Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, January 18, 2010 - 3:00am

The Middle East Studies Association has become the latest scholarly organization to face criticism for plans to hold a meeting at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, in San Diego, which is the subject of a boycott by some gay rights and labor groups, angry over the owner's large contributions to the fight against gay marriage. The association issued a statement indicating that it was not moving its meeting. The board said that it surveyed members, received a large number of answers and found the following: "Of those who did respond, fully 71 percent indicated that they would attend the meeting at the hotel. Many respondents also expressed the opinion that MESA should adhere to its mission of fostering the study of the Middle East and that the Board of Directors should exercise due financial responsibility with regard to the association’s finances. Many respondents also suggested that, in any case, it would be impossible for the Association to reflect the diverse views of its entire membership with regard to a whole host of political and social issues." The American Historical Association met at the hotel this month, leading to a rally against using the facility.

Monday, January 18, 2010 - 3:00am

St. John's College in New Mexico, ever proud of its emphasis on the classics, printed a T-shirt last year that in Attic Greek (theoretically) said: "If you can read this, you're overeducated." As The Santa Fe Reporter detailed, however, someone at St. John's needs some help with Greek. The accents were wrong, so the phrase doesn't read as intended, as the college discovered when someone sent a T-shirt to Thomas G. Palaima, a professor of classics at the University of Texas at Austin. He sent word back and the T-shirts are off the market. Via e-mail, Palaima said that the error didn't make it impossible to understand the meaning of the phrase, but was the equivalent of writing the college's name this way: "sT' joHns. College."

Friday, January 15, 2010 - 3:00am

Nelnet has subpoenaed records from the U.S. Education Department that it believes will show that the Bush administration cleared the lender's use of a loophole in federal law that allowed it to reap billions of dollars in profits to which the department later determined it was not entitled, according to the New America Foundation's Higher Ed Watch blog. Nelnet, which is based in Nebraska, was sued in federal court last fall by Jon Oberg, a former Education Department official who brought suit under the federal False Claims Act, claiming that Nelnet had defrauded the government by recycling loans for which they were guaranteed an interest rate return of 9.5 percent. As part of its defense, Higher Ed Watch reported, Nelnet subpoenaed Education Department records to try to show its officials gave it the green light to its practices.

Friday, January 15, 2010 - 3:00am

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has rejected an appeal of a lower court's ruling rejecting a challenge by advocates for some religious high schools to the admissions standards used by the University of California. The challenge came from schools that claim they are suffering discrimination based on their religious views (many of which do not involve belief in evolution). But the university has maintained -- and the appeals court agreed -- that it was using academic judgment in appropriate ways to decide which high school courses meet entry requirements.

Friday, January 15, 2010 - 3:00am

State and local officials are talking about creating a new public campus -- perhaps a full-fledged college -- in Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The city has a community college, Temple University and many private institutions, but the goal is to have a campus of the state system of higher education. The proponents of the plan say that the private institutions and Temple are too expensive for many low-income students who want a four-year degree.

Friday, January 15, 2010 - 3:00am

Among those killed in Haiti were Georges Anglade, a professor of geography who was one of the founders of the University of Quebec at Montreal, and Stephanie Jean-Charles, a graduate student at the University of Virginia. Jean-Charles was a native of Haiti who was visiting family members. While a number of universities are reporting that they have located faculty members or students who are in Haiti and that they are safe, some institutions are still waiting for word, or for definitive word. Lynn University announced Thursday that while eight students were on their way back to the U.S., six students were missing. The university had earlier said that only three students were missing, but found that the information on three of those believed found was inaccurate.

Thursday, January 14, 2010 - 3:00am

This is the time of year when most elite colleges announce yet another increase in applications, but the hike at the University of Chicago -- 42 percent -- is unusually large. The Chicago Tribune reported that officials cited a range of possible reasons, from increased outreach efforts to the publicity associated with President Obama having been a faculty member.

Thursday, January 14, 2010 - 3:00am

Labor supporters in Maryland are raising questions about the fairness of a state panel that recently issued a report calling for improvements in the treatment of teaching assistants and adjuncts at the state's colleges, but that largely punted on the question of unionization. Advocates for graduate students and adjuncts are saying that the idea of collective bargaining was largely ruled out by the commission's leaders early on, and that there was never a full exploration of the subject. The report that was issued described the panel as divided on such issues.

Thursday, January 14, 2010 - 3:00am

Lois B. DeFleur will retire this summer as president of the State University of New York at Binghamton. During her 19 years leading the campus, its competitiveness in admissions has skyrocketed and its academic reputation has grown. DeFleur also encouraged the growth of international initiatives. But during the last year, Binghamton has been shaken by scandals in its men's basketball program, whose push for national prominence DeFleur had championed.

Thursday, January 14, 2010 - 3:00am

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday heard an apparel company's challenge to the National Football League's business practices -- a case that could have implications for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which filed a friend of the court brief supporting the NFL in the case. The lawsuit in question, which was brought by a company called American Needle, revolves around whether the NFL can operate as a single business entity or whether it is made of of 32 individual companies (its teams). The outcome in the case could have implications for organizations like the NCAA, which have sometimes sought exemption from federal antitrust laws both to protect themselves from antitrust lawsuits and to give them expanded power to adopt rules that limit the authority of coaches and others (see related article).

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