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Quick Takes: Oakland City U. to Pay $5.3M, Not-So-Transparent Transparency Bill, Potential Conflict of Interest at Illinois, Lunches With Lenders, Tucker Stays Put, Boston U. in Dubai, Letterman Hall at Ball State, Bad Writing Contest

July 31, 2007
  • Oakland City University, in Indiana, has agreed to pay $5.3 million to settle a lawsuit charging that the institution illegally offered incentive pay to admissions recruiters and failed to report the payments to the Education Department, The Evansville Courier & Press reported. The suit was based on charges from a whistle blower, a former admissions official at Oakland City, who will receive $1.4 million of the settlement. Oakland City officials have denied wrongdoing, but have also said that they have changed their compensation practices.
  • The American Legislative Exchange Council, a national group of conservative state legislators, which periodically adopts model legislation for members to take up in their home states, is apparently focused on higher education. Richard Vedder, a Spellings Commission member who is director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, attended the council's meetings this weekend and wrote approvingly of their plans for higher ed on the center's blog. In an entry called "The Transparency Movement," Vedder wrote that one of the bills being drafted as model legislation would require colleges to report on the state of intellectual diversity on their campuses and another would require reports -- in language easy for parents and legislators to understand -- about costs, graduation rates, crime and so forth. Vedder said he didn't have the actual language, and it turns out that the transparency movement isn't that transparent. Jorge Amselle, a spokesman for the council, said it was the group's policy not to confirm or comment on any model legislation it is drafting. After a model bill is fully approved, he said, its existence is acknowledged, but the text itself may or may not be released. Only the legislators and business leaders who are members of the council are assured of a copy, he said. Asked if there was something inconsistent about being secretive about a call for openness, Amselle said "I understand the irony," but added that "we have a specific process." The blog Free Exchange on Campus is predicting that the model legislation will be a new version of David Horowitz's "Academic Bill of Rights" or intellectual diversity legislation pursued by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. "It will surely be something couched in more nice-sounding conceptual language designed to cover over the real agenda of attacking higher education because they don't like the kind of wide-ranging and open discussions that happen on campus," said the blog.
  • The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is investigating a potential conflict of interest between its police training institute and a military contractor. The Chicago Tribune reported that Tom Dempsey, the institute's director, signed a contract with Blackwater USA, the contractor, that involved sharing of students, instructors and facilities. While negotiating the deal, Dempsey was apparently working as a consultant for the company, university officials told the newspaper. Dempsey is reportedly in Afghanistan and unavailable for comment.
  • The Dallas Morning News obtained hundreds of pages of e-mail messages and other documents on the relationship between the aid office at the University of Texas at Dallas and various lenders. Much of the discussion is about catering. One nice exchange starts off with an aid official writing a lender: "Are you sure you don't mind providing lunch ... and giving us an update on College Loan Corp in the pool. Any ideas on food?" The lenders representative wrote back: "What if we did a fiesta lunch with margarita's? I was in the Blue Goose the other day and they sell their margarita mix ... just add tequila!!" Another aid official sent an e-mail about two lunches about to take place, writing, "I LOVE LENDERS!"
  • Sara Martinez Tucker, the under secretary of education, has turned down an invitation to become a candidate to lead the University of Missouri system, The Kansas City Star reported. Tucker cited her duties at the Education Department, where she is the lead official on many higher education issues.
  • Boston University on Monday announced plans to offer selected dental education programs in Dubai. A new institute, to be managed by officials of Boston University's School of Dental Medicine, will conduct research and also offer master of science in dentistry degrees in a variety of specialties, and some certificates for advanced training in dentistry. All of the degrees are for those who already have a doctorate in dentistry.
  • Tom Juravich, a professor of labor studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, has been denied a work visa to accept a visiting professorship at Carleton University in Canada, apparently because he was arrested in 1981 during a protest at a picket line, CBC News reported. Juravich was never convicted of a crime.
  • David Letterman has made jokes for years on his late-night talk show that Ball State University, his alma mater, should name a building after him. On Monday, Ball State announced that it would do so. Letterman's name will appear on a new $21 million communication and media building.
  • The results are in for the annual contest for worst potential opening lines for novels in this year's 25 annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, sponsored by the English Department at San Jose State University. The winning entry: "Gerald began -- but was interrupted by a piercing whistle which cost him ten percent of his hearing permanently, as it did everyone else in a ten-mile radius of the eruption, not that it mattered much because for them 'permanently' meant the next ten minutes or so until buried by searing lava or suffocated by choking ash -- to pee." Details on the winner, runners-up and honors in special categories may be found here.
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