Quick Takes: Pentagon Pledges to Limit Restrictive Contracts, Oceanography Students Declared Not to Be Threat, Pirated Textbooks, Methodists Won't Block Bush Library, Health Work Force, Where Is Matteo Fontana?

July 18, 2008
  • The Pentagon has issued a policy statement that contracts for research with universities should not generally have restrictions on disseminating research findings unless the research is classified. The statement follows repeated complaints from universities, documented in a study by the Association of American Universities and the Council on Governmental Relations, that Pentagon contracts have been including restrictive clauses, even when work is not classified. Both organizations praised the Defense Department's new statement. Robert Berdahl, president of the AAU, said: “It will now be important for DOD contracting officers to abide by this agency-wide policy.”
  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has agreed to lift the designation of some foreign graduate students in oceanography as a security threat. The designation prevented the students, enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, many from countries considered close U.S. allies, from doing certain research work in harbors. While officials at MIT and other universities have called the designations absurd, the government didn't lift them until asked to do so by Rep. Brad Miller, chair of the Investigation and Oversight Subcommittee of the House Science and Technology Committee. Miller released various letters on the matter, praising the lifting of the classification and calling on the government to take steps to avoid hindering graduate students in similar situations.
  • More and more students are illegally downloading pirated copies of college textbooks, frustrating publishers, The Boston Globe reported.
  • Methodist leaders have declined to oppose plans to build President Bush's library and a controversial think tank at Southern Methodist University, the Associated Press reported. Critics of the plans -- who have focused on the think tank, with its apparent goal of promoting the Bush administration's views rather than neutral scholarship -- had hoped to enlist Methodist leaders in a last-ditch effort to stop the project from going forward.
  • The health infrastructure in the United States is in serious danger because of the lack of a comprehensive work-force plan to train and hire health professionals, warns a new report from the Association of Academic Health Centers.
  • "Where in the World is Matteo Fontana?" That's the question posed by Higher Ed Watch, a blog of the New American Foundation, about the former general manager of the Financial Partners Division of the U.S. Department of Education student aid department, who was placed on leave last year after the blog revealed that he held stock in a loan company at the center of last year's loan scandals -- at a time he would have played a role in regulating the company. The blog noted that it had been 459 days since Fontana was placed on leave (a few more days have since passed), and asked why there had been no resolution to the investigation, after so much time, and said that the Education Department appeared to be working at a slower pace even than vacation-generous European governments. Inside Higher Ed asked the Education Department if it had an answer for the long time in analyzing the situation. Samara Yudof, a spokeswoman, answered: "Matteo Fontana is on administrative leave. As you may be aware, the U.S. Department of Justice is handling this matter. As soon as Justice's investigation is completed, we will take appropriate action."
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