Quick Takes: Obama Picks Adjunct for VP, Presidential Assist With a Keg, Accused Prof Is Likely Dead, Miami Bans Frosh Cars, UMass Seeks to Limit Drinking, Atheists' Gay Jesus Poster Stirs Anger

August 25, 2008
  • Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate, has picked an adjunct (who is also a fellow senator) as his vice presidential choice. Sen. Joe Biden, the Delaware Democrat, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972. For the last 17 years, he has co-taught a course every semester on constitutional law at Widener University. (The university's main campus is in Pennsylvania, but its law school is in Delaware.) Biden taught even during his presidential campaigns and his title is adjunct professor of law. Jill Biden, the senator's wife (whose doctorate Biden noted in his debut speech as vice presidential candidate Saturday), teaches English at Delaware Technical and Community College. Biden's focus in the Senate has been on foreign policy and the judiciary, not higher education. His positions on higher education are similar to those of Senator Obama: more support for Pell Grants and tax credits for higher education. During his presidential campaign this year, Biden called for the creation of a tax refund equal to the average cost of attending a public community college so that all students would be assured of at least two years of higher education. He was the prime sponsor of the Violence Against Women Act, which created new grant programs to help colleges prevent sexual assault. In 1998, Biden wrote a resolution adopted by the Senate calling on colleges to do more to combat binge drinking -- and two years later he wrote a letter to The New York Times complaining that few colleges were taking the issue seriously enough. In the Higher Education Act that was just enacted, Biden worked on a provision to authorize grants to colleges to improve facilities and hire faculty members for nursing programs.
  • Iowans are debating the implications of a photo that appears to show Robert Paxton, the president of Iowa Central Community College, helping to pour beer down the throat of a young woman, The Des Moines Register reported. The photo shows a boat outing that includes some other young women, and the president's son, John, who last year was a student at Iowa Central. Another woman in the photo appears to be pouring vodka down the throat of another passenger. When Paxton was originally asked by the Register whether he had recently been on a boat with young people, he said that he hadn't, but he later called back the newspaper and said that he had, and was aware that the photograph of the July 4 event was circulating. The president's son was arrested the day after the photos were taken and charged with second-offense drunk driving, the Register said. While some in the area are questioning the appropriateness of a college president sharing booze in this way, he told the paper that he did nothing wrong. Further, he said that the small keg he was shown holding above a young woman wasn't actually working, and that because the spigot was broken, no beer was actually coming out.
  • Authorities in Iowa expect today to confirm that a body found in a park Sunday is that of Arthur Miller, a political science professor accused of offering students higher grades if he could grope their breasts, The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported. Miller was reported missing last week, with a rifle that was also found with his body and police officials said that they believed Miller killed himself.
  • The University of Miami is for the first time banning freshmen who live on campus from having cars, The Miami Herald reported. University officials say that their plan will both promote environmentalism and alleviate a severe parking shortage. While some colleges have long banned freshmen from having cars and many have been more actively promoting the use of bicycles and public transportation, relatively few have been taking away the option of cars, although Bowdoin College recently announced that it would do so for next year's new class.
  • Officials at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst report that they are having success at cutting down on students' binge drinking, The Boston Globe reported. UMass, which has long been trying to shed a "party school" image, is using a "social norms" approach in which students are provided with information showing that most student drinking is moderate and not binge drinking.
  • Christian students at Lorain County Community College are objecting to a poster on campus, part of a collection of posters from different campus groups, that shows Jesus being embraced by a man, with the headline "Jesus Christ Had a Homosexual Relationship?" The Chronicle-Telegram reported that the Ohio community college's atheist group put up the poster to make students question their assumptions. Marcia Ballinger, a vice president at the college, said that while she didn't necessarily agree with the poster, it wasn't the college's role to censor. "In higher education, we certainly respect all viewpoints. There is debate, and there are different perspectives," she said. "Controversy on a college campus from students is something that is inherent to free speech."
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