Quick Takes: Madonna Constantine Fired, A Very Full Friday Option, Win for GMAT, Clean Learning, Higher Ed Act Extension (Again), Gains for Syracuse Adjuncts, Breaking News on Odysseus

June 24, 2008
  • Teachers College of Columbia University has terminated the employment of Madonna G. Constantine, a tenured professor who was found by a university inquiry to have used the work of others in her papers numerous times. College officials referred calls to an outside public relations company, which in turn would only confirm that Constantine has been terminated, but that she may appeal the decision. When word of the findings became public in February, college officials stressed that Constantine remained employed. Constantine has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and accused her accusers of in fact copying her work -- a possibility disputed by Columbia investigators. Teachers College officials said that a faculty panel reviewed the investigative group's work before action was taken against Constantine. Her lawyer sent an e-mail to The New York Sun stating that his client's accusers were liars. Last year, while charges were being investigated against her, Constantine found a noose outside her office and that incident -- in which charges have yet to be filed -- prompted widespread condemnations of racism. A grand jury investigating the noose incident has subpoenaed some of Constantine's records.
  • The rising price of gas has prompted some colleges to eliminate Friday classes so students who commute can avoid driving to campus on one weekday. Volunteer State Community College is taking a different approach and giving students a Fridays-only option for general education through a program called "Full Time Friday." Students will be able to take four general education courses in Friday meeting times only, which would be 8 a.m.-10:50 a.m.; noon-2:50 p.m.; 3:30 p.m.-6:20 p.m.; and 7 p.m.-9:50 p.m. In this way, students able to come to campus only once a week could move far along on general education requirements in a single semester. A combination online/in person option would allow students to come to campus only once a month.
  • A federal judge has given the Graduate Management Admission Council control over a Web site that the council said was illegally distributing questions from the GMAT, which is taken by most students who apply to earn an M.B.A. The owner of the Web site has returned to his native China and the Web site now features warnings against trying to obtain GMAT questions.
  • Lack of cleanliness in educational facilities hinders learning, according to a national survey of students by APPA, the organization that represents higher education facility managers. In the survey, students ranked cleanliness as the fourth most important building element to influence learning, after noise, air temperature, and lighting.
  • Leaders in Congress are still insisting that they are planning to pass legislation to renew the Higher Education Act by July (no, really, they are. Yes, it's been 10 years since the law was last renewed, but just be patient.). To give themselves more time, Congressional leaders have introduced their 13th temporary extension of the law -- this one would expire July 31, instead of the current June 30.
  • Syracuse University adjuncts have approved their first union contract with the university, under which they are receiving gains in pay, health insurance, professional development and procedures for resolving disputes. The union is an affiliate of the New York State United Teachers, which is part of the American Federation of Teachers, which released details on the contract.
  • Did the events in Homer's Odyssey happen as described? Rockefeller University, not traditionally known as a classics powerhouse, on Monday announced a key bit of evidence. Scholars have studied four celestial events described with corresponding dates -- a new moon, the placement of certain constellations in the sky certain days later, and so forth. The four events don't recur in the same way, so scholars are able to time when Odysseus would have killed his wife's suitors to a precise date: April 16, 1178 B.C. That date matches one for a total eclipse, also described by Homer. The scholars are Marcelo O. Magnasco, head of Rockefeller's Laboratory of Mathematical Physics, and his colleague Constantino Baikouzis of the Proyecto Observatorio at the Observatorio Astronómico in La Plata, Argentina. Their work appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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