Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - 3:00am

University of Mississippi students want a mascot. They voted -- 2,510 to 856 -- on Tuesday to start the process of identifying a new mascot, to replace Colonel Rebel, who was abandoned in 2003 amid concerns that symbols of the Old South were seen as hostile by many minority students.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - 3:00am

PLoS Medicine, an open access peer-reviewed journal, has announced it will no longer accept submissions of research findings supported by the tobacco industry. In an editorial, the journal cited two reasons for its decision. "First, tobacco is indisputably bad for health. Half of all smokers will die of tobacco use. Unlike the food and pharmaceutical industries, the business of tobacco involves selling a product for which there is no possible health benefit. Tobacco interests in research cannot have a health aim — if they did, tobacco companies would be better off shutting down business — and therefore health research sponsored by tobacco companies is essentially advertising.... Second, we remain concerned about the industry's long-standing attempts to distort the science of and deflect attention away from the harmful effects of smoking. That the tobacco industry has behaved disreputably — denying the harms of its products, campaigning against smoking bans, marketing to young people, and hiring public relations firms, consultants, and front groups to enhance the public credibility of their work — is well documented. There is no reason to believe that these direct assaults on human health will not continue, and we do not wish to provide a forum for companies' attempts to manipulate the science on tobacco's harms."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of California at Merced has banned from an art exhibit a student's series of photographs that mock Chancellor Steve Kang, the Associated Press reported. The photos, among other things, show the chancellor speaking into a microphone that has been covered with a condom. University officials said that the art exhibit is billed as a family event and that this series was inappropriate. A video by the student, showing and explaining her work, may be found here. She writes: "My piece is a reflection of the torn feelings students face when discovering themselves. It outlines the ability to love two different campus idols: Steve Kang, our chancellor, and Lady Gaga, a pop idol."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - 3:00am

A report issued by Congress's investigative arm Tuesday provided few if any revelations about the state of university endowments, for anybody who has been paying close attention to the debate in Washington and elsewhere about whether colleges are spending aggressively enough from them. The study by the Government Accountability Office, which was mandated by Congress when it renewed the Higher Education Act in 2008, is descriptive rather than analytical in nature. It found that the vast majority of colleges have endowments of under $100 million (despite the wide publicity given to the most well-endowed institutions), that most of the money in the funds is restricted for specific uses (much if not most for financial aid), and that the value of the funds has risen by an average of 6.2 percent a year in inflation-adjusted dollars since 1989.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - 3:00am

University administrators enthusiastically participated in a House of Representatives subcommittee hearing on the state of research infrastructure at American institutions, telling a mostly sympathetic group of lawmakers that their financial needs are great if the country is to remain scientifically and economically competitive. The chairman of the House Science Subcommittee on Research & Science Education, Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.), citing a 2005 report saying that "academic institutions were deferring $3.5 billion in needed renovation projects," said he was "worried that unless we actively modernize our R&D facilities that we could not only be spending federal research dollars inefficiently, but that we could lose our position as scientific leaders, finding it harder to attract top scientists and engineers." The academic administrators who testified -- Leslie Tolbert of the University of Arizona, Albert Horvath of Pennsylvania State University, John R. Raymond of the Medical University of South Carolina, and Thom Dunning of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign -- offered various perspectives on the problems their institutions faced, but all of them sent the message that more federal funds, through the National Science Foundation or other agencies, were needed to help offset declines in fund raising, state appropriations and other funding sources. While nobody openly disagreed or said such support would be a bad idea, Rep. Vern Ehlers, a Michigan Republican who has long been a champion of science, said he had "mixed feelings" about the idea of direct research infrastructure support from the federal government and said it would represent "a change in direction" that the government should not undertake lightly.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 - 3:00am

  • Crisis Leadership in Higher Education, Harvard Kennedy School and the Harvard Institutes for Higher Education, March 1-4, Cambridge, Mass.
  • 92nd Annual Meeting, American Council on Education, March 6-9, Phoenix.
  • National Capitol Forum on Hispanic Higher Education, Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities, March 7-9, Washington.
  • Conference on College Composition and Communication Convention, National Council of Teachers of English, March 17-20, Louisville, Ky.
  • National Meeting & Exhibition, American Chemical Society, March 21-25, San Francisco.
  • These meetings, conferences, seminars and other events will be held in the coming weeks in and around higher education. They are among the many such that appear in our calendar on The Lists on Inside Higher Ed, which also includes a comprehensive catalog of job changes in higher education. This listing will appear as a regular feature in this space.

    To submit a listing, click here.

    Tuesday, February 23, 2010 - 3:00am

    Overly free usage of someone else's words has ended another college presidency. Malone University, an independent institution in Canton, Ohio, announced Monday that its president, Gary Streit, had retired "in response to recent concerns about the use of unattributed materials in some of his speeches." The university's statement said that the president's decision to retire "has demonstrated to the students and public that the university's academic integrity standards apply equally to all members of the Malone community." Local news reports indicated that the review began after students noticed similarities between a January 13 address the president gave and various publications on the Internet. A spokeswoman said that the university would cease its investigation upon Streit's retirement.

    Tuesday, February 23, 2010 - 3:00am

    A prisoner in Wisconsin described as a "lifelong con man" ran an alleged diploma mills behind bars, directing associates to manage a Web site for his unrecognized university, the Associated Press reported. Authorities at the prison discovered the situation in 2008, but the Web site was removed only recently, after the AP interviewed the Web designer involved.

    Tuesday, February 23, 2010 - 3:00am

    The murder of an undergraduate has unsettled Manhattanville College. LoHud.com reported that the student, an athlete and the daughter of a college maintenance worker, was found dead in staff housing Monday. Her mother was found unconscious. Authorities are investigating.

    Tuesday, February 23, 2010 - 3:00am

    A local sheriff unhappy about having been used as an example of a double dipping employee charged into a classroom at Mercer County Community College and forced the offending professor to apologize, the Times of Trenton reported. Its account, and that of The College Voice, Mercer's student newspaper, said that Sheriff Kevin C. Larkin had been told via a student's text message that Michael Glass, a political science professor, had cited the fact that Larkin receives a police pension on top of his current salary as sheriff as evidence of the double dipping that contributes to New Jersey's $2 billion budget gap. (The class discussion reportedly also discussed the fact that Larkin was divorced and had hefty alimony payments.) Larkin reportedly tried to call Glass and, unable to reach him, came to the campus, where he reportedly spoke to him for several minutes in the hallway outside his classroom, before Glass returned and, with the sheriff by his side, apologized for "making disparaging comments" about him. The college's president, Patricia C. Donohue, issued a statement saying that "we do not think it is appropriate for any visitor to interrupt a class" and that "we plan to follow up with the individual about what our visitor policy is." Robin Schore, dean of Mercer's liberal arts division, was more forceful, telling the student newspaper that such an incident "has a chilling effect on free speech.... The idea of having a police presence challenging a professor and taking him out of class is something seen in a police state. It's outrageous."

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