Both the University of Oxford and Durham University currently have Ph.D. students being detained in Iran on charges widely viewed as political. An article in The Guardian details the very different responses from the two institutions, with Oxford taking an assertive stance on behalf of its student and Durham (as an institution) staying largely quiet and warning that publicity could endanger its student.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The University of Colorado Board of Regents voted 5-4 Friday to appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court to reverse a lower court's finding that the university lacked the authority to ban concealed weapons on its campuses. A statement from the board said: "While individual members of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, like members of society, have differing views on the issue of concealed carry of weapons, the decision to appeal the case is about the board’s authority to govern CU campuses as outlined in the Colorado Constitution. The board believes it is in the best position to make decisions about the learning environment on CU’s campuses." Students for Concealed Carry on Campus denounced the decision, issuing its own statement, which said: "By pursuing a costly legal battle with slim odds of success at the expense of the university – students, faculty, staff and ultimately parents and taxpayers – the CU Board of Regents continues to prove its willingness to put personal politics and authority ahead of the greater good of the entire college."
Many American colleges, citing the violence tied to drug gangs in parts of Mexico, are skipping summer programs there, The New York Times reported. While the violence is very real in parts of the country, some academic experts believe that -- depending on where the programs would be in the country -- the caution may be excessive. Geoffrey E. Braswell, an associate anthropology professor at the University of California at San Diego who plans to lead students on a visit to central Mexico in the fall, told the Times: "To make an analogy, I would not have considered taking students to Mississippi during the early 1960s or to Chicago during the 1968 Democratic convention, but other parts of the U.S. were of course safe for travel. Mexico is that way.”
The United Methodist Church has lifted sanctions and will restore funds to the Claremont School of Theology, the Los Angeles Times reported. Methodist leaders had been concerned that the theology school's recently announced programs for non-Christian clergy suggested a move away from a traditional mission of training Methodists. But Claremont officials agreed to use church funds only on programs focused on Methodist teachings, and said that they would have a separate structure for the programs about and for members of other faiths.
Noting the widespread shortage of nurses, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has issued a report, "Charting Nursing's Future," with numerous recommendations on how states and education groups could increase the supply of nurses. Among the recommendations: Allow master's and doctoral students in nursing to serve as "nursing faculty interns" to relieve some of the pressure on the limited supply for nursing faculty members; allow the use of simulation for some clinical hours and the use of distance education and technology to provide more of the curriculum for nursing students, and the creation of new stipends to encourage nurses to earn master's and doctoral degrees so they could teach. Additionally, in a recommendation that is likely to be controversial with some community college educators, the report calls for a requirement that all associate degree nurses receive a bachelor's degree within 10 years of graduation.
A program to waive application fees for college for one week in Indiana attracted more applications, but also created many problems for colleges, The Herald-Times reported. Many of those who started applications didn't finish them and didn't seem serious about the process, so the colleges and universities reported losing not only the application fee revenue but additional time trying to figure out which applications were serious.
BP has committed to spending up to $500 million on research related to the environmental disaster in the Gulf, but many environmental scientists are questioning how those funds will be used. The Los Angeles Times reported that federal officials told the company to involve the governors of affected states in deciding where the grants should go -- and those governors, not surprisingly, want all the money to go to universities in their states. Jörg Imberger, director of the Center for Water Research at the University of Western Australia and one of six scientists recruited by BP to help determine which projects receive funds, told the Times he didn't think the governors should be involved. "I think it's rather unfortunate; everyone is trying to point-score through politics," he said. "To be honest, what does a governor know about this? Their mandate is to bring money into their town or their state."
Sarah Palin made her controversial appearance Friday at a fund-raising dinner of the foundation of California State University at Stanislaus. Pro-Palin and anti-Palin protesters held rallies outside, but she spoke without incident, the Los Angeles Times reported. Critics said that Palin was too divisive a figure and too expensive ($75,000 plus expenses) to be the focus of a university fund-raising event. University officials defended the selection, saying she would draw a (paying) crowd, which she did. After expenses, the university has at least $200,000 from the event for scholarships and other programs.
Erskine College and the leaders of its sponsoring denomination, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, have reached a compromise over control of the college, The Greenville News reported. Under the compromise, a church order to remove many trustees will be lifted, while various lawsuits will be dropped. Some church leaders have been frustrated by what they see as a failure of the college to uphold religious teachings, while many faculty members and alumni are concerned that the church leaders were trying to limit academic freedom. Erskine recently named a new president, David A. Norman, who has said he believed compromise was possible.
Mark Robinson, vice chancellor of student development at the City College of San Francisco, has filed a suit accusing Chancellor Don Griffin of blocking him from getting a college presidency in Arizona by refusing to answer a recruiter's questions, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The suit also accuses an associate dean of calling Paradise Valley Community College and telling people there that he was being investigated for sexual harassment and embezzlement. Sources at the college told the newspaper that Robinson was investigated for sexual harassment, but not embezzlement. Robinson -- who has been placed on leave -- says that an investigation cleared him and that he wants to return to work. But college officials say that the inquiry only cleared him of violating federal laws, and that the investigation did not reach a final determination. The board chair said: "Right now, he's still an employee. He hasn't been cleared ... and he hasn't been dismissed."