Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 22, 2010

One animal rights activist has pleaded guilty and another no contest for their roles in stalking and harassing faculty members at the University of California at Los Angeles who conduct research with animals, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office announced Friday. One faces a prison sentence of three years while the other must stay away from all University of California campuses or property. UCLA officials praised authorities for cracking down on those who engage in harassment. "Criminal acts to advance a cause or a belief have no place in a civilized society," said a statement from UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. "While we respect the rights of those who take a different view of animal research, we are committed to protecting our researchers from harassment and providing an environment where they can continue their work toward cures and a greater understanding of the human body."

March 22, 2010

Ann Coulter, whose past statements have offended a wide range of groups, has been warned by a Canadian university where she will appear today that Canada has different views about free speech and hate speech than does the United States. Francois Houle, vice-president academic and provost at the University of Ottawa, sent an e-mail to Coulter that was obtained by The National Post. "Our domestic laws, both provincial and federal, delineate freedom of expression (or "free speech") in a manner that is somewhat different than the approach taken in the United States. I therefore encourage you to educate yourself, if need be, as to what is acceptable in Canada and to do so before your planned visit here.... Promoting hatred against any identifiable group would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges.... I therefore ask you, while you are a guest on our campus, to weigh your words with respect and civility in mind." Coulter was not available for comment. But the Post noted that her targets have -- in addition to Muslims -- included Canadians. She once said that "they'd better hope the United States doesn't roll over one night and crush them. They are lucky we allow them to exist on the same continent."

March 22, 2010

The University of Wisconsin at Madison last year suspended the right of a professor to work with animals after finding a "clear pattern" of problems with her treatment of animals, The Wisconsin State Journal reported. University officials said that Michele Basso showed a lack of respect to veterinarians and engaged in poor record-keeping about the use of animals. Basso denied violating any rules. Her research has since resumed, but her experiments are taking place under close supervision, the newspaper said.

March 22, 2010

Lipscomb University, a private institution in Nashville, was recently revealed to have violated federal laws that bar bonuses paid to admissions officers based on the number of students they recruit. The violation occurred in 2003, but came to light in the wake of a U.S. Government Accountability Office report about incentive compensation last month. The Tennessean reported on how the university got into this situation. It was unaware of the law, but a consultant suggested that bonuses would motivate admissions officers. The university adopted the recommendation, paid out $62,500 in bonuses after a record year on enrollment, and ended up breaking federal law.

March 22, 2010

Chris Avenir is suing Canada's Ryerson University in a $10 million class action over the institution's rule banning students from bringing lawyers to academic misconduct hearings where they could receive failing grades or be recommended for more severe punishment, The Toronto Star reported. Avenir fought off an attempt to expel him two years ago (but failed a portion of a course) in a much publicized dispute over a Facebook group he organized for a course in which students shared answers to various questions. Ryerson, which permits lawyers at hearings at which a student could be expelled, has denied wrongdoing.

March 19, 2010

The British government, which has been warning universities of looming cuts for months, unveiled details on Thursday, with most universities facing cuts of up to 14 percent, The Guardian reported. The cuts are the largest in more than a decade, and educators predicted that they would lead to layoffs and to larger class sizes.

March 19, 2010

The American Historical Association said Thursday that James Grossman, vice president for research and education at the Newberry Library and a researcher at the University of Chicago, would replace its long-time executive director, Arnita Jones. Grossman is a scholar of urban and ethnic history and has published widely (in multiple formats) on the city in which he lives and works. Jones, who will retire in August, has spent 11 years as head of the AHA, following a similar period leading the Organization of American Historians.

March 19, 2010

A bipartisan immigration reform plan would give a boost to efforts by American universities to recruit the top science and graduate graduate students from around the world. The plan -- unveiled in an op-ed in The Washington Post by Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat, and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham, a South Carolina Republican -- would give a green card to those from outside the United States who receive a doctoral or master's degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. "It makes no sense to educate the world's future inventors and entrepreneurs and then force them to leave when they are able to contribute to our economy," wrote the two senators. Countries that compete with the United States for top graduate students generally make it much easier for them to stay after they finish their educations than does the U.S., and that difference has become a key differentiator. While the plan is far from a sure thing and anti-immigration politicians have had success in killing off reform efforts in the past, the involvement of a leading Republican in the plan gave some hope that this one might receive more consideration.

March 19, 2010

The Student Senate at the University of California at Berkeley has voted to sell investments in companies that do business in Israel, and to ask the university system to do so as well, The San Jose Mercury News reported. While the Student Senate is not known to have any such investments, the university does. Discussion of the proposal has been contentious, with supporters urging the move as a gesture of support for the Palestinian cause, while critics have accused the divestment movement of oversimplifying the situation in the Middle East, ignoring violence by anyone other than Israel, and holding Israel to standards not applied to countries with far worse human rights records.

March 19, 2010

Yale University's investment strategy -- much praised during the decade or so before the 2008 Wall Street decline, and subject to much scrutiny since then -- doesn't appear to be changing much. The Wall Street Journal analysis of the university's new investment report noted that while it made some minor adjustments, it was largely consistent with the university's approach in the past, which received an explicit defense in the report. "Anyone expecting a mea culpa from Yale University's investment chief can forget it," the Journal said.

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