Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 30, 2009

Valparaiso University, in Indiana, has removed a lesbian student from a seat on student government that is designated for minority students, Chicago Public Radio reported. The student said that it was appropriate for her to run for the position, since gay and lesbian students are in the minority, but the university maintains that the position is intended only for students in racial and ethnic minority groups.

March 30, 2009

Flooding of the Red River has led several colleges to close for most or all of the coming week. The closures are both to ensure safety and to permit many students and faculty members to help with sandbagging and other efforts to minimize flood damage. Among institutions affected: Concordia College, Minnesota State University at Moorhead, North Dakota State University and the University of Mary.

March 30, 2009

A federal appeals court on Friday upheld Delaware State University's firing of a professor, Wendell Gorum, after he was found to have changed grades and enrollment status in official university records for 48 students. Gorum claimed that he was fired in retaliation for certain statements he made in the context of his job duties -- statements that disagreed with administration positions. The court rejected Gorum's free speech claims, citing a Supreme Court ruling in 2006 that limited the free speech rights of public employees when they are speaking on job-related matters, not simply speaking as public citizens. That decision has concerned advocates for public college faculty members, fearing that they could be punished for criticizing administrators. In the Delaware State case, however, the appeals court found that Gorum's conduct changing grades would have led to his firing, for legitimate reasons, even if he had never spoken out in ways that may have offended the administration. Gorum's actions changing grades, the court found, showed "disregard for the academic integrity of DSU."

March 30, 2009

Babson College has closed its campus until Wednesday morning because of an apparent norovirus outbreak that has hit dozens of students and others at the college. Several colleges and universities have been hit by outbreaks this academic year. The norovirus spreads rapidly in situations -- like those on a college campus -- where people live in close proximity to one another.

March 30, 2009

Two police officers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been suspended and are having their employment reviewed following allegations that they dumped copies of The Tech, MIT's student newspaper, that featured an article about the arrest of another police officer, The Boston Globe reported. "As a university committed to free and open publishing, we are very unhappy that the distribution of The Tech was interfered with," an MIT spokeswoman told the Globe. The Tech's editor did have something kind to say about the police officers who took the copies of the paper: They may be environmentally sensitive because they placed the copies of the paper they took not in the trash, but in recycling bins.

March 30, 2009

Five Hofstra University students have been arrested -- and have denied all charges -- in what police say was an unusual robbery attempt. Newsday reported that four students attempted to rob and threaten a fifth student. According to authorities, the four students were attempting to punish the fifth for selling them cocaine that was of inferior quality.

March 30, 2009

Harvard University is taking steps to encourage more students to major in subjects that are central to knowledge, even if they aren't seen as the most practical, The Boston Globe reported. Among the changes: Pushing back the deadline for declaring a major (so students have more time to sample disciplines) and creating more small seminars in these fields, which will be taught by senior professors.

March 30, 2009

The Central Intelligence Agency has long recruited new college graduates as employees -- and those efforts have sometimes been controversial. But the agency is having success in attracting interest on campus, the Los Angeles Times reported, by working with marketing courses at universities, which take on the project of designing materials to publicize the CIA's recruiting efforts. Beyond the marketing skills of the students, the CIA has another edge today, the students in the course told the Times. With jobs for new graduates in short supply, the CIA is looking more attractive as an employer.

March 30, 2009

As Congress prepares to take up their 2010 budget blueprints, supporters and critics of President Obama's proposal to eliminate the Family Federal Education Loan program are ramping up their arguments for and against the plan. The Consumer Bankers Association has attracted more than 4,000 college financial aid administrators, parents and loan industry officials as signers of a petition asking lawmakers to sustain the competition between the lender-based guaranteed loan and the competing direct loan programs. The heads of more than a dozen state associations of financial aid administrators also have written letters opposing the plan. The National Direct Student Loan Coalition, meanwhile, sent their own letter to members of Congress arguing why the president's plan deserves their support, focusing on the fact that it will allow lawmakers to use $94 billion in projected savings from the changes to help increase grant and other funds for students.

March 30, 2009

Yet more evidence has emerged of the impact of pharmaceutical industry support for medical education. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on the differences between medical continuing education offered online by the University of Wisconsin for doctors to fulfill their continuing education obligations. The courses that receive financial support from the drug companies are free, and appear to suggest courses of action for patients that would involve the drug companies' products. The courses that don't receive financial support require students to pay a fee.

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