Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 12, 2010

A federal panel has urged the use of random drug tests and other enhanced security measures to monitor researchers who work with the deadliest pathogens, the Associated Press reported. And the report recommended extra scrutiny of those researchers who are foreign nationals.

January 12, 2010

A Chinese businessman is facing criticism by some in his country over a gift of $8,888,888 to Yale University, AFP reported. The gift has attracted attention because Zhang Lei selected the figure based on the luck associated in Chinese culture with the numeral eight. While some in China have praised the gift, many have responded on Web discussion boards by attacking him for giving to an American institution. He has been called "scum" and "traitor." One comment said: "The Chinese education system helped you, but Americans have only ever given us trouble. Helping them hurts China. Got it?"

January 12, 2010

Teresa A. Sullivan, provost at the University of Michigan, was on Monday named the next president of the University of Virginia. Sullivan will succeed John T. Casteen III, who is stepping down at the end of this academic year, his 20th as president. Prior to working at Michigan, Sullivan spent 27 years at the University of Texas, rising to become executive vice chancellor for academic affairs for the university system.

January 12, 2010

A former reunions campaign official who is suing Cornell University in a dispute on overtime payments threatened to release e-mail messages that he says show the university will admit mediocre students in return for certain levels of contributions, The Ithaca Journal reported. The employee's former lawyer outlined the issue in a letter to Cornell, suggesting that release of the e-mails would result from failure to resolve the overtime dispute. Cornell responded by saying that the letter "appears to constitute extortion" and adding that the employee was covered by a confidentiality agreement he signed when working at the university. A spokeswoman for the university said she couldn't comment on the case while it was in litigation.

January 12, 2010

Arizona State University has settled a lawsuit brought by two groups that advocate for the blind, challenging the university's participation in a program in which students were given Kindles for various educational purposes. The organizations charged that the program discriminated against blind people because the Kindle was not designed in ways to enable blind people to use it. The settlement notes that the program at Arizona State was only a pilot and the university is pledging that any future programs would use devices designed to be accessible to blind people. Amazon and other producers of reader devices have said that they are finding ways to make them more accessible to people with visual impairments.

January 11, 2010

The national American Association of University Professors is today joining criticism by its University of Washington branch of the decision of Provost Phyllis Wise to join the board of Nike -- a decision that has become increasingly controversial. Wise has said that she will help encourage responsible corporate governance, but faculty critics have said that her role is problematic, given that the university has contracts with the company and many on the campus want more scrutiny of Nike's labor practice. The national AAUP statement says: "We agree that recusing herself from board discussion of Nike’s contractual relations with the university does not provide a sufficient firewall between the provost and the ethical and political implications of Nike’s international financial and labor practices. And we agree that a chilling effect on faculty research into Nike’s practices is entirely possible if the university’s chief academic officer is identified with Nike’s board."

January 11, 2010

The University of North Carolina System Board of Governors has adopted new limits on "retreat rights," payments to departing campus chancellors to help them adjust to a return to teaching, The Charlotte Observer reported. Some political leaders in the state have been outraged by reports that some officials have received these payments -- based on their senior administrative salaries -- and then retired rather than returning to teaching. The new rule limits payments to six months at the salary of a faculty member in the department where the former administrator is returning. Until now, the payments were at the level of the administrative salary and could extend up to a year. In addition, a department chancellor who takes the money but doesn't return to teaching will need to repay it. Similar policies are now being considered for provosts and vice presidents.

January 11, 2010

Members of Congress have been drawing attention to conflicts of interest between biomedical researchers whose research is useful to companies that pay them to consult. Jonathan Gruber, a health economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is facing a different kind of allegation, The Boston Globe reported. He has been speaking with reporters about the health care legislation before Congress without disclosing that he is a paid adviser to the Obama administration on the legislation. He told the Globe that he didn't think his ties were an issue and that he disclosed them whenever asked.

January 11, 2010

The University of South Florida on Friday fired Jim Leavitt, the football coach who created the program 14 years ago, after finding evidence backing claims that he had grabbed a player by the throat and slapped him twice, and that he didn't admit the incident during an investigation that found credible evidence that it had taken place, The St. Petersburg Times reported. The decision was based on an investigation that found, according to a university letter to the coach, that "your description … was consistently uncorroborated by credible witnesses, and in fact contradicted." Leavitt denies that he mistreated the athlete. The firing at South Florida is the second recent dismissal of a big-time football head coach over allegations of mistreating an athlete. Texas Tech University last month dismissed its coach, Mike Leach, amid allegations that he ordered a player to be locked in the dark after he suffered a concussion.

January 8, 2010

With British universities facing deep budget cuts, some leading research universities are proposing that the government support doctoral education only when students are enrolled in highly ranked departments, Times Higher Education reported. Those advocating the change say that it will preserve the quality of the best programs, while critics are shouting that the idea is elitist and will squelch younger programs with great potential.

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