Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, February 6, 2012 - 3:00am

A documentary on CBC television has accused McGill University of taking money for many years from the asbestos industry, and of supporting research seen as favorable to that industry, The Montreal Gazette reported. Dozens of public health researchers have responded to the broadcast by sending letters asking McGill to sever ties to the industry and to reveal more about the funding that the university received. A statement from the university on Friday said: “McGill University has the highest standards of research ethics, and the integrity and scientific value of research carried out at the university is of primary importance. When concerns are occasionally expressed about research ethics, we rely on a rigorous process of investigation.”

Monday, February 6, 2012 - 3:00am

Some faculty members at the University of Oxford are objecting to a plan to name a new business school building for Margaret Thatcher, the former British prime minister, The Telegraph reported. The donor for the building has indicated that he wants the facility to honor Thatcher, but some professors are threatening to force a full faculty vote to block the name. Thatcher did not fare well in a previous vote by the full faculty -- in 1985 -- to reject a proposal to give her an honorary degree.


Monday, February 6, 2012 - 3:00am

Arizona State University is blocking access to Change.org -- a popular site for political activists to generate support through petitions and education. Some activists are accusing the university of censorship, and demanding that access be restored. They note that one of the petitions currently active at Change.org is critical of Arizona State, and says that a "corporate culture" is resulting in educationally unwise decisions at the institution. Arizona State released a statement in which it said that the content of Change.org was not at issue. Rather, the university maintains that the site is a source of spam, and that spam frequently contains viruses, requiring the university to block certain sites.

Monday, February 6, 2012 - 3:00am

Houston Community College's efforts to help create a community college in Qatar have faced numerous obstacles, including the requirement that courses be taught separately to men and women (contrary to the contract signed between the college and Qatar), The Houston Chronicle reported. Most Western colleges and universities operating branches elsewhere have stressed that they would abide by the same commitments to equity that they use on their main campuses. The new college has also faced accreditation difficulties, high faculty turnover and other problems, the article said. One administrator there wrote to Houston Community College leaders that the CCQ acronym of Community College of Qatar (as the project is known) had come to stand for "Crazy College of Qatar." Senior administrators and press officials of Houston Community College did not respond to e-mail messages seeking comment.

Monday, February 6, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Christopher Kim of Chapman University explains a few innovative uses of powerful synchrotron-based X-rays. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, February 6, 2012 - 4:22am

A cancer research institute at the University of Pennsylvania has sued its former scientific director, now president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, charging him with taking research with him to start a biotechnology company, The New York Times reported. The lawsuit by the Leonard and Madlyn Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute at Penn called its former scientific director, Craig B. Thompson, "an unscrupulous doctor" who "chose to abscond with the fruits of the Abramson largess," the Times said. Thompson denied doing anything wrong.


Monday, February 6, 2012 - 4:24am

An investigation by The Orlando Sentinel provides an in-depth look at the circumstances of the hazing death of a member of the marching band at Florida A&M University. The article details the significant programs in place to ban hazing, and the determination of band members to ignore all the warnings and rules.


Monday, February 6, 2012 - 3:00am

Angel Taveras, the mayor of Providence, R.I., said last week that the city would go bankrupt unless it achieves certain savings and also obtains new revenue -- with much of the extra money coming from Brown University, the Associated Press reported. Taveras said that the university needs to commit to $40 million in additional payments over the next 10 years. That would be on top of the $4 million a year Brown already pays to reflect its use of city services because university property is tax-exempt. A university spokeswoman said that a panel of Brown board members has proposed that the university provide an additional $2 million a year over the next five years. The spokeswoman said that "we regret that the mayor rejected this offer and hope that we can continue our discussions and reach an equitable and sustainable solution."

Friday, February 3, 2012 - 3:00am

The National Collegiate Athletic Association put the University of Nebraska at Lincoln on two years’ probation for major rules violations, including failure to monitor, one of the harshest penalties an institution can face. Over a five-year period, the university provided nearly 500 athletes in all 19 sports with impermissible benefits in the form of scholarships covering books and supplies, the value of which exceeded NCAA financial aid limits by a total of $28,000. The university discovered and reported the violations itself, and worked cooperatively with the NCAA to submit the case facts in written form and avoid a formal hearing. It also self-imposed a $38,000 fine, sic 38k, not 28k? dl *** yes  -ag which was donated to local charities. According to the association’s public infractions report, financial aid packages may only cover required textbooks and course supplies, not recommended ones. The excessive aid caused the inadvertent violations themselves, but the failure to monitor is a result of the length of time and number of athletes involved. The NCAA is also subjecting the university to public reprimand and censure.

Friday, February 3, 2012 - 3:00am

Sallie Mae said Thursday that it will still charge a quarterly $50 fee to student loan borrowers in forbearance, but that the charges will be applied to the borrowers' accounts once they "resume a track record of on-time payments," a spokeswoman said. The lender charges the fee when private student loans have gone into forbearance, continuing to accumulate capitalized interest although borrowers do not have to make payments. An online petition criticizing the fee as an "unemployment tax" had accumulated 77,000 signatures as of Thursday, building pressure on Sallie Mae to alter its policy.

In an e-mail message, Martha Holler, senior vice president for corporate marketing and communications, said that after "giving it careful consideration for some time," Sallie Mae will apply the "good-faith payment to the customers’ balance after they resume a track record of on-time payments," retroactive to forbearances granted as of Jan. 1. The former student who started the petition, Stef Gray, said in a statement of her own that the change did not go far enough. "At the end of the day, Sallie Mae is still asking unemployed college grads to fork over money they don’t have," she said. "Sallie Mae needs to drop this unfair fee for good.”


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