Quick Takes: Prof's Fantasies About Students, Falling Dollar Attracts Foreign Students, Voters and Science, Not-So-Deferred Compensation, Westmoreland County CC Warned on Patronage, Philosophy on Talk Radio, Ivy Indignities

July 7, 2008
  • Ronald Ayers, a tenured economics professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio who is fighting a move to fire him, regularly returned to his office after teaching to view pornography online and e-mail a professor in California about his fantasies about students, The San Antonio Express-News reported. Ayers has been accused of viewing porn in his office, but the newspaper obtained his e-mail files -- and revealed his writings about students. In one e-mail the paper obtained, Ayers notes that a female student in one of his classes comes from a broken home, leading him to wonder if she works at a nude or topless bar. He goes on to say that she is "totally dumb. That may explain her interest in me. Perhaps she has flirted her way through college to an A average." And Ayers adds: "Let me find out her weaknesses, flatter her, and then dig out more info to use to my advantage later." A lawyer for Ayers said that these e-mail messages do not mean he actually did anything inappropriate. "We all know we write stuff in e-mails that we shouldn't," the lawyer told the newspaper. "I don't think they have evidence that he did anything wrong with students. They are using it for a smear campaign." The e-mail messages the newspaper obtained also show that Ayers was repeatedly urged by his chair to clean up his office.
  • Many colleges are reporting significant increases in foreign students' applications and acceptances for the fall, in part because the falling value of the dollar has effectively made higher education in the United States significantly less expensive for students from other countries, The Boston Globe reported. The trend is least evident at institutions that provide more financial support for international students -- generally some of the top American universities, which attract many of the top students -- because the value of scholarships makes the value of the dollar less important.
  • Voters are more likely to back candidates for political office who support improvements in science education and research than other candidates -- and many voters are much more likely to back such candidates, according to a poll released by Scientists & Engineers for America, a group working to encourage more discussion of science issues in elections.
  • In 2005, the board of the University of Central Arkansas approved a deferred compensation plan for President Lu Hardin that would provide $300,000 in five years -- provided he stayed in office for five years. Since it is only three years later, some in Arkansas want to know why he's getting the money now. The Arkansas Times reported that the board had moved to provide the funds now, but said that university officials suggested only private funds were being used. Then The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported that not all of the funds are private, although the public funds will be repaid. University officials are defending the payments as legitimate ways to keep a leader in office.
  • Westmoreland County Community College is facing criticism over patronage pressure from county legislators. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the Pennsylvania college's accreditor, has demanded a report by September 1 on how the college will curb efforts by politicians to influence hiring decisions.
  • Talk radio features just about everything, including a show where the stars are philosophy professors. A feature in the Los Angeles Times explored "Philosophy Talk," on which two Stanford University professors -- Ken Taylor and John Perry -- respond to questions such as: "Can science explain consciousness?" "If Truth is so valuable, why is there so much B.S.?" "What are numbers?" and "What is a child?"
  • Bloomberg considers the important question: Why are so many Ivy League graduates behind bars? The New York Times, meanwhile, considers the reasons the University of Pennsylvania is renaming a building for a gossip columnist.
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