Higher Education Quick Takes
New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on Wednesday defended the decision by Brooklyn College to let a group hold an event to encourage support for the boycott of Israel, The New York Times reported. The event has prompted calls from some politicians to cut funds for the college, part of the City University of New York. At a press conference, Bloomberg said that he strongly disagrees with the calls to boycott Israel, but added that a university should be able to have events on any topic, "including ideas that people find repugnant." To those who disagree, he offered these words: "If you want to go to a university where the government decides what kind of subjects are fit for discussion, I suggest you apply to a school in North Korea."
Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, has announced that he will not donate his papers to an institute named for him at Iowa State, The Des Moines Register reported. That institute may now change its name and focus, and money donated to it may be returned. The dispute centers on what Harkin and some see as limits on academic freedom. Agriculture research supported by the institute must be done in collaboration with other institutes at Iowa State. While university officials say that requirement is innocuous, others see it limiting academic freedom by preventing solo work by those affiliated with the institute.
About 200 students rallied at Duke University Wednesday to protest a recent Kappa Sigma fraternity party with an anti-Asian theme, The News & Observer reported. The invitations mocked Asian accents, and photographs of the event -- posted to Facebook -- featured white students dressed in faux Asian attire and with chopsticks in their hair.
A panel at Heinrich Heine University has decided to strip Germany's education minister, Annette Schavan, of her doctorate because the committee found her dissertation to be plagiarized, the Associated Press reported. Schavan denies the charges and plans to appeal. A former defense minister in Germany resigned in 2011 after revelations that he had copied portions of his doctoral thesis.
A California judge has ordered the University of California System to reveal how its investments in two venture capital funds have performed, The San Jose Mercury News reported. Reuters sued for the information, arguing that it is covered by the state's open-records laws, a point disputed by the university system.
A Haverford College student sent an e-mail to many on campus in the name of the interim president, Joanne Creighton, falsely announcing that the college would apply need-blind admissions policies and providing generous financial aid to those who lack the documentation to live legally in the United States, Philadelphia Magazine reported. The student created a Gmail account in the president's name for the announcement. The student is denying that the e-mail was an act of fraud, which could be seen as violating the college's honor code. On a website the student created, he explained the fake e-mail as a political act. When the e-mail in the interim president's name went out, he wrote, "The World As It Is and The World As It Should Be met for a brief second and said hello. They took a good look at each other and the World As It Should Be said, 'It pains me to look at you- so ugly, hateful, and unfair you are. Why don’t you accept me? Let’s be one in the same.' But The World As It Is decided this was not to be and yelled out, 'You are a fraud! How dare you show yourself?! I am The World As It Is, and we are indefinitely separate and different!'"
Subra Suresh, director of the National Science Foundation and a former engineering dean at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is the new president of Carnegie Mellon University. President Obama appointed Suresh as NSF in 2010, and he has been on leave as the Vannevar Bush Professor of Engineering at MIT since then. In 20 years at MIT, he was a chair and professor of materials science and engineering as well as engineering dean. On July 1, he will be Carnegie Mellon's ninth president, succeeding Jared L. Cohon after 16 years in office.
Mandatory cuts to domestic and defense spending are scheduled to take place March 1, but President Obama called on Congress to postpone the cuts Tuesday with a "smaller package of tax cuts and spending changes." The large-scale mandatory cuts, known as sequestration, were originally scheduled to take effect at the beginning of this year, but were postponed as part of the year-end tax deal.
Obama did not specify what types of cuts he'd like to see. Several higher education programs (although not the Pell Grant) would see cuts of 5.1 percent should the across-the-board spending adjustments take effect, and colleges report that federal research funding has already slowed as a result.