Higher Education Quick Takes

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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-...
Friday, June 14, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Gerald Haeffel of the University of Notre Dame explain why college students might be open to catching depression while away at school. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, June 14, 2013 - 3:00am

Students at two-year institutions display "astounding variation" in their patterns of enrollment, according to a new study by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College. The research, which tracked more than 14,000 students at five community colleges over 18 semesters, showed that students often switch back and forth between full- and part-time status. They also regularly spent time away from being enrolled. Continuous enrollment was particularly linked to earning an associate degree, according to the research, while full-time enrollment was associated with transfer to four-year institutions.

Thursday, June 13, 2013 - 3:00am

The University of Toronto is moving ahead with controversial plans to replace real grass on some of its athletics fields with artificial turf. Numerous Canadian luminaries have been rallying against the plan, and some hoped they had found a way to block it: having the fields in question (complete with their real grass) be declared a "heritage landscape." The Globe and Mail reported that the plan didn't work, and that the City Council rejected the designation. The university maintained that artificial turf would help students, since the natural grass frequently becomes muddy. One City Council member criticized the way the issue had become so divisive and political. Denzil Minnan-Wong said the issue demonstrated “that anything good, any great program, policy, anything great in this city that the city touches turns to crap. We’ll turn any good news story into a controversy and a bad news story."

Thursday, June 13, 2013 - 3:00am

Gary Russi, president of Oakland University, announced Wednesday that he is stepping down. The Detroit Free Press noted that the announcement, which was a surprise, came the same day the university fired his wife, Beckie Francis, as women's basketball coach. Any connection between the two events was not immediately clear, the newspaper said.

Thursday, June 13, 2013 - 4:24am

Adjuncts and other part-time employees working for public colleges and universities in Washington State could have their health benefits threatened by pending legislation, The Seattle Times reported. Details are vague, which is part of why many are alarmed. And some view the legislation as a bargaining chip. But the budget bill would eliminate state-funded insurance for part-time employees of public schools and public higher ed. The part-time employees would receive an additional $2 an hour to buy coverage options created by the new federal health care law. Many say that most part-timers would end up either having to pay more themselves to maintain coverage or would lose some coverage. The legislation is notable because Washington State has historically provided more health insurance to adjuncts, who have organized around the issue, than has been the case in many other states.

 

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