Quick Takes: Higher Ed (Briefly) in the Debate, Ruling Protects Notre Dame From Suit on Grant, Ex-Provost says a VP 'Assaulted' Him, Chicago Debates Planned Friedman Institute, Budget Woes, Rise of Post-DVM Education, Missing Afghan Scholars Located

October 16, 2008
  • The presidential candidates briefly turned to education issues in the final Obama-McCain debate Wednesday night, but they didn't really say anything new. Both candidates said education was important for students and the economy. Sen. John McCain stressed that "spending more money isn't always the answer" and said that community colleges play a key role in worker retraining. Sen. Barack Obama got in a critique of a recent comment by a McCain adviser. "Recently his key economic adviser was asked about why he didn't seem to have some specific programs to help young people go to college and the response was, well, you know, we can't give money to every interest group that comes along," said Obama of his opponent. "I don't think America's youth are interest groups, I think they're our future." McCain, given the chance to respond, didn't answer that point directly. Obama distanced himself from William Ayers, an education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who once was a leader of the Weather Underground and who has been cited by Republicans as evidence of an Obama tie to terrorism. "Forty years ago, when I was 8 years old, [Ayers] engaged in despicable acts with a radical domestic group. I have roundly condemned those acts. Ten years ago he served and I served on a school reform board that was funded by one of Ronald Reagan's former ambassadors and close friends, Mr. Annenberg. Other members on that board were the presidents of the University of Illinois, the president of Northwestern University, who happens to be a Republican, the president of the Chicago Tribune, a Republican- leaning newspaper. Mr. Ayers is not involved in my campaign. He has never been involved in this campaign. And he will not advise me in the White House." A transcript of the debate may be found here -- the question that focused on education is at the end.
  • A federal appeals court ruled this week that several taxpayers may not sue the University of Notre Dame over a federal grant for training teachers at Roman Catholic schools that the plaintiffs believe violates the separation of church and state. The money in question has already been spent. The same court -- the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit -- ruled in 2006 that there might be grounds for such suits, a finding that worried many colleges fearful of having their grants challenged. But a subsequent Supreme Court ruling left many thinking that Notre Dame would prevail, as it now has. The rulings have not focused on the church-state questions, but on the right of taxpayers to sue.
  • Steven Hoch, who was briefly provost of Washington State University, said he was "assaulted" last month by Greg Royer, vice president for business and finance, The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reported. Hoch's departure after only weeks in office has led to many rumors and reports, including some suggesting a physical altercation, but he has not previously made such a direct comment. Royer did not comment on the allegation. While assaults on provosts by vice presidents aren't exactly typical, Hoch told the newspaper that the assault was a minor issue compared to another, unspecified topic.
  • The University of Chicago held a rare full faculty meeting Wednesday about the proposed institute to honor Milton Friedman, the late economist who was a professor at the university. Bloomberg reported on some protests outside the meeting and no policy changes announced. Some critics believe that naming an institute for Friedman would be an implied endorsement of his views, and would limit the diversity of idea discussed there. Some critics of the critics say that the dispute is an example of academic discomfort with any honor for a conservative thinker. Chicago officials have said that there would be no attempt to match research or teaching at the center with Friedman's views.
  • More colleges are announcing responses to the grim economic news. At the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Chancellor Robert C. Holub announced that a mid-year cut of 5 percent in state support will require a halt to most hiring -- with exceptions only as approved by the senior administration. For next year, when additional cuts are anticipated, Holub called for a rethinking of the way faculty members are hired -- to keep some searches going, but not as they have in the past. "I envision a process whereby proposals will be developed to fund positions in key areas of strength and/or in areas where our institution has the potential to be among the leaders nationally and internationally. I’d also like to see our faculty directly engaged in developing interdisciplinary approaches. We must direct all our energies to building the best faculty possible," he said. Pikeville College, in Kentucky, announced that it is cutting nearly 20 percent of its staff, including 15 of 105 faculty positions over the next 18 months, The Appalachian News-Express reported.
  • Last year, 40 percent of graduates of veterinary medicine programs entered post-graduate education programs -- typically internships or residencies -- a sharp increase from 15 percent in 1995, according to the American Veterinary Medicine Association. While competition for post-doctoral veterinary programs has become intense, some of the programs have been criticized for failing to provide adequate pay or mentoring, the association said in an analysis of the trend.
  • Federal officials said that five scholars from Afghanistan who have been missing from a program at the University of Washington have turned up in Canada, The Seattle Times reported. In all, seven scholars have disappeared from the university this year.
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