Quick Takes: Outrage Over Bonuses for Loan Officials, Call for Reform of U. of California, Impact of Visa Limits, Released Scholar Faces Trial in Iran, Illegal Use of Funds in Utah, Illinois Severs Contract, Bush's Science Priorities, 59 and on the Team

August 23, 2007
  • The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Authority -- under fire this year for large sums spent on retreats, executive travel and perks -- set off another controversy Wednesday when it awarded six-figure bonuses to each of its top four executives. The Patriot-News reported that the bonus for Dick Willey, the agency's president, was $180,857 -- more than the total salary of Gov. Ed Rendell. The agency's board members said the bonuses were equivalent to those paid by businesses of comparable complexity and were linked to agency goals, but political leaders were lining up to criticize the agency, saying that those funds should have gone into more grants or loan forgiveness for students. A spokesman for the governor told the newspaper: "This appears to be Robin Hood in reverse as the interests of struggling students are once again overshadowed by the interests of those who occupy PHEAA's executive suite."
  • The chair of the University of California Board of Regents has sent his fellow board members a memo calling for a major overhaul of the office of the system president, about which he was sharply critical, the Los Angeles Times reported. "Why is it so hard to make broad-scale progress toward our goals? I believe the fundamental problem is an overgrown UC administrative infrastructure that substitutes motion for progress," wrote Richard C. Blum, the chair. He called for a more streamlined operation to support education and research functions of the system's campuses, which include some of the top universities in the country. Robert C. Dynes, president of the system, this month announced plans to resign -- a decision it has been widely reported he was pressured by regents to make.
  • Visa limits are holding back advances for science and technology in the United States, according to a report issued Wednesday by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. With more than 1 million skilled workers -- including many scientists -- competing for 120,000 permanent resident visas each year, the United States is experiencing brain drain, the report says. In an illustration of how foreign-born talent should be viewed, the report notes that foreign nationals residing in the United States were named as inventors or co-inventors of 25.6 percent of international patent applications filed from the U.S. in 2006, an increase from 7.6 percent in 1998.
  • Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, still faces a trial on espionage charges in Iran and is currently unable to leave the country, her lawyer told the Associated Press Wednesday. When Esfandiari was released on bail Tuesday, her lawyer expressed hopes that the scholar would be able to leave the country, but she has not been given back her passport, so her ability to leave the country is blocked, the lawyer said. Information on her arrest in Iran -- which has alarmed many American scholars -- is available here.
  • Auditors in Utah have found a series of violations of state laws in which college officials used funds improperly, including to support a Republican Party parade float, and then tried to cover up their actions, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Two campus presidents of the Mountainland Applied Technology College have been suspended because of the investigations. The college's board issued a statement suggesting that some of the spending followed "undue pressure and influence" by politicians.
  • The University of Illinois has canceled a partnership deal between its police-training institute and the military contractor Blackwater USA, following revelations that the institute's director did not disclose his consulting arrangements with the contractor at the time he was negotiating a deal on behalf of the university, the Chicago Tribune reported. The director, Tom Dempsey, is on leave and the university is continuing its investigation of possible conflicts of interest.
  • The heads of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Management and Budget have jointly released a memo with science priorities for the Bush administration in preparing the fiscal 2009 budget. Among priorities that involve multiple federal agencies: research related to homeland security, including defending against "a domestic nuclear event" and developing "tools for remediation of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear incidents;" science that promotes renewable energy sources; advanced networking and information technology; nanotechnology; and complex biological systems, with a focus on cellular and sub-cellular research at the organism, population and community levels, and on the "interface of the life, physical and computational sciences."
  • Mike Flynt, at the age of 59, was named to the roster of the football team this week at Sul Ross State University, a Division III institution, ESPN reported. According to a profile of Flynt in The Tennessean, he was kicked off the football squad in 1970 after being involved in some altercations, and always regretted it, and so enrolled as a graduate student this year to play once again.
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