Quick Takes: Election Day at Last, Early Results In: Endowments Down, Obama Backs College Football Playoff, Emory Reviews Research Policies, Elevated Debate at Southern U. New Orleans

November 4, 2008
  • While most of the political discussion this fall has focused on the presidential race, there are a number of higher ed issues that may be resolved today as well. Massachusetts voters will consider abolishing their income tax -- a shift that public higher education leaders fear could have a devastating impact on their funding. Florida voters will consider a measure that would give counties the right to create taxes to supplement state funding of community colleges. Colorado and Nebraska will consider measures to bar the consideration of race in admissions or hiring at public colleges. Many students are also worried about whether they will be able to vote today -- and to build on record student turnouts in many primaries. Judging by student newspaper endorsements, it will come as no surprise that the Obama campaign is hoping for a large student turnout. UWIRE, which has been tracking endorsements, finds that Obama leads McCain 69-1 in student paper endorsements. The lone McCain supporter is the paper at the University of Mississippi, The Daily Mississippian.
  • The value of the University of Virginia's endowment fell by about $600 million, or 11 percent, in the fiscal quarter that ended September 30, and had dropped by an additional $600 million, or 20 percent, in the first half of October, The Cavalier Daily and The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. The newspaper accounts, citing a report by the University of Virginia Investment Management Company, said that the decline in the quarter ended September 30 was the biggest ever in actual dollars, and matched in percentage only by drops in 1990 and 1987. The Daily Texan reported that the combined investments of the University of Texas System had dropped by $1.6 billion in the month of September alone.
  • Sen . Barack Obama saved one of his most controversial higher education stances for the eve of Election Day. At halftime of ESPN's broadcast of "Monday Night Football," which featured interviews with the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates, Obama answered a question about the "one thing in sports" he would change if he could with this: "I think it is about time that we had playoffs in college football. I’m fed up with these computer rankings and this and that and the other. Get eight teams -- the top eight teams right at the end. You got a playoff. Decide on a national champion.” A playoff has been consistently opposed by defenders of the current bowl system and by some college presidents, who argue that it would extend the playing season to the detriment of the players' academic pursuits. Sen. John McCain answered a similar question by expressing a desire to wipe out use of anabolic steroids.
  • Emory University -- which has been facing Congressional scrutiny over alleged conflicts of interest by a prominent researcher -- announced Monday that it is creating a special committee to review its policies on research . Paul Root Wolpe, director of Emory’s Center for Ethics, will lead the study. James W. Wagner, the university's president, said in a prepared statement that corporate funding for university research “represents an important source of private funding serving a public good.” At the same time, however, he said that such funding "places a special responsibility" on the university to "sustain strong policies, practices, and a culture geared toward eliminating the possibility that individuals, wittingly or unwittingly, might compromise or bias scholarly contributions, research findings, patient care, teaching, mentoring, and by extension the university’s reputation."
  • The reconstruction of Southern University of New Orleans, one of the campuses that was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina, is on hold again. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that state officials want to move the campus to higher ground, where future hurricanes might not cause as much damage. But federal officials, who would pay for the move, are demanding more documentation that the shift makes sense.
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