Quick Takes: A Prof and His Drug Company Ties, Madonna Constantine Sues Columbia, Scrutiny of Ads Against Gay Marriage, Attack on Muslim Student at Elmhurst, Economics Nobel, 'Blazing Saddles' Misfires, The Right Kind of Complaint

October 13, 2008
  • Charles Nemeroff of Emory University has become a key target of a U.S. Senate inquiry into whether researchers are complying with federal and university requirements to report possible conflicts of interest. A profile of Nemeroff Sunday in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution explores why the psychiatrist has been praised for his work and his success at landing large grants, but has also been called an "arrogant academic bully" and nicknamed "Dr. Bling-Bling." The article notes that in 2002 Nemeroff published an article in a British journal praising the potential of a type of medicinal skin patch -- without revealing that he owned a patent on the patch. (Nemeroff, who didn't comment for the new Journal-Constitution article, said at the time that the journal didn't require disclosure.) And in 2006, Nemeroff wrote a piece for another journal about a therapy produced by a company with which he had an undisclosed financial relationship, the article said.
  • Madonna G. Constantine became well known last year when she reported finding a noose outside her office at Teachers College of Columbia University. She didn't reveal at the time -- as she became a hero to students who said that Constantine, who is black, was a victim of racism -- that several students had filed complaints charging her with plagiarizing their work. Since then, the college has concluded that Constantine did plagiarize and fired her. Now, Constantine is suing Columbia, The New York Daily News reported, claiming that "extreme bias" was at work as the university backed her rivals, who she says copied her work. Columbia officials have repeatedly said that they gave Constantine a fair hearing.
  • Pepperdine University has been receiving considerable scrutiny because of the role of one of its law professors in an advertisement encouraging California voters to ban gay marriage. The professor, Richard Peterson, was identified with his university affiliation, and the university asked that its name be removed from the ad, reflecting its position that it does not make endorsements about state ballot measures. The Pepperdine name disappeared from the ad, but now a new version of the ad is out -- with the Pepperdine title back -- and gay rights advocates are asking why the university hasn't demanded removal of its name again. The answer, according to a Pepperdine spokesman, is that the latest version of the ad also features a disclaimer stating that institutional names are for identification purposes only. While the spokesman said that some on the campus (and off of it) find the disclaimer to be insufficiently large, the spokesman said that, at this point, the university is not asking for additional changes in the ad.
  • Hundreds of students at Elmhurst College, in Illinois, held a rally Friday to protest an incident in which a Muslim student says she was hit with a gun by a masked gunman in a campus bathroom Thursday night, the Chicago Tribune reported. Anti-Muslim graffiti was written on the student's locker the previous week, saying "Die Muslims. Rid us of your filth." The college estimates that about 25 of its 3,300 students are Muslim, but several incidents of verbal harassment have been reported since a September 18 rally to protest the Guantanamo Bay prison camp. S. Alan Ray, the college's president, issued a statement Friday in which he said "we are all shocked and saddened" by the report of the attack, and announcing enhanced security measures.
  • Paul Krugman, a Princeton University economist turned columnist for The New York Times, was awarded the 2008 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics this morning. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences honored him for "for his analysis of trade patterns and location of economic activity."
  • The University of Wisconsin at Madison has apologized to a black student who complained that a seminar he took for working professionals featured a film clip from "Blazing Saddles" in which white people were depicted shouting racial slurs at black workers and telling them to sing like slaves, the Associated Press reported. The student's employer received a refund for the costs of the workshop. The AP said that records it obtained didn't indicate why "Blazing Saddles" clips were used in class.
  • For college presidents, a knock on the door at home at 10:45 p.m. usually isn't good news, and most probably wouldn't be thrilled to find two students wanting to lodge a complaint. So George S. Bridges, president of Whitman College, didn't know what he would hear when two students arrived at that hour on Thursday. As he recounted in an e-mail to his board that he shared with Inside Higher Ed, the students were upset about a scheduling mistake. Fall break started after classes on Friday, and breaks are the only time the library closes. Somehow the library closed at 10 p.m. last Thursday and the students were upset that they couldn't get in more study time. In his e-mail to trustees, he noted that one student said, "I realize how geeky this seems, President Bridges, but I've got coursework to do." Bridges wrote in his e-mail that amid the challenges of higher education these days, "it gives me great pleasure to know that our students have their priorities straight." And in case you are wondering, he got the library re-opened by 11:15.
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