Quick Takes: Bowdoin Drops Loans, Scrutiny for Pluto Press, Another Indian Student Murdered, Diversity Training Questioned, Purchasing Card Fraud, Admissions Snafu, Rules on 529 Plans, Strike Ends in Israel, Tokyo Starts English-Only Grad Program

January 21, 2008
  • Bowdoin College announced Friday that it would replace loans with grants for all students receiving aid to attend. Bowdoin currently provides need-based financial aid to about 40 percent of students, and the loan packages of first-year students this year had been expected to total $21,000 by graduation. While a number of colleges have moved away from loans in the wake of Harvard University's decision to do so, Bowdoin is among a small group doing so despite having a relatively small endowment (less than $1 billion).
  • The University of Michigan Press -- which has been under fire for distributing a book, through a distribution arrangement with another publisher, that says the creation of Israel was a mistake -- has announced guidelines for such distribution arrangements. Michigan officials say that the guidelines (the bottom paragraph on this link) could endanger future ties to Pluto Press, the publisher of the book that set off the controversy. The guidelines state that Michigan will consider such relationships only with a publisher "whose mission is aligned with the mission of the UM Press and whose academic standards and processes of peer review are reasonably similar to those of the UM Press." Pluto publishes serious scholarly works, but has an explicit political mission -- "Pluto Press has always had a radical political agenda," its Web site says -- unlike the Michigan press. Peggy McCracken, an associate dean at Michigan who is chair of the executive board of the press, said she did not think Pluto met the requirements of the new guidelines, and so Michigan might not renew the relationship. She said, however, that the decision was "up in the air" while the press gathers more information about Pluto's procedures. Last year, Michigan announced that it wouldn't sever ties with Pluto at that time, but would draw up guidelines for such relationships.
  • Another student from India has been murdered in the United States. This time the victim is a graduate student at Duke University, killed in his apartment. Since the murder last month of two graduate students from India at Louisiana State University, newspapers in India have been full of cautions about safety at American colleges. The latest murder is also attracting widespread attention in India.
  • Mandatory diversity training in corporate settings appears to produce results that are the opposite of those intended, a major study by a University of Arizona sociologist has found. The Washington Post reported on the research, which found drops in the percentages of female and minority managers after diversity training. Benchmarking and other efforts are more effective, the study found. Alexandra Kalev, the sociologist, said in an e-mail to Inside Higher Ed that her study did not include colleges and universities, although a new study would focus on academe. Kalev added that she had "strong confidence" that she would find similar results in higher education.
  • An administrator at Georgia Institute of Technology stole up to $350,000 from the university using state purchasing cards, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Georgia Tech officials said they couldn't provide details on the case because of an ongoing criminal investigation. The University System of Georgia released documents about purchasing card fraud, revealing that 12 employees involved to date have been fired, resigned or retired.
  • The University of Hartford accidentally sent 2,000 applicants -- who were supposed to receive a letter saying that their applications were incomplete -- a letter admitting them to the university, The Hartford Courant reported. Meanwhile, about 60 applicants who actually had been admitted received the letter telling them that their application was incomplete.
  • The Internal Revenue Service on Friday proposed regulations that are designed to prevent potential abuse by taxpayers -- particularly wealthy ones -- who put money away for college under Section 529 of the federal tax code.
  • Classes are resuming in Israel, following a three-month faculty strike that was days away from killing the winter semester. The Jerusalem Post reported that universities plan to extend the semester, and adjust schedules, effectively eliminating any break this summer. Professors will receive a 24 percent raise, over two years, under the agreement.
  • The University of Tokyo, in a highly unusual move for a Japanese university, is starting a graduate program in which all instruction will be in English, The Asahi Shimbun reported. The program will be about the Asian information society and the aim will be to attract students from other countries in Asia who might otherwise go to the United States for graduate study.
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