Quick Takes: Senate Rejects Earmark Ban, 2 Years of Broken Fire Alarms, Resignations and Probes Follow Tenure Denial, Protest Over Indian Team Name, Lake City Ends Athletics, Lehigh Adds Aid, Australia's Spellings Commission Equivalent

March 14, 2008
  • The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted down, 71-29, a proposal to ban earmarks for one year, The Washington Post reported. Earmark critics -- including the three senators running for president -- say that the practice of directing projects to specific colleges (or other entities) encourages wasteful spending. But many colleges and universities have relied on earmarks to build facilities and support programs -- even as others have argued for distributing funds only through the peer review processes of various agencies. The vote Thursday was part of the consideration of a budget blueprint for the 2009 fiscal year, for which the Senate approved amendments Thursday that would allow Congressional appropriators to provide $2.1 billion more for the National Institutes of Health and clear the way for Congress to increase the amount of federal loan funds that a student can borrow at a later date if the credit crunch worsens. The former amendment was sponsored by Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and the latter by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). The budget resolution sets overall spending levels that Congressional appropriators must stay under, but its figures for individual programs are not binding.
  • A series of communication and organizational problems left major buildings at Santa Ana College without working fire alarms for two years, the Los Angeles Times reported.
  • Two faculty members who were denied tenure at New Mexico State University are charging the institution with racial discrimination and saying that an official sent them pornographic images online, the Associated Press reported. The Las Cruces Sun-News meanwhile reported that the official accused of sending the porn has resigned.
  • The current or former presidents of five tribal colleges have refused to be part of a photograph being used by the University of North Dakota to recruit Native American students because the presidents object to the continued use of the Fighting Sioux as the institution's team name, the AP reported.
  • Lake City Community College, in Florida, has announced that it is ending intercollegiate athletics by eliminating its three teams, baseball, softball and golf, according to the Lake City Reporter. College officials cited the need to cut budgets and to focus on programs of importance to the local community. Only 3 of the 41 scholarship athletes this year are from the five counties that make up the college's service area.
  • Lehigh University announced Thursday that it would add significantly to its aid budget, making it possible for students with family incomes that are less than $50,000 to receive aid packages without a loan requirement. In addition, loans for those with family incomes of $50,000 to $75,000 will be limited to $3,000 in loans a year.
  • Australia's education minister has announced plans for a major review of the country's higher education system, which she suggested has fallen into disrepair. In a speech this week, Minister of Education Julia Gillard said she would appoint a panel, headed by the former vice chancellor of the University of South Australia, to conduct a "serious, independent, evidence-driven look at the higher education system." The commission will focus, she said, on bolstering access, ensuring quality and strengthening a "chaotic, compromised and unsustainable" financing system and a "bewildering array of student financing arrangements." Sound familiar?
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