Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

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.

January 8, 2010

Colleges and universities in Taiwan plan to recruit and enroll top students from China, the Associated Press reported. Under a government proposal, students from 40 leading Chinese universities will be able to apply to study at one of Taiwan's colleges.

January 7, 2010

The Obama administration on Wednesday announced a series of new and expanded efforts -- many involving colleges and universities -- aimed at producing thousands of new math and science teachers over the next decade. President Obama drew attention to the initiatives as part of the "Educate to Innovate" campaign that he introduced last fall. Among the efforts highlighted by the White House: A commitment by 42 public universities and systems that belong to the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities to double the number of science teachers they produce by 2015, part of the Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative; an expansion to Michigan and Ohio of the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowships in Math and Science program; and an expansion to 20 more universities of the National Math + Science Initiative's UTeach program.

January 7, 2010

Weeks after a judge threw out key charges in a case alleging inappropriate ties between a former state legislator and a Florida community college, prosecutors on Wednesday filed aggressive new criminal charges against the lawmaker and the college's former president, The Miami Herald reported. Prosecutors cited "superseding information" in bringing charges of grand theft and conspiracy to commit grand theft against Ray Sansom, former speaker of the Florida House, and Bob Richburg, former president of Northwest Florida State College, for their roles in an arrangement in which the state gave the college $6 million in taxpayer money for an airport building that a private developer wanted to use. A state judge threw out misconduct charges against both men in October, saying it was unclear whether the actions were illegal.

January 7, 2010

Yale University has announced a gift of $8,888,888 to help build a new campus for the business school. The gift is from Lei Zhang, who earned his M.B.A. there, and who selected the size of the gift because eight is considered a lucky number if Chinese cultures.

January 7, 2010

Tired of watching the United States and other countries woo its best scientists away, China is increasingly fighting to keep them, The New York Times reports. The newspaper focuses on the recent luring of Shi Yigong, a Princeton University biologist who turned down a big grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to return to become a dean at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

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