Quick Takes: Faculty Object to Bonuses Based on Student Reviews, California Cuts, Boston U. Plans Cuts to Add Aid, U.S. Sues Luna CC, McCain Picks Up Palin's Critique of Fruit Fly Research, Florida Legislators' College Jobs, Rebound for Fiction

January 12, 2009
  • Faculty leaders in the Texas A&M University System are objecting to a plan to award bonuses to some professors based solely on reviews in student evaluations, The Bryan-College Station Eagle reported. Professors say that the plan will effectively exclude professors who teach difficult subject matter and may encourage grade inflation. University officials said the bonuses would encourage students' "customer satisfaction," by students the ability to reward good teaching with cash.
  • As California lawmakers continue to struggle with statewide budget cuts, the state's two university systems on Friday both gave indications of steps the likely cuts will force them to take. The University of California announced that it may reduce freshman enrollment by 2,300 students (about 6 percent) to deal with budget cuts, the Los Angeles Times reported. The California State University System announced a number of measures, including a freeze on senior administrators' salaries, and the suspension of hundreds of construction projects.
  • Boston University is today announcing plans for more budget cuts and reallocations, following a 41 percent increase in mid-year financial aid applications from students. The university has already instituted a hiring freeze and is now planning to review various services -- in areas such as communications, finance, alumni relations and research administration -- to look for ways to reorganize to become more efficient. Further, the university is reviewing the subsidies it provides to various institutes and centers. A university statement said some layoffs are "very likely."
  • The U.S. Justice Department on Friday sued Luna Community College, charging the New Mexico institution with ignoring sexual harassment of another employee by a now-retired college president. The suit said that Leroy Sanchez, the former president, made unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature and engaged in sexual comments and gestures to an employee he supervised, and that the college took no action to prevent the harassment. The Associated Press reported that the college said that Sanchez "exhibited inappropriate behavior" with the employee, but that the conduct was consensual and not harassment. Sanchez's wife said he was out and could not be reached for comment.
  • During the presidential campaign, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska infuriated scientists by mocking federal support for research on fruit flies -- apparently unaware of how many significant scientific advances (many of them helping humans) started with research on fruit flies. Sen. John McCain, her former running mate, returned to the fruit fly last week in his war against earmarks. This time he attacked the same fruit fly research, but also focused on an earmark for the University of Maine so that researchers at the Orono campus could conduct studies and fund a "lobster-cam" so people can watch lobsters. But it's unclear whether McCain's anti-earmark campaign is always based on knowledge of the earmarks. Maine officials say that the lobster-cam was a small student project that never received federal support, and that the funds that have gone to the Lobster Institute at Maine have supported research on mysterious diseases that have been depleting lobster stocks and endangering the lobster industry. "McCain and his buddies should check the facts," said Bob Bayer, a professor of animal and veterinary sciences and director of the institute.
  • Even after Florida's speaker of the House bowed to pressure and quit a college job, other lawmakers are sticking with dual roles. State Rep. Marti Coley told The Jackson County Floridan there was nothing wrong with her $60,000 a year job at Chipola College, where she worked for years at much lower pay as an adjunct. She became special assistant for business and community affairs after she became a lawmaker.
  • The reading of fiction is on the rise. A study to be released today by the National Endowment for the Arts reports that for the first time since the NEA started analyzing this type of data in 1982, the proportion of adults reporting that they read at least one novel, short story, poem or play in the last year increased over the previous survey, The New York Times reported. In 2008, the proportion reporting that they had read a work of fiction was 50.2 percent.
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