Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, June 20, 2016 - 3:00am

A trailer has been released for the film Denial, due out this fall, about Deborah Lipstadt's legal battle with the Holocaust denier David Irving. The film depicts Lipstadt's response when Irving sued her in a British court over parts of her 1993 book, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. By suing for libel in Britain, Irving made Lipstadt's defense much more difficult, as British law is far more friendly to libel plaintiffs than is American law. Lipstadt is the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University. In the film, she is portrayed by Rachel Weisz, who is to the left of Lipstadt in the photo above right.

The trailer follows.

Monday, June 20, 2016 - 3:00am

The University of Wyoming announced Friday that President Laurie Nichols plans to declare a financial crisis to speed the process of cuts that officials believe are necessary due to declines in state funding. Nichols plans to identify $19 million in cuts and $6 million in reallocations during the next fiscal year, and an additional $10 million in spending cuts in the following fiscal year.

Monday, June 20, 2016 - 3:00am

Two months after he found out he was to receive an award for his brain injury research, Bennet Omalu got a phone call: the award was off.

Omalu was first told about the Beyond Health Award, one of the Boston University School of Public Health’s highest honors, in April, according to The Boston Globe. The change came soon after Omalu was quoted in a Globe story about a conflict of interest between World Wrestling Entertainment and the Concussion Legacy Foundation, which is affiliated with Boston University. World Wrestling Entertainment has donated money to the foundation, and some criticized the foundation for focusing less on professional wrestlers.

“What I find very surprising is the timing of this, right after the [Globe] article,” Omalu told the Globe. “It feels like a vendetta against me.”

Omalu, the doctor depicted in the recent Will Smith movie Concussion, discovered the condition chronic traumatic encephalopathy. It’s a disease often found in professional athletes, and Omalu’s struggle to force the National Football League to recognize the disease has become well-known.

When Omalu asked for a written statement about why he would no longer receive the award, Sandro Galea, dean of the School of Public Health, sent an apology letter. At the 40th anniversary gala, he wrote, the school will be honoring people with “closer connections to our School of Public Health.”

“Dean Galea is giving the keynote address at the Carter Center’s November meeting and spoke at their annual meeting a few years ago,” Boston University spokesman Colin Riley told the Globe. “The decisions on the invitees are the dean’s.”

Monday, June 20, 2016 - 3:00am

The U.S. Department of State and massive open online course provider Coursera are partnering to launch Coursera for Refugees, a program to offer career training to displaced people around the world. The program will focus on nonprofits that help refugees, which will be able to apply for fee waivers to access the Coursera course catalog. The organizations will then be able to offer free access to MOOCs to the refugees they serve. The State Department will help Coursera find organizations that can host in-person cohorts of refugees enrolled in the same MOOC. The first such cohort will be hosted at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon. Coursera is the latest MOOC provider to offer educational services to refugees. Earlier this year, edX partnered with Kiron, a free education provider for refugees, to offer college credit to Syrian migrants.

Monday, June 20, 2016 - 3:00am

A professor in the communications faculty at Istanbul Bilgi University, in Turkey, was dismissed after allegedly insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a lecture, Turkish Minute and the Hurriyet Daily News reported. Zeynep Sayin Balikcioglu was dismissed from the university after pro-government media outlets reported alleged remarks she made criticizing the Turkish president as “vulgar” and “rude.”

Insulting the president is a criminal offense punishable by up to four years in prison in Turkey. Balikcioglu's dismissal comes amid a larger crackdown on academics and free speech in Turkey.

Monday, June 20, 2016 - 3:00am

Today in the Academic Minute, Samuel Sober, an assistant professor in the biology department at Emory University, explores which parts of our brain avoid making the same error twice. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, June 17, 2016 - 3:00am

Paine College faces a recommendation that it lose accreditation for not meeting financial standards, a loss that would make the small private historically black college in Augusta, Ga. ineligible for federal funding at a time when it has already struggled.

The college will appeal the recommendation, it said Thursday evening, according to WTVM. Paine announced its plan to appeal after the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges said earlier Thursday that the college had not satisfied deficiencies in three areas, according to The Augusta Chronicle. Those areas are financial resources and stability, financial stability, and control of sponsored research/external funds. Paine has been on probation since 2014.

A loss of accreditation and ensuing ineligibility for federal funds would be a major blow to Paine, which lists its head count at 534 students. More than 95 percent of its students receive financial aid. It has also suffered financial losses in recent years, with The Augusta Chronicle reporting a loss of $2.9 million in assets through the end of 2014 and its draw on a line of credit increasing to $5.4 million. Late in 2015, Paine was unable to make payroll for employees. Early in that year it suspended its football program as it sought to shore up its financials.

President Samuel Sullivan has in recent months pushed to raise funds. But early this week he wrote that the college needed to raise $1 million by June 30 in order to meet immediate financial needs.

Paine will maintain its accreditation and federal funding through the appeal process, it said.

“We are confident that with our submission of additional evidence regarding the strategy to improve financial conditions at the college, our appeal will be successful,” Sullivan said in a statement. “Now, more than ever, is the time for the public to give to Paine College to ensure that the college is financially solvent. As we move forward, we will make adjustments in the college’s budget to reflect the institution’s needs while reducing expenditures.”

Friday, June 17, 2016 - 3:00am

Ohio State University angered many this week when it said that it was canceling a planned appearance by its mascot, Brutus Buckeye (at left), in this weekend's gay pride parade in Columbus. Officials said that they had safety concerns in the wake of Sunday's attack on a gay club in Orlando, Fla. But on Thursday, the university announced a change of heart. Brutus Buckeye will be appearing after all. Ohio State's announcement came just after Ohio University announced that its mascot, Rufus (at right), would be joining the parade.

Friday, June 17, 2016 - 3:00am

After years of stalled negotiations, the City University of New York announced on Thursday a tentative contract deal with its faculty union, the Professional Staff Congress. The proposed contract includes 10 percent in compound salary increases over seven years, most of it retroactive. In addition to pay, the contract features a multiyear appointments for adjunct faulty members and a provision that would allow professors to devote more time to individual students.

Barbara Bowen, union president and a professor of English at Queens College and the CUNY Graduate Center, said in a statement that it was “able to negotiate a strong, imaginative contract in a period of enforced austerity for public workers because our members mobilized. The fight for our contract was a fight for investment in quality education at CUNY.”

James B. Milliken, CUNY chancellor, said in a separate statement that the agreement “provides not only a much-needed increase in pay for our many faculty and staff, but it also includes additional provisions important to CUNY’s competitiveness for talent at all levels.”

Friday, June 17, 2016 - 4:18am

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has announced a new employee benefit: free passes for local bus and subway service. The program is designed to encourage more people to use public transportation and reduce the environmental impact of commuting. Above right is a subway stop entrance.

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