Quick Takes: Scholar Allowed Out of Iran, Why DePaul Wants Finkelstein Gone, AP Audits, Attitudes on Scholarly Publishing, Students Indicted Over Explosives, Clearance Rules Challenged, Court Rejects Suit on Tuition, Creighton Reviews Speaker Policy

September 4, 2007
  • Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East Program of the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, was permitted to leave Iran late Sunday. She arrived in Austria Monday and will soon return to the United States. Esfandiari was arrested while visiting her mother in Iran. Esfandiari's case -- and those of several other detained scholars -- have outraged academics, many of whom organized campaigns to push for her release. In a statement released through the Woodrow Wilson Center, Esfandiari said: "After a long and difficult ordeal, I am elated to be on my way back to my home and my family. These last eight months, that included 105 days in solitary confinement in Evin Prison, have not been easy. But I wish to put this episode behind me and to look to the future, not to the past."
  • DePaul University has said very little about why it placed Norman Finkelstein on leave, called off his courses, and denied the controversial professor the customary year in the classroom that follows a tenure denial. An article in Monday's Chicago Tribune, based on confidential university documents, said that the political science department, which had backed Finkelstein's tenure bid, has recommended the leave following a series of incidents involving "threatening and discourteous behavior" by Finkelstein after his tenure denial. On three instances, campus security officers were called. After the article appeared, the blog College Freedom, which has backed him, questioned how threatening these incidents were. Via e-mail, Finkelstein called the incidents "alleged" and said that they are based on things that took place in June, leaving the university plenty of time to have held a hearing and provided him with due process. He called it a "cause for wonder" why nothing happened until his classes were suspended and he lost rights to his office last month -- without a hearing. Supporters of Finkelstein protested on his behalf last week (photographs are online at Peter Kirstein's blog) and he is expected to try to go back to his old office, from which he has been barred, on Wednesday. If arrested, Finkelstein has vowed to go on a hunger strike.
  • The College Board is in the process of completing an unprecedented audit of all Advanced Placement courses offered at high schools -- a process designed to assure their quality as college-level offerings, but already drawing criticism where the board is rejecting some courses. The Washington Post reported numerous complaints from highly regarded high schools that some of their courses have been rejected -- and that the identical syllabus submitted by two courses is sometimes accepted for one course and rejected for another. College Board officials told the Post that 51 percent of teachers who have been through the audit reported that the process improved their courses, and that 90 percent of more than 130,000 courses reviewed had been approved. Via e-mail, Trevor Packer, who runs the AP program for the College Board, cautioned that the numbers in the article were not complete. He said that an additional 14,000 courses still must be audited and that many of these "are the lower quality courses."
  • A broad survey of faculty members at the University of California offers mixed messages about their views of scholarly publishing. They are interested in new forms of scholarly communication, but want to preserve existing forms as well. They are aware of and intrigued by the potential of new forms of publishing, but fear that the current tenure and promotion system favors traditional methods.
  • The Justice Department on Friday announced the indictments of two Egyptian engineering students at the University of South Florida on charges of transporting explosives without permits. One of the students was also charged with teaching and demonstrating the making and use of an explosive device, with the intent that the information be used in a way that would constitute a federal crime of violence. The students were arrested for speeding August 4 in South Carolina and have been in jail since. A spokesman for the university said Friday that the two students have been provisionally suspended, based on the belief that they may have violated university rules. The spokesman added that there is no known connection between the activities for which the students were indicted and their roles at the university. Lawyers for the students told The St. Petersburg Times that they had not seen evidence to justify the charges.
  • Twenty-eight scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a federal facility managed by the California Institute of Technology, sued the federal government last week to block new rules on security clearances that they say violate their privacy by, among other things, asking about their sexual histories, the Los Angeles Times reported. Federal officials have defended the clearances as part of broad government efforts to assure security.
  • A federal appeals court upheld a lower court ruling dismissing a challenge to a Kansas law extending in-state tuition eligibility to illegal immigrants Thursday because the plaintiffs lacked standing. A group of parents and students argued that the law was discriminatory toward non-Kansas residents (like them) in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit found, however, that the plaintiffs failed to provide evidence they were injured by the Kansas statute.
  • In the wake of a decision to uninvite a pro-abortion rights author as a campus speaker, Creighton University is reconsidering its policies on outside speakers, The Omaha World-Herald reported. New policies at the Roman Catholic university are expected to affirm the importance of having speakers who may differ with church teachings, but to suggest that such speakers be included in formats that allow for debates or panel discussions.
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