Quick Takes: RPI Faculty Want Senate Back, Poetry War, Cheating Scandal at Fla. State, Sallie Mae Deal Collapses, Alternative to Google Library, Chapel Hill Chief to Resign, Time for Breast-Feeding, Scrutiny of Foreign Student Recruiter, DREAM Delayed

September 27, 2007
  • Professors at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute voted this week to ask their provost to restore their Faculty Senate and to recognize it as legitimate. The vote was overwhelming: 200 in favor, 21 opposed, and 7 abstentions. (The tenured and tenure-track faculty that voted has 359 members, and with one in seven on sabbatical, faculty organizers said that the vote was not only decisive, but represented strong faculty interest.) Robert E. Palazzo, the provost, announced in August that the university would no longer recognize the Faculty Senate because it had amended its rules to grant voting rights to faculty members who are not on the tenure track. The faculty held elections under those revised rules, rejecting a policy change mandated by the board, which did not want non-tenure track faculty to vote. The move by the provost infuriated many professors, whose relations with RPI's administration have been rocky for years. Palazzo has said that he would respect faculty rights to come up with a new governance system as long as the board's directives are followed. But Larry Kagan, a professor of art and president of the Faculty Senate that the provost abolished, said that such limits did not amount to "serious conversation" that professors feel is needed with administrators and the board. Following the faculty vote, William N. Walker, vice president for strategic communications and external relations, issued a statement: "The information from this unofficial faculty referendum will be discussed with the academic leadership of Rensselaer and shared with the Faculty Governance Review Committee. That group will review it along with the many other factors relating to faculty governance it will study as it considers its recommendations. Meanwhile, we are continuing under a Board of Trustees resolution that approved the establishment of the transitional faculty governance structure, including a temporary suspension of the Faculty Senate."
  • Board members of the Poetry Society of America -- many of them professors -- are quitting and fighting over fallout from the society's decision to give the Frost Medal, one of its highest honors, to John Hollander, The New York Times reported. A major part of the dispute is the question of whether controversial comments made by Hollander, a professor emeritus of English at Yale University, should be considered when evaluating whether he should receive a poetry award. In a book review, the Times noted, Hollander had referred to "cultures without literatures -- West African, Mexican and Central American." While some board members said the comments mattered, others said they were irrelevant and that plenty of great poetry has been produced by deeply flawed writers, such as the notoriously anti-Semitic Ezra Pound.
  • Florida State University has found that a "learning specialist" and a tutor at the university helped 23 athletes, 21 of them still enrolled, cheat, The Orlando Sentinel reported. In some cases, athletes received answers to test questions, and in other cases, their assignments were typed.
  • Investors who had pledged to buy Sallie Mae in a $25 billion deal announced Wednesday that they do not plan to go through with the deal, and that recent economic and political changes have decreased the value of the student loan giant, The New York Times reported. Sallie Mae issued a statement indicating that it believed the investors did not have the legal right to pull out, while commentators speculated that the deal might still go through, though at a significantly lower price.
  • The Boston Library Consortium, a group of 19 research libraries, announced Wednesday that it was working with the Open Content Alliance to digitize the libraries' public domain holdings, to create high resolution, downloadable files for use. The Boston consortium -- which includes libraries at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern, Tufts, and five University of Massachusetts campuses -- is designing the project as an alternative to Google's Library Project and other major corporate efforts, many of which have backing from top university libraries.
  • James C. Moeser announced Wednesday that he would leave the position of chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at the end of the academic year, eight years after he was named to the post. At Chapel Hill, Moeser has been highly regarded as a fund raiser (with unprecedented success for the university) and as an advocate (with mixed success) for Chapel Hill's unique needs within a large state university system. In 2002, Moeser defended (in court and with politicians) the selection of a book about Islam as a freshman reading assignment. He also was involved in leadership by Chapel Hill on key admissions and financial aid decisions. In 2002, four years before a similar move by Harvard University that attracted nationwide attention, Carolina dropped its early decision admissions program, becoming the first highly competitive university to do so. And with Shirley Ort, his financial aid director, Moeser pushed the Carolina Covenant, a program since copied by a number of flagship universities, to eliminate loans for low-income students.
  • An appeals court in Massachusetts ruled Wednesday that a breast-feeding mother who is a student at Harvard Medical School is entitled to extra time during a licensing exam so she can pump milk for her child, The Boston Globe reported.
  • A major issue in the dismissal of Christine Johnson as president of the Community College of Denver was board scrutiny of arrangements she set up with an Iranian mathematics professor to recruit students from the Middle East, The Rocky Mountain News reported. Federal officials are looking into the arrangements and concerns that the students may not have met visa requirements and that the professor may have been paid in inappropriate ways, the newspaper reported. Six other colleges also hired the professor.
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday that Democrats will not be able to introduce the DREAM Act as an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization Act after all. Their plan to do so came under intense attacks from the right in the past week. The DREAM Act, long stalled in Congress without a vote, would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented students who spend two years in college or the military. Reid expressed his support for the measure, however, and his plan is to move the legislation by November 16.
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