Quick Takes: Santa Fe Seeks State Takeover, Lavish Tutoring for Athletes, Attack on Wrong Target, Obama's Pick Is Faust Reject, Fraternity Tragedies, Oakland U. Sued on Dorm Access, More Students Skip Thanksgiving Break, '08 Election Adds to Latke Debate

December 1, 2008
  • The College of Santa Fe, a private four-year institution, is seeking a state takeover. The college has been negotiating with Laureate, the international chain of for-profit institutions, about being acquired, but that deal fell apart, according to an e-mail message sent to the campus by the college's president, Stuart Kirk, and printed in The Santa Fe Reporter. The message indicated that discussions have started with the state about possibly becoming part of New Mexico Highlands University or the University of New Mexico. The college's debt -- approximately $30 million, according to the Reporter -- apparently made it difficult to reach an agreement with Laureate. The college is known for a liberal arts tradition and a strong emphasis on the arts.
  • Is it fair for colleges and universities to spend millions to build and staff lavish tutoring centers that are open only to athletes? An in-depth article in the Chicago Tribune explores this issue. The article notes that at the $6 million center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, athletes study in rooms with oversize leather chairs and Oriental rugs.
  • Animal rights groups torched two cars and claimed responsibility for attacking them as a way to draw attention to their alleged owner, a researcher at the University of California at Los Angeles who works with animals. But police officials report that the cars belonged to a neighbor of the UCLA professor -- someone who had nothing to do with UCLA research. Gene Block, chancellor of UCLA, issued a statement in which he said: "Through these reprehensible tactics and reckless behavior, anti–animal research extremists demonstrate repeatedly that they are willing not only to risk the lives of those who spend their careers working to help others but also the lives of the unsuspecting general public, including children. Words cannot express the contempt we hold for these acts of cowardice that have now put in harm's way not only our faculty, students and staff, but their families, friends and neighbors."
  • Christina Romer may be having the last laugh. She's an economist at the University of California at Berkeley who was picked by President-elect Barack Obama to be director of the President's Council of Economic Advisors. As several blogs and The Boston Globe have noted, Romer was blocked this year from gaining a tenured slot at Harvard University when President Drew Faust vetoed the hire. When Faust blocked Romer's hire, David Romer, the economist's husband and also a prominent scholar in the field at Berkeley, turned down his own Harvard offer.
  • The deaths of college students -- and the role played by hazing and drinking -- were in the news on several campuses last week. A state judge in Texas overturned a $16.2 million verdict against Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, The Austin American-Statesman reported. The funds had been awarded to the family of Tyler Cross, a pledge who fell to his death in 2006 following what authorities found to be hazing. The local and national branches of the fraternity never responded to the suit, and the judge ordered a new trial when they said that, in an accident, they had failed to respond and now wanted to exercise their right to do so. A new trial will now take place. At Utah State University, officials are investigating the death of a freshman whose family members report being told that he was considered the most desirable pledge in his class, so as a "reward," a group from a sorority "kidnapped" him for a night of drinking that left him dead, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. The university has suspended the dead pledge's fraternity, Sigma Nu, and the sorority reportedly involved, Chi Omega. Wabash College, meanwhile, is debating a decision to shut down Delta Tau Delta fraternity, following the death of a freshman there, The New York Times reported. Some say that the college is inappropriately punishing an entire fraternity without determining which individuals were responsible.
  • Oakland University was sued last week in federal court on behalf of a student with a cognitive impairment who is enrolled in a special non-credit program, The Detroit News reported. The suit charges that the university is discriminating against the student by denying him dorm access and forcing him to take long bus rides to and from campus. The university has said that its policies are not illegal because they apply to all students not enrolled in degree programs.
  • With airfares high and bank accounts low, more students this year opted to stay on campus for Thanksgiving, the Los Angeles Times reported. Students and their families cited the desire to save money and the reality that the longer, post-semester break isn't that far off. According to the article, the decision appears to be harder on parents than on students.
  • A University of Chicago tradition for 62 years, and now the inspiration for similar events at Hillels nationwide, is the Latke-Hamentash Debate, in which professors argue the relative merits of the foods that Jews eat at the holidays of Hanukkah and Purim, respectively. At this year's Chicago event, the 2008 election provided inspiration with the Obama campaign's imagery being used to promote "Potatoes for Change" on behalf of latkes while the McCain campaign's imagery was used for a pro-hamentash "Cookies First" poster. Given the president-elect's Chicago connections, it's not surprising that he was cited in the debate, according to an account in the student newspaper, The Chicago Maroon. One debater, while acknowledging that Obama has not taken a stance on the great question involved, noted that he was recently spotted buying latkes.
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