Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 19, 2010

Monty Cook, a faculty member hired by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to lead a new digital media program, has resigned after being confronted with racy text messages about his relationship with a female student, The News and Observer reported. The text messages were reported by the student's former boyfriend. Cook could not be reached, but admitted the relationship, university officials said. Students in the digital media program Cook led joined in reporting on the controversy.

November 19, 2010

Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Rep. Rush Holt, both New Jersey Democrats, have introduced legislation in Congress that would require colleges receiving federal funds to designate cyberbullying as a form of harassment, and to ban and have programs to prevent harassment based on a variety of factors, including sexual orientation. The legislation -- similar to measures being considered in New Jersey's legislature -- was prompted by the suicide of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University student whom other students allegedly filmed while he was intimate with a man in his dormitory room.

November 19, 2010

Madison Area Technical College announced Thursday that a state judge had lifted an injunction on course assignments -- giving the college a win in a legal battle with its adjunct union. The adjuncts objected to a plan to give more courses to full-time faculty members -- a shift the college said was motivated by a desire to have more students taught by full-time faculty members, but that adjuncts said was unfair to them.

November 19, 2010

Facing criticism for conflicts of interest, the former president of the Arkansas State University system has requested unpaid leave from the university, while he works for an online education company that sells its services to Arkansas State, officials announced Thursday. Les Wyatt, a professor of art and higher education and the former system chief, had been collecting a $115,000 salary from the university, while at the same time working as a consultant for Academic Partnerships, LLC, formerly known as Higher Ed Holdings. Critics have questioned how the company secured a lucrative contract without any input from non-administrative faculty, and Wyatt said he is turning down his pay from the university to “put an end to speculation about my motives and make clear that I am standing for the university’s best interests.”

November 18, 2010

The Food and Drug Administration warned the makers of four alcoholic energy drinks popular with college students that adding caffeine to malt beverages is unsafe and that the drinks could be seized if they continue to be marketed improperly to the public. The warnings came on the same day that the maker of one of the drinks, Four Loko, which has been implicated in several recent incidents on campuses, announced that it would remove caffeine and other stimulants from its product.

November 18, 2010

Nancy Rudner Lugo has sued the University of Central Florida, charging that her contract as a tenure-track nursing professor was not renewed when she objected to using a textbook that she and her students believed contained ethnic and racial stereotypes, The Orlando Sentinel reported. The suit charges that the textbook included stereotypical comments about black, Italian-American, Jewish and Japanese people. University officials declined to comment on the suit.

November 18, 2010

The U.S. Justice Department announced on Wednesday that four student loan providers had agreed to pay $57.8 million to settle a False Claims Act lawsuit that accused them of abusing a loophole in federal law to derive hundreds of millions of dollars in excess federal subsidies. The four lenders are Nelnet ($47 million), Southwest Student Services Corp. ($5 million), Brazos Higher Education ($4 million), and Panhandle Plains Higher Education Authority ($1.75 million). The lawsuit was brought by Jon H. Oberg, a former Education Department official who went public with charges that those lenders and others had illegally profited from a provision in federal law that allowed them to continue to make loans for which they were guaranteed an interest rate return of 9.5 percent. As the individual who brought the False Claims Act suit, Oberg will receive a total of $16.5 million under the settlement, with the rest going to the U.S. Treasury.

November 18, 2010

As California's public colleges and universities have faced severe budget shortfalls, many state residents have been slow to see a problem, but that may be changing. A statewide survey released by the Public Policy Institute of California found increases in the percentage of Californians who appear to see real problems. Among California residents, 74 percent of residents say the state does not provide enough money for colleges and universities, up 17 points from 57 percent in October 2007. Most Californians (68 percent) believe that spending for public higher education should be given a high or very high priority — up from 54 percent in November 2008, And 57 percent favor spending more on higher education, even at the expense of other programs.

November 18, 2010

Authorities arrested 13 people, 11 of them students, who were protesting tuition increases and budget cuts at a University of California Board of Regents meeting, the Los Angeles Times reported. Authorities defended the use of pepper spray and the drawing of a service revolver by one officer, saying that the protesters were posing a real danger -- a charge they countered with allegations of excessive force.

November 18, 2010

The Medill Innocence Project of Northwestern University's Journalism School is known for its successful efforts to clear the names of the wrongly convicted. But prosecutors and Northwestern are looking into allegations that the project secretly (and potentially illegally) taped a witness, the Chicago Tribune reported. The director of the program says that he does not believe any laws were violated. In the past, prosecutors have frequently been critical of the project's work.

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