Quick Takes: Publishing Controversy, Concerns on A

November 19, 2007
  • The controversy continues over the University of Michigan Press and its distribution agreement with Pluto Press, a left-wing publisher in Britain whose books are handled by Michigan in the United States. Three of the eight members of the University of Michigan Board of Regents last week released a letter calling for the press to stop all distribution arrangements for other publishers. Distributing books that the Michigan press has not reviewed, the letter from the regents said, "debases the press' franchise and leaves the press and the university open to damage." The relationship with Pluto became controversial because of a book it published and Michigan distributed called Overcoming Zionism, which was press officials said they would not have published had it been submitted directly to them. The press announced that it would not block distribution of the book or end its relationship with Pluto, citing academic freedom issues, but said it would review its policies on having distribution relationships with outside publishers. The letter from the regents said that academic freedom was not the issue because they were not trying to ban any book. "This is a commercial and policy issue, not a free speech issue," the regents wrote. "We firmly believe that the University of Michigan should not make money from books that do not meet our own scholarship standards."
  • Faculty leaders at Texas A&M University at College Station are concerned that the university's board has announced plans to consider candidates for president who were not among three finalists suggested by a search committee. The Bryan-College Station Eagle printed an exchange of letters between board and faculty leaders on the dispute. In his letter, Bill Jones, chair of the regents, said that the board alone had control over the search and that regents were prepared to accept "unfortunate consequences" related to their decision.
  • Many children and young adults are abandoning reading, according to a report issued today by the National Endowment for the Arts. Among the findings: Less than one third of 13-year-olds are daily readers, a 14 percent decline from 20 years ago. On average, Americans between the ages of 15 and 24 spend seven minutes a day on leisure reading, compared to two hours a day watching television.
  • The hunger strike of a small group of students at Columbia University ended Friday night with a joint statement from the protesting students and the university administration. Exactly what was gained from the 10-day strike is unclear. Some of those protesting have talked of new commitments to improve the way some ethnic studies courses are taught, but university officials have noted that those improvements were already on the institution's agenda. While some of the hunger strikers' goals -- such as the prevention of hate crimes -- had broad student support, others did not. An editorial in the student newspaper Friday morning ran an editorial questioning whether the hunger strikers spoke for students as a whole and urging them to stop the strike.
  • An internal investigation warned officials of the Maricopa Community College District that hiring the daughter of a Congressman to run a program for which he was winning major federal grants could create "a cloud" around the decision, The Arizona Republic reported. Laura Pastor, daughter of Rep. Ed Pastor, was hired with salary guideline exceptions that raised her pay and was selected for the job even though one other candidate scored better with the review team, the article said. Maricopa officials have defended the hiring decision and denied that any favoritism was involved.
  • An arbitrator has ordered Canada's York University to withdraw a 2004 press release criticizing David Noble, a controversial professor, and to pay him $2,500, The Toronto Star reported. The press release criticized Noble for materials he had handed out on campus, accusing the university of a pro-Israel tilt in handling incidents involving pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian student groups. The arbitrator ruled that York violated Noble's rights by issuing the press release without first discussing concerns with him or faculty leaders.
  • Many high schools are resisting efforts by the Common Application and others to seek information about disciplinary findings of applicants to colleges, The Boston Globe reported. Many high school officials are telling colleges that they fear students could be stigmatized for relatively minor offenses.
  • With debate over college costs intensifying, a report being issued today is likely to infuriate higher education leaders. "Over Invested and Over Priced: American Higher Education Today" is from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, and charges that additional government funds for colleges support "frills" that don't support education or economic growth -- items like "fancy recreation facilities, larger university bureaucracies, and higher salaries for personnel." The center is led by Richard Vedder, who was a member of the Spellings Commission.
  • Gallaudet University has been removed from probation by its accreditor, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Probation for the university -- which came amid turmoil over an aborted presidential section process -- was upsetting for many at the university. Disputes over the search led to public discussion of concerns of some faculty members over academic standards.
  • The Virginia Supreme Court blocked the sale by Randolph College of four American art masterpieces, the Associated Press reported. A lower court had agreed to block the sale provided that opponents -- alumnae who want the works kept in the college's museum -- post a $10 million bond, but those opponents have been unable to obtain that much money. The Supreme Court's ruling temporarily blocked the sale, pending the posting of a $1 million bond.
  • Thirty-two Americans were named as Rhodes Scholars on Saturday. The scholarships provide for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford. The winners and their biographies can be found here.
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