Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 29, 2010

New England College has settled its lawsuit against Drew University over the actions of a former poetry program director at New England who left and set up a similar program at Drew, bringing faculty members with her, the Associated Press reported. New England charged Drew and the professor with essentially stealing the program. Details of the settlement were not available.

April 29, 2010

Students and faculty members at Albion College are protesting the planned elimination of 15 full-time faculty jobs at Albion College, saying that the way the layoffs are being made will effectively abolish tenure rights, The Battle Creek Enquirer reported. College officials say that they need to reduce the size of the faculty because of enrollment declines. The college denies that it is damaging the tenure system or academic freedom, but admits changing parts of the faculty handbook to be able to carry out the layoffs.

April 28, 2010

Brandeis University is seeing debate over the selection of Michael B. Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States, as commencement speaker. The university's announcement of the choice noted that Oren -- whose recent talk at the University of California at Irvine was interrupted repeatedly, setting off a debate on free speech -- has been both a scholar and a diplomat. An editorial in The Justice, the student newspaper, said, "Although under different circumstances he could have been a fascinating speaker to bring to the campus, Mr. Oren is a divisive and inappropriate choice for keynote speaker at commencement, and we disapprove of the University's decision to grant someone of his polarity on this campus that honor. For the administration, Mr. Oren's invitation constitutes at best naiveté and at worst disregard concerning the reality of the range of student political orientation on this campus." Others writing in the paper have noted that Oren is likely to draw protests, detracting from graduation day. Still others have written in support of the selection, with one column saying that he is worthy to address graduates because of his "academic excellence, rigorous research practices and fearlessly honest writing."

April 28, 2010

The University of Cambridge is considering changes in the procedures for dismissing professors, and the changes have some worried about a loss of academic freedom, The Guardian reported. Long-standing rules allow for dismissals of professors only for "conduct of an immoral, scandalous or disgraceful nature, incompatible with the duties of the office or employment." The proposed revisions would allow for dismissal for "gross misconduct," which would include "unreasonable refusal to carry out a reasonable instruction."

April 28, 2010

A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the University of Wyoming to let William Ayers speak on the campus today -- and to reverse a decision to bar him from appearing. The university originally cited political controversy over Ayers, a University of Illinois at Chicago education professor who is controversial because of his one-time role as a leader of the Weather Underground. During the court hearings on a suit challenging the university's decision, officials cited security concerns, but the judge said that did not justify the decision. The Casper Star-Tribune reported that Judge William Downes said: "This court is of age to remember the Weather Underground. When his group was bombing the Capitol in 1971, I was serving in the uniform of my country. Like many veterans, when I hear that name, I can scarcely swallow the bile of my contempt for it. But Mr. Ayers is a citizen of the United States who wishes to speak, and he need not offer any more justification than that."

Via e-mail, Ayers told Inside HIgher Ed he was not surprised by the ruling. "The university put forward a pitiful and transparently dishonest case. They must have known they had no chance, but now they claim they were motivated only by protecting public safety as they wink at their donors."

The university issued a statement that it would "fully comply with the court's order and will provide appropriate security."

April 28, 2010

Reed College has clarified just what laws were cited when federal and state authorities summoned its president last week to a meeting to request that he crack down on drug use at the institution. Only one statute -- known as a "crackhouse" law -- was cited, and not another statute that could result in a loss of federal eligibility for student loans, college officials now say. In an e-mail to students after his meeting last week, Colin Diver, the president, said "In the course of the conversation, the U.S. Attorney pointedly referred to a federal statute that makes it a criminal and civil offense for anyone knowingly to operate any facility for the purpose of using illegal drugs. We were also reminded of federal legislation that allows all federal funding -- including student loans -- to be withdrawn from any college or university that fails to take adequate steps to combat illegal drug activity." The U.S. attorney contacted Inside Higher Ed and said he never threatened to invoke any law involving federal student loans. Diver now says that while the U.S. attorney "referred to .. federal legislation that could be applied to the college if it failed to crack down more forcefully on drug use," he never cited the Drug-Free Schools Act, which is the legislation that could have resulted in loan eligibility ending. Diver said he sent the U.S. attorney's office a copy of his e-mail to students before distribution and that no one flagged a problem with his mention of the other law. All parties now agree that only the crackhouse law -- under which Reed could face large fines, but not any loss of loan eligibility -- was cited.

April 28, 2010

The National Institutes of Health approved an additional 13 stem cell lines as eligible for researchers to use while receiving federal funds, The Washington Post reported. Scientists have been anxious for approval of more lines, and praised the move.

April 28, 2010

The U.S. Education Department announced on Monday that it would propose new regulations governing student privacy rights in the next several weeks. In an announcement in the Federal Register, the department said that it would revise rules to carry out the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, with two goals in mind. One would be to "strengthen enforcement" of the law, commonly known as FERPA; the other would be to "clarify" how states can use information from statewide longitudinal data systems to inform policy decisions without running afoul of the student privacy law. The regulations are likely to be controversial, especially on the latter point; privacy advocates argue that the Obama administration risks running afoul of federal law in how it is encouraging states to collect and share data about students' academic performance with work force agencies within their states and, potentially, agencies in other states.

April 27, 2010

The Newfoundland and Labrador government announced Monday that the College of the North Atlantic had overpaid employees working at its branch in Qatar by about $5 million, CBC News reported. The government also announced that it was accepting the resignation of Jean Madill as president of the college.

April 27, 2010

Internet sites that obsess over college admissions were abuzz Monday with a rumor about a Facebook posting claiming to be about someone admitted to Harvard University whose admission had been revoked following some rude comments on his Facebook page. The rumor spread from one site to another to another, even many of those posting it noting things that gave them doubts about the veracity of the story. Inside Higher Ed called Harvard, where a spokesman assured us that the rumor is "not true."

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