Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, June 17, 2013 - 3:00am

Scientists in Russia are objecting to the addition of a theology department at the National Research Nuclear University, in Moscow, RIA Novosti reported. Many researchers see the move as inappropriate at a secular university and inconsistent with the focus on science at the institution. Leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church, however, say that the administration thought of the idea of adding the department, and that it will offer a wide range of programs.

 

Monday, June 17, 2013 - 3:00am

Since 2006, the athletics department at the University of Colorado at Boulder has paid nearly $9.8 million in severance payments to former coaches and other employees, The Boulder Daily Camera reported. The payments are generating scrutiny because the department currently has a $7.5 million deficit. Jerry Peterson, a physics professor and chair of the Boulder Faculty Assembly, said that "we all recognize that the Boulder campus is facing tight financial times, and that [nearly] $10 million -- even if it's over several years -- is a loss to academics."

 

Monday, June 17, 2013 - 3:00am

Texas Governor Rick Perry vetoed Friday a bill that would have required appointees to the state's higher education governing boards to attend "a training program that provides instruction in ethics, conflict-of-interest law, and the role of a governing board in a higher education institution or system and that is conducted by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, by the system office of a university system, or by the office of a governing board that does not govern a university system" before they voted on personnel or governance matters. The current law does not require any kind of formal training. The bill would have also prevented the governor from making interim appointments to the board while the legislature was out of session.

The UT system's board has become the epicenter of a perceived conflict about the shape and direction of higher education in the state, particularly the University of Texas at Austin. Multiple reports over the past few years have suggested that the governor is pushing the regents to remove UT-Austin President William Powers, who has criticized some of the governor's views on higher education. In February the governor appointed three regents to fill vacancies. The Senate confirmed those appointees in May. (This story has been updated to correct the bill's requirements and the status of the appointees.)

 

Friday, June 14, 2013 - 3:00am

You'll find no shortage of reports and ideas about how to reform graduate education -- shorten time to degree, make options outside the professoriate more attractive, etc. Few of the proposals come from those with arguably the biggest stake in the results: graduate students themselves. But the National Science Foundation has sought to change that, with its Innovation in Graduate Education Challenge, which offered grad students awards for their ideas about strengthening graduate education and academic professional development. 

Thursday, the NSF announced the winners of its challenge, drawn from more than 500 teams that submitted proposals. The winning entries, which earned prizes ranging from $1,000 to $3,000, included several aimed at improving how scholars communicate their findings and the value of their work to the public and a plan to create a web portal that would help graduate students manage their progress to a degree and find mentors and jobs.

 

Friday, June 14, 2013 - 3:00am

Faculty members at St. Cloud State University have noticed an increasing number of instances in where failing or low grades were removed from students' transcripts without the professors being consulted, Minnesota Public Radio reported. Devinder Molhotr, the provost, said that it has become clear that proper protocol -- which would include faculty consultation -- hasn't always been followed. He said that a "very specific protocol" should prevent future problems.

Friday, June 14, 2013 - 3:00am

Periodic debates break out among historians over whether the field of military history receives sufficient attention. In an effort to promote the field, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation has announced a new $50,000 prize for the best military history book each year. Josiah Bunting III, president of the foundation, said in a statement: "It is our hope that the establishment of this prize will draw public attention to the field's continuing utility as an important staple of education in international politics, diplomacy, and conflict, and to assist in the restoration of military history to an important place in university curricula. If we do not learn from the conflicts of the past, we will be doomed to repeat them. For the sake of all, we cannot allow this area of scholarship and thinking to atrophy in the United States or abroad."

 

Friday, June 14, 2013 - 3:00am

In a decision that could have ramifications for medical researchers, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that isolated human genes could not be patented, though it said synthetic genes could be eligible for patents. Researchers hailed the decision, saying it brings clarity to a fast-changing area of research and opens that area up to greater investigation.

“The right to control exclusively the use of a patient’s genes could have made it more difficult to access new tests and treatments that rely on novel technologies that can quickly determine the sequence of any of the estimated 20,000 genes in the human genome,” said Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, in a statement. “Such approaches form the cornerstone of the rapidly emerging field of personalized medicine, in which diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive strategies can be tailored to each person’s unique genetic makeup.”

The case attracted attention from the higher education community, with multiple research and law groups weighing in on it at various levels. Groups such as the American Medical Association opposed the right to patent genes. The Association of University Technology Managers, a group that represents technology-transfer officers, supported the right.

Friday, June 14, 2013 - 3:00am

Three current or former Purdue University students face charges of conspiracy to commit computer tampering and conspiracy to commit burglary to hack into computer networks to change grades, The Indianapolis Star reported. Some of the alleged grade changes were from A to A+ while others were from F to A. The investigation that led to the charges started when an engineering professor noticed that his password had been changed.

 

Friday, June 14, 2013 - 3:00am

Following the creation of a petition that called for the “immediate removal” of a faculty member who was accused of sexually harassing a student, some students received an e-mail from San Jose State University saying he no longer works at the university.

The petition was in response to an NBC Bay Area news segment that aired in May. A female student, who wished to remain anonymous, told NBC that Jeffry Mathis — a part-time lecturer in the kinesiology department — sexually assaulted her. According to a university report obtained by NBC, Mathis admitted to “kissing and touching the student,” but said it was consensual. After seeing the news segment, San Jose State student Sasha Bassett created the change.org petition with a group of students who called themselves Students for the Accountability of Jeffry Mathis. After receiving 608 signatures on the petition by June 3, Bassett said she, one other member of the group and NBC received this e-mail message from San Jose State President Mo Qayoumi and sent by his chief of staff, Dorothy Poole:

SJSU Students,

We share your concern about the recent NBC 11 story describing an alleged sexual battery case at SJSU involving a lecturer, Jeffry Mathis and a female student. We are writing today to let you know that SJSU cares about and is firmly committed to providing a safe environment for everyone in the campus community. We strive to implement timely and appropriate actions to protect our community members, including promptly, carefully and thoroughly investigating all complaints, followed by appropriate responses and actions.  If there is any reason to believe a crime has occurred or safety is at risk, the University Police Department is contacted, and if appropriate, the matter is referred to the Santa Clara County District Attorney. 

 Regarding the allegations made in the news report, the university conducted a thorough internal investigation in addition to a police investigation immediately after the student filed the complaint. Based on those investigations, the university took appropriate action.  Because this is a personnel matter, the specific details of the actions taken are confidential.  However, Mr. Mathis is no longer employed by SJSU.

Mohammad Qayoumi,

President

Bassett said the group was hoping for more details explaining whether Mathis was removed from or voluntarily left his position at San Jose State.

“Our main goal was transparency within the school, and I think they missed that point,” Bassett said. “It’s not our goal for the school to try and make us go away. We want the school to work with us.”

 

Friday, June 14, 2013 - 4:27am

The U.S. Postal Service has cut off mail delivery to the Phi Delta Theta fraternity after an incident in which fraternity members mistreated a mail carrier, The Chicago Sun-Times reported. The mail carrier received an order for 79 postal supply boxes, which he had to deliver in six or seven trips. After the last trip, fraternity members told him it was a prank and that he should look at the name on the delivery order -- “Reggin Toggaf" -- and read it backwards. Doing so reveals two slurs. The postal service said it will not deliver mail to the fraternity until an apology is made.

UPDATE: The University of Chicago has issued a statement in which it deplores the treatment of the mail carrier but states that the fraternity members deny being responsible for the incident. The statement also says that the university has "no evidence pointing to individuals who might be responsible."

we had no evidence pointing to individuals who might be responsible - See more at: http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2013/06/13/university-chicago-responds-...
we had no evidence pointing to individuals who might be responsible - See more at: http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2013/06/13/university-chicago-responds-...

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