Quick Takes: Obama's Transition Team for NSF and NEH, Details on Cal State Cuts, Layoffs at Oral Roberts, Ties to India, Budget Freedom for Suffolk County CC, Iran and Venezuela Plan University, Confederates vs. Johns Hopkins

November 18, 2008
  • President-elect Barack Obama continues to name members of his transition team. Among the latest announcements are that the National Science Foundation agency review will be led by Jim Kohlenberger -- who was senior domestic policy adviser to Vice President Al Gore, where he focused on science and technology -- and Henry M. Rivera, a lawyer. For the arts and humanities transition team, Obama has selected Bill Ivey, director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts; Anne Luzzatto, who served in the Clinton administration as a special assistant to the president and who has more recently been vice president for meetings and outreach at the Council on Foreign Relations; and Clement Price, the Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor of History and director of the Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience at Rutgers University at Newark.
  • Officials of the California State University System on Monday offered details about their plans -- revealed in general form earlier -- to shrink enrollment by about 10,000 students as part of the strategy to copy with major state budget cuts. "[T]his is a difficult decision that I want the board to discuss on Wednesday but I think that we are forced into the position that we are because degrading quality and not providing real access to students is a big issue," said Charles B. Reed, system chancellor. "We can’t continue to admit more and more students without receiving adequate funding."
  • Oral Roberts University is planning to eliminate the jobs of about 100 people over the course of the academic year. While many colleges are facing tough times because of the economy, Oral Roberts has the additional burden of recovering from a scandal that led to the departure of its previous president. The university has pledged that no one will lose a job until at least March.
  • Yale University announced a major new effort -- eventually to have a $75 million endowment -- to build academic ties to India. The program will involve new faculty positions throughout the university and intensified recruitment efforts for students in India. In October, Cornell University announced a $50 million gift, half of which will be used to promote research in agriculture and nutrition that would help India and half of which will be used for scholarships for Indian students to attend Cornell.
  • A New York State judge has thrown out Suffolk County's line-item control over the budget of Suffolk County Community College, saying that the county should not block the college's "right to make independent academic decisions," Newsday reported. Some county officials want to appeal.
  • The governments of Venezuela and Iran are jointly planning a new university in Caracas that will focus on "21st century socialism," officials told the Associated Press. The new University of Civilizations will be tuition-free.
  • The Civil War lives on. The Maryland chapters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans hold a ceremony every January to honor the birthdays of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. The ceremony is held in a park adjacent to Johns Hopkins University and the groups have then rented space at Hopkins for a party after the ceremony. This year, Hopkins turned down the Confederate groups, prompting some supporters to call Hopkins "rude, unprincipled and unpatriotic," as this blog entry put it. A spokesman for Hopkins noted that the university does not control the park, and that the Confederate groups are free to continue to honor their generals there. But he added, "We're not legally required to rent meeting space to anyone who asks." As for the change of heart this year, the spokesman said that there were complaints last year and that "we choose not to have the Confederate battle flag carried across our campus, particularly so close to the Martin Luther King holiday." The Confederate groups plan to soldier on, but leaders are warning members that -- without access to the Hopkins facilities -- the ceremony in the park may be shorter as there will be no food, drink or restrooms.
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