Quick Takes: Northridge Student Held in Iran, Debt Is Up, Ex-Dean at Louisville Indicted, Grade Tampering, Ad Compares Stem Cell Research to Tuskegee Study, Young Voters, Oral Roberts Settles, Threats at Neb., Apple U., SUNY Criticized on Crime Reports

October 23, 2008
  • U.S. officials are investigating the arrest in Iran of Esha Momeni, a graduate student at California State University at Northridge, who was in Iran working on a master's thesis on women's movements in Iran, CNN reported. Supporters of Momeni have created a blog with information about her, including interviews with some of her professors.
  • The average debt of students graduating from colleges with loans in 2007 was about 6 percent higher than those who graduated the year before, according to a report released Wednesday by the Project on Student Debt. The percentage increases were comparable at public and private institutions, but the debt was greater at private institutions (average of $23,065) than at publics ($18,482). The report suggests that data limitations result in those figures being slightly smaller than they actually are.
  • A federal grand jury has indicted Robert Felner, former education dean at the University of Louisville, on 10 counts of mail fraud, money-laundering and income-tax evasion, The Louisville Courier-Journal reported. The indictments relate to charges that he fraudulently obtained grants for Louisville and the University of Rhode Island. Felner had been a star dean at Louisville -- praised by senior administrators for attracting grant money, even as many faculty members filed complaints about him. He has denied wrongdoing.
  • Three students at Florida A&M University were indicted Wednesday on charges that they illegally entered the institution's to install software that would allow them to obtain passwords that would enable them to change grades, and that they then changed 650 grades of about 90 students, The Tallahassee Democrat reported. One of the indicted students was also charged with changing the status of two other students from out-of-state to in-state. The three students pleaded not guilty.
  • Even amid all the nasty advertising of campaign season, an ad running in Detroit is attracting attention -- and anger -- from scientists. Michigan has strict, statewide limits on stem cell research, and a measure on the ballot this fall would loosen those rules -- a change that many university professors say is essential to advance their research. Opponents of the measure are now running an ad in Detroit, a city with a large black population, that compares stem cell research to the infamous Tuskegee experiments in which black men in Alabama were deceived into believing they were being treated for syphilis when in fact they were being monitored to watch the progression of the disease. The advertisement features documentary footage of the Tuskegee experiments while the narrator talks about how "unrestricted science" hurts "the vulnerable and minorities" and says that "research without restrictions" leaves "too much room for too much abuse." Supporters of the referendum have noted that stem cell research is in fact highly regulated by the federal government and others -- and that the studies envisioned by researchers are nothing like Tuskegee. An editorial in The Detroit Free Press criticized the ad for making a "horribly offensive, race-baiting comparison."
  • Barack Obama leads John McCain among voters aged 18-24 by a margin of 56 percent to 30 percent, according to a new national poll by the Harvard University Institute of Politics. More than half of those polled said that the economy was their top concern. A year ago, only 5 percent of students said that the economy was their top concern.
  • Oral Roberts University has reached a settlement with two professors who sued the institution charging wrongful termination after they alleged mismanagement by senior university officials, The Tulsa World reported. Details of the settlement were not released. When the professors sued, the university denied wrongdoing, but since their suit, the then-president has left, a large deficit was uncovered and the institution has acknowledged serious problems consistent with some of what the professors alleged.
  • The University of Nebraska at Lincoln on Wednesday released some of the threats it says prompted it to call off a talk next month by William Ayers, a University of Illinois at Chicago professor whose one-time role as a leader of the Weather Underground makes him controversial, The Omaha World-Herald reported. One message posted online from "Lee Harvey Cornhusker," for example said: "Give me a sniper rifle and a good firing position." Some professors have criticized the university, saying that it had plenty of time to set up adequate security.
  • Apple has hired Joel Polodny, dean of the Yale University School of Management, to become a vice president of the company and dean of Apple University. But as The Wall Street Journal reported, there is no word on what Apple University is.
  • Two-thirds of State University of New York campuses file crime reports with the federal government that are inconsistent with their own records, according to an audit released Wednesday by Thomas P. DiNapoli, comptroller of New York State. In some cases, the audit found, the colleges are failing to report serious crimes such as sexual offenses. Roger Johnson, SUNY's assistant vice chancellor for university police, issued a statement in which he stressed that the problems identified concerned reporting, not safety. He also pledged to review the audit and to "clarify any reporting inconsistencies."
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