President Obama on Saturday announced that he was making recess appointments of 15 of his nominees whose confirmations have been blocked by Senate Republicans' refusal to allow votes on them -- and two appointees in particular could lead to a major change for higher education. Those appointees -- Craig Becker and Mark Pearce -- will restore a quorum to the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB has lacked a quorum throughout the Obama administration, leading to legal challenges to its right to decide cases. One of the major goals for academic labor for the Obama administration was to see a reversal of the 2004 NLRB decision that effectively shut down the unionization of graduate student teaching assistants at private universities. But labor groups have hesitated to bring a challenge to the ruling while the NLRB lacked a quorum. The leaders of private universities generally oppose unionization of graduate students.
Higher Education Quick Takes
There may be much debate over what SAT scores really signify, but new research suggests that they yield women a lot of money if they are willing to donate their eggs. The Boston Globe reported on a new study that found -- analyzing the ads in student newspapers -- that an increase of 100 points in a woman's score resulted in an average increase of $2,350 in offers to buy her eggs.
The growth of diagnoses of learning disabilities is raising issues about fairness and some discomfort among faculty members, but these questions get too little attention, according to a report issued Thursday by the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. The report is a mix of national data along with a focus on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. And the report notes that while the growing diagnoses may in part relate to earlier detection, there has also been a growth in a testing industry that caters to wealthy families who want a diagnosis so their children can gain extra time on key tests. James Kessler, director of disability services at Chapel Hill, said that the report served a valuable purpose in bringing attention to these issues. But he said that, in addition to faculty members who worry about whether some students are taking advantage of a diagnosis, there are many professors who understand learning disabilities and see the enhanced services as helping students. "We have faculty who call us and say 'I have this young woman who in discussion gets the course, but on a test she doesn't. Can I send her over and see what's up?' "
China has barred a literature professor at the Beijing Film Academy from traveling to the United States to attend meetings of the Association for Asian Studies, the Associated Press reported. Cui Weiping had a U.S. visa, but was blocked from leaving with no official reason given. She believes that she is being punished for Twitter posts expressing outrage at the jailing of a political activist, and her speaking out about the anniversary of the Tiananmen democracy protests.
Tarleton State University has rebuffed critics demanding that it halt a student production of "Corpus Christi," a play in which Jesus is depicted as gay. But the Associated Press reported that the university is moving the performance time -- originally 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon -- to 8 a.m. Saturday. In addition, only invited guests and relatives of cast members will be permitted to attend.
Francisco J. Ayala, an evolutionary geneticist and molecular biologist, has won the 2010 Templeton Prize. Ayala, the Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of California at Irvine, is known for research into parasitic protozoa, and his findings may lead to cures for malaria and other diseases. He has equated efforts to block religious intrusions into science with “the survival of rationality in this country.” The award "honors a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works."
When it comes to cutting costs, every little bit helps. The University of Wisconsin at Green Bay has switched the default font on its e-mail from Arial to Century Gothic. The savings will be evident when students print, the Associated Press reported, because the new font uses 30 percent less ink than the old one did.
A new study has found that, contrary to conventional wisdom, binge drinking the night before a major test may not affect performance. Scholars at Boston University and Brown University tested 193 university students, ages 21 to 24, from the Boston area. Volunteer participants received either regular beer or nonalcoholic beer. The morning after, participants were given the practice versions of the Graduate Record Examination, as well as a mock quiz on an academic lecture they attended the previous afternoon. The study found that participants scored no differently on the GREs, or on the quizzes, whether they had consumed alcoholic or nonalcoholic beer.
After months of delay, Congress, in one intense day that included more partisan spats and parliamentary maneuvering, passed budget legislation that included a $40 billion-plus investment in colleges and their students. The Senate approved a measure that would both make a series of "fixes" to the health care legislation that President Obama signed into law Wednesday and revamp the federal student loan programs.
Ursinus College has become the latest to make the SAT optional for applicants. Officials cited evidence that the grades in and rigor of high school courses are the best predictors of college success, and concerns about the correlation between SAT scores and family income.