Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, November 9, 2009 - 3:00am

Even if Congress and President Obama agree on health care reform legislation, much of the actual reform will require the work of academic medicine, said Darrell G. Kirch, president of the Association of American Medical Colleges, in a speech Sunday opening the association's annual meeting. Kirch reviewed the developments in the last year, from the excitement of many in medicine about the possibility for meaningful reform to the disappointments over town hall meetings this summer. "The nation may be on the verge of finally addressing a longstanding issue of social justice by legislating greater health insurance coverage," he said. "On the other, this news must be tempered with the realization that meaningful change and comprehensive reform of our nation’s health care will not occur until we transform how we actually deliver it. The hardest work is still ahead. And so, while we should celebrate the passage of legislation to improve health insurance coverage, we should not think that our larger health system problems have been solved." Kirch said that medical schools and academic medical centers will now need to take the lead in finding ways to promote better health care delivery, and to study all of the ramifications of reforms (including economic ramifications). Said Kirch: "As we finally appear ready as a nation to give more Americans that protection, as a profession we are holding fast to our basic ethical commitment to social justice. Now we need to turn that same courage to tackling our cumbersome and costly ‘non-system’ of fragmented health care."

Monday, November 9, 2009 - 3:00am

The Rev. Joe Vetter, the Roman Catholic chaplain at Duke University, is criticizing a study for which female undergraduates were recruited to small parties at which they could see and discuss sex toys, The Raleigh News and Observer reported. The university noted that the study was subject to standard peer review procedures. The research comes at a time when some researchers have advocated education about sex toys as a way to encourage healthier attitudes about sex. Father Vetter isn't convinced, telling the newspaper: "I'm concerned about promiscuity also.... And to be honest, I don't have the solution.... My concern is these students are in this developmental phase, and I don't think it's a good developmental practice to just tell somebody to just sit around and masturbate. I don't think that promotes relationships."

Monday, November 9, 2009 - 3:00am

Many students at Northwestern University are upset over the blackface Halloween costumes of some white students, NBC Chicago reported. Morton O. Schapiro, Northwestern's president, sent an e-mail to students saying: “While I fully support the principles of free expression, at the same time I am deeply disappointed to see any example of insensitivity that demeans a segment of our community." A forum on the incident Thursday night attracted many students. The Daily Northwestern ran a live blog on the forum, attracting many comments. Northwestern is far from the first campus at which blackface or racially stereotyped Halloween costumes have created racial tensions.

Monday, November 9, 2009 - 3:00am

Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan's president, announced plans for significant expansions of the island's foreign student population and university courses taught in English, Taipei Times reported. “Higher education in Taiwan should not keep its doors closed any more. We need to promote the idea of studying in Taiwan and attract great students to Taiwan,” he said.

Monday, November 9, 2009 - 3:00am

With a decision expected this week at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology on a proposal to boycott Israeli universities and academics, American groups are stepping up opposition to the boycott. The American Association of University Professors released a statement Friday urging the university to reject the boycott idea. "AAUP’s policy against academic boycotts -- detailed in our 2006 statement on the subject -- is based on the still more fundamental principle that free discussion among all faculty members worldwide should be encouraged, not inhibited. Certainly those Norwegian faculty members already working on joint projects with Israeli colleagues should not have their academic freedom taken away from them. In the long run, more, not less, dialogue with Israeli faculty members is an important way to promote peace in the region," the statement says. Also last week, the Anti-Defamation League called on the European Union to disqualify from its exchange programs any university that adopts a boycott policy. Organizers of the boycott movement at the university could not be reached, but they outlined their position online, saying that "Israeli universities and other institutions of higher education have played a key role in the policy of oppression. A substantial proportion of academics are directly involved in the country’s advanced weapon industry; social scientists play a central role in the construction of a nation of occupation; historians and archaeologists are important in the development of the Zionist ideology and renouncement of Palestinian history and identity." A spokeswoman said that Rector Torbjørn Digernes has drafted a resolution for the board to reject the boycott call. The resolution is available (in Norwegian) here.

Monday, November 9, 2009 - 3:00am

Most of us have probably hit "send" once or twice before being certain that the correct person (and only the correct person) was in the address field. But when it comes to misfiring e-mail, two employees of Cornell University's business school may have set a new standard for embarrassment. The sexually explicit exchanges between these employees (both married, not to each other) were sent accidentally on Friday to a global list at the business school, and now are appearing in numerous places online. A Cornell spokesman confirmed the incident and said that, "an e-mail was sent by the university shortly after the incident to all those who may have received the accidental mailing, with an apology and a request that recipients discard the accidental mailing."

Monday, November 9, 2009 - 3:00am

A former student at the University of Michigan at Flint is suing the institution for $40 million, saying he dropped out and suffered from debt and depression because of the way the institution responded to a complaint about a grade, The Flint News reported. The former student charges that the university, in a post-Virginia Tech overreaction, perceived him as a threat, and the student has obtained e-mail messages from safety officers at the university as saying he was “strange, creepy and had an attitude." University officials declined to discuss the suit in detail, but said that the institution had done nothing wrong and would defend itself in court.

Monday, November 9, 2009 - 3:00am

The athletics department at the University of New Mexico is spending a lot of time on physical altercation issues. On Friday, the university announced that it was moving control of personnel issues previously handled by the department to the university's central human resources department, the Associated Press reported. The announcement follows the university's admission of mistakes in investigating claims by an assistant football coach, J.B. Gerald, that he was punched and choked by the head coach, Mike Locksley. In women's athletics, the university has suspended a soccer player who was seen in a widely viewed video colliding with her opponents from a Brigham Young University team and yanking the ponytail of one BYU player such that she fell to the ground, the AP reported.

Monday, November 9, 2009 - 3:00am

Six universities today will issue a joint pledge to make patent and licensing decisions on drugs developed at their institutions in ways that encourage low-cost distribution of the medicines in poor countries, Bloomberg reported. The pledge follows a push by students and others who have drawn attention to pricing policies that effectively deny access to life-saving drugs -- many of them created by university researchers, with federal funds -- in much of the developing world. The universities signing the pledge are: Boston, Brown, Harvard and Yale Universities, Oregon Health & Science University, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Monday, November 9, 2009 - 3:00am

A federal judge in Texas on Friday granted a temporary injunction allowing two students to wear empty holsters in public spaces at Tarrant County College as part of a national series of student protests this week over laws or policies barring concealed weapons on college campuses. The students -- backed by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education -- sought the injunction against rules that would have limited them to wearing the empty holsters in a "free speech zone" and not elsewhere on campus. The judge agreed with their claim that they were likely to prevail in their challenge to the strict limits on where they could engage in peaceful protest. But the judge did not extend the injunction to classrooms, where the students remained barred from wearing their empty holsters.

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