Quick Takes: How Attitudes Derail Math, College Funds Found to Have Been Misused, Mergers in Georgia, Why a Provost Left After 7 Weeks, Threats Shut Middle Tennessee, Turkey Turmoil at Harvard B-School

October 10, 2008
  • Cultural attitudes in the United States discourage the most talented students in mathematics -- especially female students -- from advancing in the field, according to a study that will appear today in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society. Unlike many previous studies that have focused on the poor performance of American students overall, this report examined participants in top mathematics competitions for students. "The U.S. culture that is discouraging girls is also discouraging boys," says Janet Mertz, a professor of oncology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and the senior author of the study. "The situation is becoming urgent. The data show that a majority of the top young mathematicians in this country were not born here." One bit of evidence cited in the report: Eighty percent of female and 60 percent of male faculty members hired in recent years by the very top research university mathematics departments in the United States were born in other countries.
  • A law firm hired by the City College of San Francisco has found that the college, at the direction of the then-chancellor, Philip Day, steered more than $28,000 in public funds into campaigns for two education measures before voters in 2006, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. According to the newspaper, such use of public funds appears to violate state laws. Day has since moved on to lead the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. He told the paper that its report was "not true."
  • Georgia's technical college system plans to merge 14 of its 33 institutions, so that 7 presidents' positions and some other senior jobs can be eliminated to save money, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. State officials said the cuts would save money without eliminating course offerings. But some local officials in communities whose local college would be subsumed into another fear a loss of clout for their hometown campuses.
  • Rumors have been flying at Washington State University since Provost Steven Hoch went on leave abruptly, only seven weeks into the job and without any public explanation from the university. The Seattle Times is today reporting that Hoch left after clashing with vice presidents who did not share his view that they should report to him, and that a heated meeting ended with Hoch and Greg Royer, the vice president for business and finance, in a corridor in which one man apparently tried to push the other. Neither man commented for the article, but the incident is the subject of an internal review, the Times said.
  • Citing a "credible threat," Middle Tennessee State University shut down Thursday and will not hold scheduled classes Friday. While officials did not reveal details about the threat, a statement said that the decision followed "a series of threatening e-mails and suspicious fires." The Associated Press reported that police arrested a 19-year old student on terrorism charges, but authorities have not revealed a motive.
  • A turkey, uninvited, has made a home at the campus of Harvard Business School, and some students are demanding that the turkey pay a price for allegedly chasing them and for scratching cars. But The Boston Globe reported that university officials say that they are barred from moving the turkey. "The turkey is considered protected wildlife, and in Massachusetts, it's against the law to relocate wildlife," said one administrator. "So until then, all we can do really is let the turkey be and monitor reports about how aggressive it is."
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