Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, December 7, 2009 - 3:00am

Miami University of Ohio announced Friday that it will return about $5 million that it received from Thomas Petters, who last week was convicted of running a mammoth Ponzi scheme, The Oxford Press reported. Petters pledged a total of $15 million in honor of his son, John, a Miami student who died during a visit to Italy in 2004, and his daughter, Jennifer. Based on the gifts and pledges, the university created the John T. Petters Center for Leadership, Ethics and Skills Development and the Jennifer Petters Chair in Asian Business. “The university has no interest in keeping money that Mr. Petters obtained by fraud or deceit,” said David Hodge, Miami's president.

Monday, December 7, 2009 - 3:00am

A New York States appeals court has ruled that New York University did not violate the terms of an agreement resolving a tenure dispute when it admitted the son of a former faculty member to a two-year program and not to the four-year program into which he wanted to enroll. Under the agreement, the university agreed to give the former faculty member's children the same privileges in admissions that faculty members receive. While the court found some flaws in the way the university carried out the obligations, the ruling found that, in the end, the university did meet the requirements of the contract. The problem for the plaintiff in the case was that NYU's courtesies for faculty members amount to a second read of rejected applications and consideration for the two-year program, but don't provide for admission of applicants who are judged to lack the overall qualities of admitted students. The court said that the university cited legitimate reasons for rejecting the son from the four-year program and allowing the case to go to trial would have invited courts to second guess academic decisions. The decision was published by Leagle.com.

Monday, December 7, 2009 - 3:00am

A revised report on Virginia Tech's response to the deadly shootings there in April 2007 is drawing lots of headlines for the information that some officials warned their families about the incident in progress before the campus was told, but university officials say that the implications being drawn are incorrect. The Roanoke Times reported that the new timeline does mention these notifications. But the Times quoted a Virginia Tech spokesman as saying that both were staff assistants, one of whom spoke to her son, while calling to wake him up to go to class, and mentioned the incident. The other, he said, was an assistant who was dropping her children off at her mother's house and mentioned to her mother that she had been called about the shootings. Neither of these cases represented "a concerted effort by university staff to notify their own families of danger in advance of notifying the campus community," the spokesman said. But a lawyer for two families suing Virginia Tech said he wasn't impressed by the distinction the university spokesman made. "It was people who were given the facts and took it as a serious potential risk, and the students who were not given the facts didn't have a way to protect themselves," the lawyer said.

Friday, December 4, 2009 - 3:00am

A New York State appeals court on Thursday rejected the use of eminent domain on behalf of Columbia University for its plan to build a new, 17-acre campus, The New York Times reported. Columbia has purchased most of the land it needs, but was relying on the state's use of eminent domain to obtain properties from owners who refused to sell. An appeal is expected.

Friday, December 4, 2009 - 3:00am

A California jury has awarded $28,000, the equivalent of one year's salary, to Lorri Sulpizio, the former head coach of the women’s basketball team at San Diego Mesa College, after finding that the college had retaliated against Sulpizio when she complained about inadequate support for women's athletics. The National Center for Lesbian Rights, which represented Sulpizio, issued a statement declaring the win to be a "landmark" decision. But the jury rejected other claims by Sulpizio, including that she was dismissed shortly after the college found out that she is a lesbian. A spokesman for the San Diego Community College District, of which Mesa is a part, noted that Sulpizio sued for 10 times what she was awarded.

Friday, December 4, 2009 - 3:00am

A Chinese court has approved a settlement between the Graduate Management Admission Council and a Chinese test-prep business that upholds the GMAC's copyright on the Graduate Management Admission Test. The council sued when it found that the company was using copyrighted materials in its programs. Western testing organizations have generally been frustrated with their limited legal ability to object to copyright violations in China, and so GMAC officials called the ruling a significant victory.

Friday, December 4, 2009 - 3:00am

Achieving the Dream, a five-year-old effort to improve community colleges, has named a CEO: William Truehart, who formerly led Bryant University, Reading Is Fundamental and the Pittsburgh Foundation. The program helps states and community colleges use data to identify weaknesses at community colleges and to fix them. The program was created in 2004 by the Lumina Foundation.

Friday, December 4, 2009 - 3:00am

Hofstra University announced Thursday that it is eliminating its football program. The rationale for the decision was quite similar to that offered by Northeastern University last month in making a similar decision: the need to reallocate funds, which the university pegged at $4.5 million a year. Football has been the largest athletics program at Hofstra, despite "low student, community and media interest, attendance and financial support," the statement said. So the university plans to "redirect those resources toward academic initiatives and need-based scholarships."

Friday, December 4, 2009 - 3:00am

The Health Sciences Center has ended the use of cats from a shelter in exercises on emergency medical techniques, The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported. Texas Tech did not indicate why it abandoned the use of the cats, but People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has been campaigning against their use.... Chapman University meanwhile has found a new use for dogs. The university is bringing in puppies on Wednesday, and stationing them outside the library, so students stressed during finals week can relax by playing with them, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Friday, December 4, 2009 - 3:00am

In remarks kicking off a White House forum on job creation and the economy, President Obama repeatedly stressed the role of higher education. "I want to hear about what unions and universities can do to better support and prepare our workers -- not just for the jobs of today, but for the jobs five years from now and 10 years from now and 50 years from now," he said. "We still have the best universities in the world. We've got some of the finest science and technology in the world, we've got the most entrepreneurial spirit in the world, and we've got some of the most productive workers in the world." The Obama discussion of job creation continues today when the president will visit Lehigh Carbon Community College.

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