Quick Takes: Harvard Prof and Alleged Anti-Aging Drug, Priorities at RPI, Nashville Presidents Oppose 'English Only' Measure, Savings on Textbooks, NYU Lost $24M to Madoff, TMI for Graduation Speech, Adjuncts Get to Pay for Layoff Notice, MLA Parody

December 29, 2008
  • David Sinclair, a professor at Harvard Medical School, has quit the scientific advisory committee of Shaklee Corp., which markets an anti-aging "tonic" with language that suggests that it may delay aging in humans, a claim for which there isn't scientific evidence, The Wall Street Journal reported. While Sinclair told the Journal that the company had misused his name, the company says he gave permission for all uses of his name and Sinclair severed his ties only after the newspaper made inquiries into his links to Shaklee.
  • Following 98 layoffs at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute -- mostly of employees with relatively low salaries -- some are questioning the $1.3 million compensation and benefits paid to President Shirley Ann Jackson, The Albany Times Union reported. Not only does Jackson receive that compensation, and a presidential home, but she has a home on 36 acres in the Adirondacks that RPI bought for $450,000, not to mention considerable pay for serving on corporate boards. Some professors have circulated e-mail messages saying that Jackson and others should cut compensation to minimize layoffs. RPI declined to answer specific questions from the Albany paper, but noted communications from Jackson in which she said that alternatives to layoffs were explored and were not sufficient to deal with financial problems. "Rensselaer has provided enhanced severance benefits, career outplacement services, and counseling services for all affected staff, in addition to unemployment benefits," Jackson said. Comments on the newspaper's blog suggest plenty of anger over the layoffs and RPI's spending plans.
  • The presidents of eight colleges and universities in Nashville have issued an unusual joint statement to oppose a ballot measure the city's voters will consider January 22 to bar city service workers from communicating in any language except English, The Tennessean reported. "The irony of the city known as the 'Athens of the South' becoming the first major metropolitan community in America to pass 'English Only' is a distressing prospect," the letter said. "As academic leaders, we are concerned about the impact -- literal and symbolic -- on our mission of teaching, learning, curing and discovering. A statement by Nashville that we are 'English' only -- this 'blunt' instrument -- would undermine our important work and adversely affect this city known for learning and discovery." The statement was organized by Bob Fisher of Belmont University, who told the Tennessean: "We're standing up on this one and saying what we believe. We're all speaking for ourselves. We didn't ask our boards before we wrote it. We didn't ask the students, staff or faculty. We didn't take a poll." The other presidents who joined the letter are: Sister Mary Peter Muehlenkamp of Aquinas College, Hazel R. O'Leary of Fisk University, L. Randolph Lowry of Lipscomb University, Wayne J. Riley of Meharry Medical College, Melvin N. Johnson of Tennessee State University, Dan Boone of Trevecca Nazarene University and Nicholas S. Zeppos of Vanderbilt University.
  • Students at the State University of New York and City University of New York could save nearly 40 percent on textbooks by buying them online instead of at campus bookstores, according to a new report by Thomas P. DiNapoli, comptroller of New York State. Over the course of a year, those savings would make up most of a tuition increase just announced by SUNY, DiNapoli said. In many cases, DiNapoli said that students are unable to benefit from these savings because professors don't provide information about books early enough to allow for comparison shopping and online ordering.
  • Add New York University to the nonprofit institutions -- such as Tufts and Yeshiva University -- that lost millions through investments managed by Bernard Madoff, who is accused of running a mammoth Ponzi scheme. Bloomberg reported that NYU filed court papers Tuesday saying that it lost $24 million.
  • Some parents and officials at the University of Wisconsin at Madison are distressed by the student speech given at the December graduation ceremony because of its frequent mention of alcohol use, The Capital Times reported. While a brief mention of parties or bars isn't unheard of in such talks, and while the Madison speech didn't focus exclusively on boozing, there were multiple references not only to drinking, but to fake ID cards, kegs, bars and so forth.
  • When adjuncts at Idaho State University recently received notices that they may face layoffs, they also received a bill. The Associated Press reported that the university sent the letters by certified mail -- intending to have the $5 per letter charge billed to the university. But a mix-up resulted in recipients being billed. The university says it will reimburse the adjuncts.
  • Aaron Winter, who just completed his Ph.D. at the University of California at Irvine, and Andy Warren, who is a graduate student there, entertained attendees at last year's Modern Language Association meeting with a parody of the program. They are back this year with humor about -- what else in this year of bad news on the job market -- job letters. So to read a job application letter for "a specialist in Chaucer with subfields of post-modern literature and pre-op transsexuals," as well as other letters and last year's parody, check out the MLAde Web site.
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