia Tech, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Olutosin Oduwole is accused of writing a note demanding payment of $50,000 to avoid the rampage. Police also said that they had found a gun in his dormitory room and that he had recently purchased four other guns on the Internet, but they had yet to arrive.
  • As he pledged to do, Ward Churchill sued the University of Colorado Thursday -- the day after he was fired for research misconduct by the Board of Regents. The Rocky Mountain News reported that his suit was filed in state court, in Denver, even though the litigation alleges a First Amendment violation of Churchill's rights to political expression. Churchill's lawyer has said that the process would be speedier in state court and the News noted that federal judges tend to defer to the personnel decisions of colleges and universities.
  • Simon Fraser University, in British Columbia, has settled a lawsuit by David Noble, a historian who has been an outspoken critic of distance education and who accused the university of blocking his candidacy for a job there because of his views, The Globe and Mail reported. Details were not released, but as part of the deal Simon Fraser expressed "sincere regret" for the way it had treated Noble, a professor at York University, in Ontario.
  • The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on Wednesday approved the nomination of Diane Auer Jones to be assistant secretary of education for postsecondary education. President Bush nominated Jones, a former official in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and a one-time lobbyist for Princeton University, in May. Her appointment awaits the approval of the full Senate before it, and she, become official.
  • Goucher College has ended a requirement that applicants submit SAT scores. Applicants seeking merit scholarships will still be required to submit scores, and all new students will need to do so prior to enrollment, so the college can use the scores for research purposes. According to FairTest: The National Center for Fair & Open Testing, Goucher's decision brings to 30 the number of highly ranked liberal arts colleges that have gone SAT-optional.
  • The blog Progressive Historians pointed out this week that Historically Speaking, the publication of the Historical Society, is running an article by Robert Self about his new biography of Neville Chamberlain, wrapped around an ad for the book by its publisher, and that the author identification for Self (attached to the article, not the ad) included a discount for buying the book. "The ad placement was done as part of the editorial process, raising the question of editorial independence. With any advertising there's a question of influence, but academic publications -- even more so than news organizations -- are supposed to maintain a strong separation between content and economic decision-making," the blogger said. Donald X. Yerxa, editor of Historically Speaking, said that the juxtaposition of the ad and article was inadvertent and that one had nothing to do with the other. Yerxa added, however, that the reference to the discount in the author identification represented a "questionable practice" and that he thought the reference had been edited out. He said he was "suprised and disappointed" to find it published.
  • The National Education Loan Network is ending relationships with more than 100 alumni associations in which the lender, known as Nelnet, has paid them fees and, in some cases, a share of revenue in exchange for the right to market consolidated education loans to graduates of their institutions. The arrangements had come under scrutiny as part of the student loan investigation undertaken by New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo. A Nelnet spokesman, confirming a report in the Dallas Morning News, said that "Nelnet has done our best to remain firm in our support of the appropriate and valuable affinity consolidation services that we provide to alumni association clients and their members," relationships that he noted are "similar to those that many companies and industries have with alumni associations to offer members a variety of products and services." But because Education Department draft rules and pending Congressional legislationwould call for eliminating the Nelnet program, the spokesman said, "we felt we could no longer delay our decision. Therefore, Nelnet will phase out our affinity agreements."
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