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Quick Takes: Another Loyalty Oath Firing at Cal State, Support for Combined College Tax Credit, Northwestern Uninvites Rev. Wright, Official's Suspension Roils Herkimer CC, Concealed Weapons Bill Advances, Doctoral Curb in China

May 2, 2008
  • When a California State University East Bay instructor was fired in February for refusing to sign a loyalty oath required of state employees, many assumed the case was a fluke, especially when a compromise allowed for her to be rehired. But the Los Angeles Times found another case this academic year of an instructor being hired, only to be dismissed for refusing to sign the oath. Wendy Gonaver, who lost a job teaching American studies at Cal State's Fullerton campus, is a Quaker and pacifist (like the instructor at East Bay) and wanted the right to attach to the oath a statement of her views. The Times also reported on two dismissals prior to this academic year, in 2001 and 1995.
  • Witnesses at a House of Representatives hearing Thursday on federal tax breaks for higher education urged the government to keep but revamp the tax benefits to make them more helpful to low-income students, to whom they are largely unavailable now. The hearing was held by the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures, which oversees federal tax policy, and featured a witness from the Government Accountability Office (who largely reprised a 2005 study by the agency showing that the existing tax breaks confuse and deter many Americans from using them) as well as several researchers and college officials. Susan Dynarski, an associate professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, argued as she has before for combining the existing Hope and Lifelong Learning tax credits and an existing tuition tax deduction into one refundable tax credit that students from low-income backgrounds could qualify for, a stance shared by Wayne Watson, chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago. Such a plan is widely favored, but is likely to be extremely costly and therefore unlikely to advance in the current budget climate.
  • Northwestern University announced Thursday that it has rescinded an invitation to Rev. Jeremiah Wright, formerly the pastor to Sen. Barack Obama, to receive an honorary doctorate at this year's commencement ceremonies. Henry Bienen, president at Northwestern, wrote to Wright, saying: "In light of the controversy surrounding statements made by you that have recently been publicized, the celebratory character of Northwestern's commencement would be affected by our conferring of this honorary degree. Thus I am withdrawing the offer of an honorary degree previously extended to you." The decision by Northwestern follows a controversy last week in which some students said that they were dismayed that law school graduates would be addressed this year by Jerry Springer, the talk show host. Northwestern is defending that choice.
  • When the only black administrator at Herkimer County Community College, in New York State, was suspended in February, minority students were told she was on vacation. Now, The Utica Observer-Dispatch reported, those students are demanding to know why Janet Evelyn-Dorsey isn't on the job. Evelyn-Dorsey's lawyer said that the charges that led to her suspension are without merit, and relate to alleged informal use of profanity or the phrase "drop dead." College officials defended their handling of the case but declined to discuss specifics.
  • A committee of the Louisiana House of Representatives voted Thursday to allow concealed weapons on college campuses, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans reported. The legislation is opposed by student leaders and college officials.
  • China's Ministry of Education is planning to curb the growth of doctoral education, the official Xinhua news agency reported. Some officials have questioned the quality of doctoral programs, which have expanded rapidly. Others have noted that China's universities do not have jobs for all the new doctorates.
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