Quick Takes: Presidents Condemn Boycott of Israel, Supercomputer Grant, Churchill Panel Offers Clarification, Aid Rules, President Placed on Leave, Dodd's Proposal for Community Colleges, 'Action Plan' for STEM Education, Oxford Governance Battle Is Back

August 9, 2007
  • Nearly 300 college and university presidents in the United States have endorsed a statement by Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University, denouncing the push by Britain's main faculty union to have professors boycott Israeli academics and universities. "In seeking to quarantine Israeli universities and scholars, this vote threatens every university committed to fostering scholarly and cultural exchanges that lead to enlightenment, empathy, and a much-needed international marketplace of ideas," the statement reads. The presidents who signed received an appeal to do so from the following presidents and chancellors: Lawrence S. Bacow of Tufts University; Henry S. Bienen of Northwestern University; Robert J. Birgeneau of the University of California at Berkeley; Richard Herman of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; M. Lee Pelton of Willamette University; Jehuda Reinharz of Brandeis University; Donna E. Shalala of the University of Miami; Harold Shapiro of Princeton University (emeritus); and Graham B. Spanier of Pennsylvania State University. The full list of presidents who have signed is available here.
  • The National Science Foundation on Wednesday announced a $208 million grant to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to acquire and make available for use a petascale computer that will be 500 times more powerful than today's typical supercomputers. The system is expected to go online in 2011.
  • The members of the investigative committee that explored allegations of research misconduct against Ward Churchill have unanimously adopted a statement that identifies one misstatement in their report, offers additional language to fix that mistake, and clarifies that the changes in no way relate to their conclusions about Churchill, who has since been fired by the University of Colorado. While the members all agreed on the statement, only three of them agreed to its release to Inside Higher Ed. Their names appear at the end of the statement.
  • The U.S. Education Department on Wednesday proposed rules to simplify the application process for several aid programs.
  • The president of the Utah College of Applied Technology, Robert O. Brems, has been placed on leave after a state audit uncovered significant problems at one of the college's campuses, The Deseret Morning News reported. The state auditor told the newspaper that the problems involved internal controls.
  • Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, who is running a long-shot campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, on Wednesday proposed a plan that could make community college free. Under the Dodd plan, any state that cut its tuition would receive a match in federal funds to double the cut, so a state cutting tuition in half would eliminate tuition. The leading Democratic candidates have issued dueling plans on student loans and other issues, but free tuition is emerging as popular theme for those further behind the leaders. Dennis Kucinich has proposed that tuition be free for undergraduates at all public colleges and universities.
  • The National Science Board on Wednesday approved a draft "national action plan" for improving the quality of elementary and secondary education in science, math, technology and engineering and ensuring an adequate supply of teachers in those subjects. The plan, which will be available for public review and comment today on the science board's Web site, calls for a range of actions by the federal government, states, and school districts, including creating an independent, non-federal National Council for STEM Education, establishing a new assistant secretary position in the Education Department, and developing strategies to pay teachers in those fields at "market rates."
  • The struggle over the governance of the University of Oxford has resumed. The Guardian reported on a leaked copy of a report by British government officials criticizing the university for failing to modernize its governance system. The report is seen as giving John Hood, the university's vice chancellor (its top position) an opening to resume his push for the creation of a structure more like those of American universities, with boards that consist largely of business leaders. Power at Oxford is largely in the hands of the faculty, which rejected Hood's plan to change that in December -- after many months of bitter debate.
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