Quick Takes: Michigan Grad Students Call Strike, Brazos Quits Loan Program, Settlement Proposed for Va. Tech Families, North Dakota Keeps Controversial Speaker, Ayn Rand Requirement, Mars Research Endangered, Out-of-Control Rabbits

March 25, 2008
  • The Graduate Employees' Organization of the University of Michigan, an American Federation of Teachers unit that represents graduate instructors, is planning to strike today and tomorrow, following the close of negotiations Monday night without a new contract. A statement from the union said that while progress was being made on some issues, the university refused to continue negotiating into the night, and that there had been only "minimal movement" on salary issues and mental health benefits. A University of Michigan official told The Detroit News that the union's salary proposals were "just way too high." Brief strikes are something of a tradition in the graduate students' negotiations with Michigan. The student newspaper, The Michigan Daily, in today's editorial, said that tradition reflects the university's failure to develop "a broad solution" for supporting the graduate students and other employees. Urging students not to cross picket lines, the Daily said that "a future degree doesn't put food on the table now."
  • Brazos Higher Education Service Corp., the fourth largest holder of guaranteed student loans, announced that it would no longer issue new student loans, Bloomberg reported. Brazos officials said that they hoped to re-enter the loan field if the credit crunch eases.
  • A proposed settlement by Virginia would provide families of the victims of last year's mass killing at Virginia Tech $100,000 each, medical and counseling expenses, and the right to question the governor and university about events related to the tragedy, the Associated Press reported. The state, hoping to avoid a flood of lawsuits, made the offer with the contingency that Virginia can withdraw from the agreement if not enough families accept the proposal. The Virginian-Pilotreported that some families are angry about the proposal, with the lawyer for one calling the offer an "absolute insult."
  • The University of North Dakota is defending the right of one of its colleges to invite Bill Ayers, a distinguished professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, to give a talk at the campus, The Grand Forks Herald reported. Three student groups -- Young Americans for Freedom, College Republicans and Females for Firearms -- called on the university to condemn the visit because Ayers was once a leader of the Weather Underground. Charles Kupchella, president of the university, said in a statement: "A good case has not been made -- ever -- that free speech (speech not otherwise unlawfully harmful) should sometimes or by some people be suppressed in the interest of freedom.”
  • Some professors at Marshall University were upset that the institution accepted a gift with the condition that Ayn Rand be required reading in a course. It turns out Marshall isn't alone. Although some colleges have rejected such deals, at least 17 have accepted them, The Charlotte Observer reported.
  • Planned budget cuts by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will force scientists to stop using one of the two Mars rovers, and to limit the use of the other one, the Associated Press reported.
  • The University of Victoria, in Canada, is facing a rabbit crisis. Thousands of rabbits live (and reproduce) on the campus -- and the university is so well known for its bunny population that in the week after Easter, families that are rethinking their decisions to buy live rabbits for their children tend to dump the rabbits on the campus. The Globe and Mail reported that while students love the rabbits, the cute creatures are destroying campus gardens and athletic fields and making construction difficult. The university is now considering several approaches to reducing its rabbit population, including a "bunny cull" or efforts at rabbit birth control. One approach might be to capture the rabbits and to neuter or spay them. Another approach would be to capture them and hold them in single-sex facilities. Students are concerned about any infringement on rabbits' rights. The director of campus planning at the university told the newspaper that a cull of the rabbits would be about as popular as a baby seal hunt.
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