Quick Takes: Ohio Win for Partner Benefits, AAUP Protests Finkelstein Ouster, Pro-Choice Author Uninvited to Creighton, Sex Offender Uninvited to Staten Island, Checking on Refs, Dispute Over Trustees, NCAA and Miss. Spar on Eligibility

August 29, 2007
  • An Ohio appeals court has rejected a suit challenging Miami University's policy of offering domestic partner benefits to employees. The decision, which upheld a lower court's ruling, was not based on whether such benefits are legal or conflict with the state's ban on gay marriage, as the suit charged. Rather, the appeals court upheld a lower court's ruling that under Ohio law, the conservative lawmaker who sued lacked the standing to do so -- either as a taxpayer or as a tuition-paying parent. The court ruled that taxpayers do not have a general right to challenge any decision by a public entity. As for the tuition-paying parent argument, the court noted that tuition funds are not used to pay for the benefits, and that any parent who disagrees with a university's policies is free to stop paying tuition. The decision and briefs are available on the Web site of Lambda Legal, a gay-rights organization that fought to defend the benefits.
  • The American Association of University Professors has written to DePaul University, protesting its decision to strip Norman Finkelstein, who was denied tenure, of his courses and office space for the coming academic year. The letter, which Finkelstein posted on his Web site, said that paying the controversial scholar -- as DePaul plans to do -- does not deal with concerns over due process and academic freedom. The norm when professors are denied tenure is that they work in a "terminal year," keeping responsibilities while looking for another job. A spokeswoman for DePaul said that the university had no comment on the AAUP letter and that it was standing by an earlier statement defending its placement of Finkelstein on paid leave as entirely within the institution's rights.
  • Creighton University has called off a planned lecture by the author Anne Lamott, amid concerns over her support for abortion rights and other positions that conflict with the university's Roman Catholic teachings. Lamott had been scheduled to speak at Creighton next month, but a number of Catholic-oriented blogs have been criticizing the invitation. A statement from the university said: "Creighton University is not viewpoint neutral, as we have a religious Catholic mission. However, as an authentic university, Creighton does respect other views, and regularly has speakers and panelists who don't necessarily agree with all aspects of our beliefs. However at a featured lecture like this, the degree to which the speaker's views do not harmonize with the Catholic mission becomes more salient." Lamott could not be reached for comment, but her speaking agent said via e-mail that he has received many calls and e-mail messages from people in Omaha upset that her talk was called off and that Lamott had told other reporters that she understood the decision, but did not think it was necessary.
  • The College of Staten Island, which recently informed students and faculty members that a parolee who is a sex offender would be enrolling this fall, has told the would-be student he can't enroll, The New York Daily News reported. The sex offender was found guilty in two incidents involving minors, and the College of Staten Island is home to a high school.
  • In the wake of a gambling scandal involving a referee for the National Basketball Association, college athletic conferences are conducting new background checks on their officials, The Dallas Morning News reported.
  • Kentucky Attorney General Greg Stumbo is calling for the removal of some trustees appointed by Gov. Ernie Fletcher to the boards of the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, saying that the governor has violated state laws requiring political balance in such appointments. According to Stumbo, 15 of the 19 appointments made by the governor were Republicans -- and he is threatening to go to court if some of the Republicans aren't replaced. Stumbo is a Democrat and Fletcher is a Republican. A spokeswoman for the governor told The Louisville Courier-Journal that Fletcher was "committed to appointing the best and brightest individuals" to the boards and has "followed the law."
  • The National Collegiate Athletic Association on Tuesday declared a high-profile University of Mississippi football recruit ineligible to play as a freshman, and university officials immediately announced that they would fight the ruling, which they decried as unfair. The NCAA statement quoted Kevin Lennon, the association's vice president for membership services, as saying that Jerrell Powe "has not achieved sufficient academic success under NCAA rules to permit athletics participation.” The association reached that conclusion in large part because after struggling throughout his high-school career, he made up much of his failed academic work through correspondence courses from Brigham Young University in three months last year. The fact that Powe "completed a significant amount of coursework in an unusually limited amount of time -- much shorter than the average time it takes students to complete similar courses" led the NCAA to invalidate some of Powe’s academic records. The association, however, allowed Powe to keep his scholarship, which is unusual. Mississippi officials said Powe had earned his place at the university and on the playing field. “Jerrell has worked very hard and shown a lot of determination to be an Ole Miss student,” Chancellor Robert Khayat said in a statement. “In the interest of fairness, we believe he should be given an opportunity to pursue his education." Powe has threatened several times to sue if he was not declared eligible.
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