Quick Takes: Mich. Athletes' Favorite Prof, Northeastern Shifts to Direct Lending, Crash Kills 3 Researchers, Push for Guns on Campus, Antioch U. Tries to Squelch Web Site, 'Monologues' at Notre Dame, Banned at Brevard, From Ga. Tech to Smithsonian

March 17, 2008
  • A single University of Michigan professor taught 294 independent studies for students, 85 percent of them athletes, from the fall of 2004 to the fall of 2007, according to The Ann Arbor News. According to the report, which kicks off a series on Michigan athletics and was based on seven months of investigation, many athletes reported being steered to the professor, and said that they earned three or four credits for meeting with him as little as 15 minutes every two weeks. In addition, three former athletics department officials said that athletes were urged to take courses with the professor, John Hagen, to raise their averages. Transcripts examined by the newspaper showed that students earned significantly higher grades with Hagen than in their regular courses. The News reported that Hagen initially denied teaching a high percentage of athletes in his independent studies, but did not dispute the accuracy of documents the newspaper shared with him. He did deny being part of any effort to raise the averages of his students. The newspaper also said that Michigan's president and athletics director had declined to be interviewed for the series.
  • Northeastern University will announce today that it is shifting to the direct lending program for its students seeking federally backed loans, The Boston Globe announced. While Education Department officials have dismissed the idea that national credit problems have resulted in significant new interest in direct lending, Northeastern's move follows by one week a similar announcement by another large university, Pennsylvania State University.
  • Two graduate students and a third researcher at Florida Atlantic University were killed, along with a pilot, when their plane crashed Thursday, The Palm Beach Post reported. The research team was in the plane as part of a study of migration of wading birds in the Everglades.
  • The Oklahoma House of Representatives has passed legislation to allow veterans, reservists and others who have had firearms training to carry concealed weapons on public university campuses. The Tulsa World reported that the University of Oklahoma and other public universities are lobbying against the bill, which they say could endanger students by adding guns to campus in the hands of people who are not part of campus security plans.
  • In the continuing battle over the future of Antioch College, a Web site called The Antioch Papers has been a thorn in the side of the Antioch University board, which is now apparently trying to squelch the site. The site is sort of an Antioch version of The Smoking Gun, although instead of publishing documents related to the latest celebrity scandal, Antioch Papers publishes leaked documents about the university board's management of the college. Numerous reports and memos from administrators and trustees are annotated to reflect the site organizers' view that the university trustees are responsible for the college's financial problems and should not be permitted to shutter it. Now the university board has had a law firm write to the Web site, demanding that it remove documents that relate to the privileged communications between lawyers and clients or that are otherwise confidential. The letter urges the removal of all "non-public documents" and suggests that legal action might be taken. "The board takes its obligation very seriously, and will act to prevent further misappropriation of the board's communications with its attorneys or proprietary financial and business planning information." The lawyers did not respond to repeated phone calls seeking information about their legal interpretation. The organizers of the Antioch Papers site have fired back a letter in which they reminded the lawyer of the "long tradition of the First Amendment" and noted that the documents have all been given to the Web site. "Your concerns lie with the Antioch University's Board of Trustees inability to control its administrators and employees," the letter says. Not surprisingly, the site organizers posted the lawyer's letter and their reply on their Web site.
  • The president of the University of Notre Dame announced last week that he would allow a campus production of The Vagina Monologues -- and the debate over that decision is taking off. The play has been controversial at many campuses, especially religious institutions, but Notre Dame's special status in Roman Catholic higher education has focused more attention on the issue there. In his statement authorizing the play, the Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame's president, cited both the university's commitment to academic freedom and the agreement of play organizers to abide by principles he had established. For example, each performance will be followed by an academic panel featuring at least one speaker to offer the Catholic perspective on the issues addressed. Father Jenkins wrote in his statement that he suspected he would offend both supporters and critics of the play with his decision to approve it under such conditions only. Bishop John D'Arcy of the diocese in which Notre Dame is located issued his own statement, calling the play "pornographic and spiritually harmful," and criticizing the decision to permit it. One of the project's organizers wrote about the situation on the blog Free Exchange on Campus, and while she noted the limitations placed on the effort, she praised the decision to let the production take place as "a positive step forward."
  • Students at Brevard College gathered outside the campus Thursday to distribute copies of a new literary magazine they had produced, and that was banned by the college because of its use of profanity, Blue Ridge Now reported. Students vowed to distribute their press run off campus to get around the ban.
  • The Smithsonian Institution announced Saturday that its next secretary would be G. Wayne Clough, president of Georgia Institute of Technology since 1994. At Georgia Tech, Clough has been successful at adding programs and raising money. The Smithsonian -- with 19 museums, the National Zoological Park, and 9 research facilities -- is enormously popular with the public, but has been criticized in the last year over spending by its leaders.
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