Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, January 4, 2010 - 3:00am

While college football fans watched bowl games last week, chess fans were monitoring the Pan American Intercollegiate Chess Championship, generally considered the top college competition for the game. The winner was the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, a regular powerhouse. UMBC is known for attracting top international students. The team members are: Leonid Kritz, a grandmaster from Russia; Sergey Erenburg, a grandmaster from Israel; Giorgi Margvelashvili, an international master from the Republic of Georgia; Sasha Kaplan, an international master from Israel; and Sabina Foisor (alternate), a woman international grandmaster from Romania.

Monday, January 4, 2010 - 3:00am

President Obama last week issued an executive order that would speed up the release of classified material to the public, and could lead to the declassification of material that might otherwise have never been made public. Among other provisions, the executive order creates a principle that no records may be classified indefinitely, eliminates the right of certain intelligence officials to "veto" declassification, and orders that information never be classified if "significant doubt" exists about the need to classify. Historians and other scholars have complained for years, and in particular during the last Bush administration, that classification rules were impeding their work. Details about the executive order may be found on the Web site of the National Coalition for History.

Monday, January 4, 2010 - 3:00am

Lake Superior State University on Thursday issued its annual "List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness" and several of the 15 words are much used in academe, including "teachable moment," "app," "friend" (as a verb), "tweet" and "transparent/transparency." Several of the other words relate to the economic downturn and efforts to reverse it. These words include "shovel ready" and "stimulus." Wayne State University Word Warriors project meanwhile has released its annual list of "expressive words that have fallen out of use and deserve to return to conversation and prose." Among them: antediluvian, festoon, mendacity and unctuous.

Monday, January 4, 2010 - 3:00am

Florida, among the states looking to save money on generous merit scholarship programs for students who meet certain grade requirements in high school, has added a new twist to the the Bright Futures awards: Students must pay back money for any course they drop after the normal add/drop period, The Sun Sentinel reported. College officials say they warned students about the changes, but many students and their families say that the bills they recently received for the dropped courses are a surprise.

Monday, January 4, 2010 - 3:00am

Texas Tech University on Saturday released an affidavit from an athletic trainer saying that he was told by Mike Leach, recently fired as football coach, to lock Adam James, a player, in the dark after he suffered a concussion, The New York Times reported. The trainer said that Leach used graphic, profane language in telling him to lock James in a dark place and to make James "uncomfortable." While Leach did not respond to requests for comment on the affidavit, he previously told the Times that James was lazy.

Monday, January 4, 2010 - 3:00am

The new year brings new limits on outside pay that senior officials at two teaching hospitals affiliated with Harvard University can accept, The New York Times reported. Senior officials of the hospitals will be required to limit pay to "a level befitting an academic role" and not more than $5,000 as day for serving as outside directors. The officials will also be banned from accepting stock. The limits follow a series of scandals over perceived conflicts of interest by biomedical researchers who have received federal support for work that relates to companies providing them with large sums of money.

Monday, January 4, 2010 - 3:00am

Students at two Texas universities where bookstores have been part of an experiment to offer textbook rental options have generally had positive experiences with the option, The Dallas Morning News reported. Follett, which runs the bookstores, plans to expand the program from 7 colleges last semester to 22 colleges in the semester starting this month.

Monday, January 4, 2010 - 3:00am

Kalamazoo College, founded in 1833 as a Baptist institution, long ago dropped its religious affiliation. But The Detroit News reported that one Baptist requirement remains and that state legislation is needed to change that. The college's charter requires that 15 percent of trustees be Baptists "in good standing." Because the charter was approved by the Michigan Legislature, Kalamazoo must -- even as a private college -- obtain legislative approval for the change, and is now starting the process to do so. A spokesman for the college said that it has, to date, tried to keep the 15 percent requirement, but that it may not have always succeeded.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009 - 3:00am

Oakland University discriminated against a disabled student by refusing to let him live in a campus residence hall, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. Micah Fialka-Feldman had sued the Michigan public university a year ago after it declined him access to a dorm, requiring him to take two-hour-long bus rides to get to and from his non-credit classes in a program for cognitively disabled students. Oakland argued that its policies limited dormitory access to degree-seeking students. But U.S. District Court Judge Patrick J. Duggan ruled Tuesday that since Fialka-Feldman's disability restricts him to the non-degree program, the university's policy amounts to discrimination on the basis of his disability. A university spokesman told The Detroit News that its officials were weighing their options in response to the judge's ruling.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009 - 3:00am

This year's annual meeting of the Modern Language Association has featured much chatter about how the terrible job market has changed things. Attendance is down; those on the market seem more stressed than ever (not that they ever didn't seem stressed). Several have asked about whether there is new research, following on last year's panel on MLA sex. on the impact of the economy on conference encounters. We didn't see any such research but a review of Craigslist personals suggests that some academics did have hopes for connections outside of the sessions and cash bars. Only when the MLA is in town will you find listings such as "Hot English dork here, looking to play with another hot English dork." And we guess that most of the time, Craigslist hook-up personals (seeking kink no less) aren't illustrated by the cover of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.

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