Quick Takes: Button Controversy Continues, Le Clézio Wins Literature Nobel, Censure in Montgomery, President Out at SW Oregon CC, When a Slur Isn't a Slur, Understanding Rankings

October 9, 2008
  • The dispute over political buttons is not over at the University of Illinois. A memo from the university's ethics office last month suggested that professors were barred by state regulations from wearing political buttons, among other activities. Responding to furious faculty members, who said their rights had been trampled, President B. Joseph White said that they could wear buttons. But White's clarification said that professors could wear buttons only "provided that employees at that time are neither on duty nor in the workplace of the university." On Wednesday, a committee of the Urbana-Champaign chapter of the American Association of University Professors wrote to White arguing that such limits were inappropriate and might be unconstitutional. The letter cited Supreme Court rulings on the free speech rights of public school employees and questioned what harm would come from a faculty member wearing a button to a departmental meeting or around campus.
  • Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio was named Thursday morning as the winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature. The French writer was honored at an "author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization." Much of his work is available in English translations, including three volumes released by university presses. The Mexican Dream was published by the University of Chicago Press. And the University of Nebraska Press has published The Round and Other Cold Hard Facts and Onitsha.
  • The Faculty Senate at Auburn University at Montgomery has censured the administration for hiring a professor who is leading a new informatics institute without consulting faculty members in the mathematics department, in which the institute resides, The Montgomery Advertiserreported. Professors said this was a clear violation of institution rules. Administrators largely agreed, and have apologized for the mistake and switched the slot to one that is designated as administration, not faculty.
  • The board of Southwestern Oregon Community College has accepted the immediate resignation of Judith Hansen as president of the college, The Coos Bay World reported. Hansen has been in office since 2005 and has faced a series of no-confidence votes by various campus groups. She had said until this week that she was committed to staying.
  • A gay student group is clashing with officials in the San Diego Community College District over attempts to post leaflets at two campuses announcing the name of the organization: Fellowship of Associated Gay Students and Straight Allies. Actually, it is the acronym -- FAGS -- that is causing problems. A student organizer told The San Diego Union-Tribune that the name is designed to have "a little pop to it" and to "neutralize" the slur, in the same way many people have changed the way the word "queer" is used. But district officials reported that there were complaints about the term, leading to a request to keep the posters down.
  • The Institute for Higher Education Policy has created a Ranking Systems Clearinghouse with information on the wide range of rankings -- well beyond those of U.S. News & World Report -- with which national and international groups are evaluating colleges.
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