Quick Takes: Claiborne Pell Dies, Advice for Obama, Distance Ed Enrollments, Yeshiva Adjusts Losses, Harvard Prof Limits Ties to Drug Companies, Deferred Bonus Raises Eyebrows, RPI Donated to Clinton Library, Unusual Bequest for Monroe CC, Banned Words

January 2, 2009
  • Claiborne Pell, who, as a Democratic senator from Rhode Island from 1961 to 1997, played a key role in higher education policy, died Thursday, at the age of 90. Pell may be best known in higher education as the author of the legislation that created Basic Educational Opportunity Grants, which are the primary federal program to help low-income students go to college. Congress later renamed the grants Pell Grants in honor of the senator. Pell was also the chief sponsor of the legislation creating the National Sea Grant College Program, which provides funds for research and education on coastal and marine issues, and -- working with President Lyndon B. Johnson -- of the legislation that created the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
  • The Association of American Universities has issued a detailed set of recommendations for the new Obama administration. The guidance praises the president-elect for making science appointments early in the transition, and urges him to continue to place research at the center of plans for economic recovery. The recommendations are broken down by agency, and while the focus is science and technology, there are also ideas for the Education Department and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
  • Two-thirds of all colleges and universities -- two-year and four-year -- reported offering online or partly online "hybrid" courses during the 2006-7 academic year, according to a new report by the National Center for Education Statistics. Other key findings: Distance education courses accounted for an estimated 12.2 million enrollments (or registrations). And asynchronous technologies were the most widely used technology for the instructional delivery of distance courses.
  • Yeshiva University now says it didn't lose $110 million in the investment scandal involving Bernard Madoff, but a much smaller sum: $14.5 million, Bloomberg reported. That's because $14.5 million is the total the university invested through Madoff. While he had reported to the university that the value had grown to $110 million, Yeshiva officials say that figure was fiction, and since they never had that much money, they didn't lose it.
  • Joseph Biederman, a Harvard Medical School professor being investigated by a U.S. Senate committee for conflicts of interest, has agreed to stop participating in several drug industry-financed studies, and not to be a consultant or speaker for the drug industry, pending the outcome of an investigation by Massachusetts General Hospital, where he practices, The Wall Street Journal reported. While Biederman has denied wrongdoing, the Senate probe found that he failed to report most of the $1.6 million in payments he received from drug companies from 2000 to 2006, a period in which he took a controversial stance in favor of the use of an anti-psychotic drug on children.
  • The chancellor of Nebraska's state college system is reviewing compensation policies after learning that the former president of Peru State College is receiving a $455,000 deferred bonus from the college's foundation, The Omaha World-Herald reported. While each state college has a foundation, state officials didn't realize that private funds were being used for presidents' compensation.
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which is facing scrutiny because of a round of layoffs, continues to receive questions about its spending priorities. The records released by President Clinton about donations to his library included RPI, which was identified as making a gift in the $25,001-$50,000 category, T he Albany Times Union reported. RPI officials wouldn't say why they gave the funds, but some professors say that the gift was in effect a political contribution and inappropriate.
  • John H. Koch worked as a locker room attendant at Monroe Community College, never earning more than $23,000 a year, until he retired in 2004, at the age of 81. He died a year ago, and left the college $750,000 -- the bulk of his savings, The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported. The funds will be used for scholarships for liberal arts students with financial need.
  • Lake Superior State University focused on environmental jargon and current events in compiling its latest List of Words to Be Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness. This year's list includes "green" (along with "going green"), "carbon footprint," and such 2008 election wonders as "maverick" and "first dude."
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