Higher Education Quick Takes
North Dakota officials have ordered Williston State College to stop housing foreign workers who are in the United States under a visa program that allows them to take short-term jobs, the Associated Press reported. "Housing foreign workers was not intended when the Legislature authorized bonds or appropriated public funds to build, maintain and operate the facilities," said a letter from the chancellor of North Dakota's university system, Hamid Shirvani.
Just when it seemed the furor over the fast food chain Chick-fil-A had finally died down, the CEO who started it all with a public declaration that marriage should be between a man and a woman finally caved Wednesday with the Civil Rights Agenda's announcement that the company would stop donating money to Christian groups supporting anti-gay causes. While Dan T. Cathy’s comments in June triggered subsequent boycotts across the country, some students had already been protesting Chick-fil-A for using its nonprofit arm, WinShip Foundation, to fund groups such as Focus on the Family and the National Organization for Marriage; students at Northeastern University turned down a franchise in February, for instance. But Cathy's support of "the biblical definition of marriage" sparked protests and petitions to ban the chain at other campuses, including New York and Louisville Universities, and the Universities of Georgia and Kansas. In August, a student activities committee at Davidson College suspended service of Chick-fil-A at student events. Some administrators even denounced Cathy’s comments.
The New York Public Library has revised a plan that would have moved most of its books out of the flagship Fifth Avenue location that has long been a key site for academic research, The New York Times reported. About 1.5 million books that would have otherwise been moved will remain at the location, which will house 3.3 million of the library's 4.5 million book collection. A donation of $8 million will allow the library to build a new storage facility so that it can make other changes in the library building without sending the books off site. Many scholars have been furious about the plan to move so many books away from the library.
peta2, an offshoot of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that focuses on outreach to young people, is capitalizing on the almost-trend of campus cafeterias going meatless with a contest that will award $1,000 to the first student group to convince a dining hall at its college that currently serves meat to go vegan by Aug. 13. That means getting rid of all animal products – meat, dairy and eggs. The University of North Texas opened a vegan dining hall last year, and the University of California at San Diego opened a vegan "eatery and lounge" in January. Others, including the University of California at Davis and Wesleyan University, have taken the less dramatic step of offering more vegan and vegetarian options or going meat-free for some meals. In August, Paul Quinn College in Dallas announced it would stop serving pork – but for many menu items it will be replaced with turkey.
The rules: The registered student group must gather at least 100 petition signatures from students at the college; the dining hall must serve at least 200 students daily, and the director of dining services must send written confirmation of this and the change to "an all-vegan dining hall menu" by Aug. 13. PETA will announce the winner -- "if any" -- by Aug. 16.
Scholars and others are protesting a plan to largely end public access to the Georgia Archives, which includes key documents and collections dating back to the Colonial era, The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported. State officials say that they don't like the idea, but have no choice due to budget cuts. A petition to keep the archives open has attracted more than 13,000 signatures. James R. Grossman, president of the American Historical Association, released a letter he sent to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, criticizing the planned closure of public access. "The records of any government represent the heritage of its people, and can serve that role only when its citizens have access to consult those records," Grossman wrote. "Closing the doors to the Archives would represent a devastating blow not only to historians, genealogists, and others with an interest in the past, but also the state’s policymakers and leaders who need a solid understanding of the past to help shape Georgia’s future."
Students at OCAD University, an arts institution in Toronto, are furious about a required custom textbook for an art course for which they must pay $180, but which does not feature any illustrations. Petitions are attracting signatures. Bloggers are expressing outrage, and word is spreading. The university notes that students have access to online versions of the art discussed in the book, and that the customized textbook was an attempt to save students money by combining several books. University officials said that obtaining the rights to the art would have resulted in a huge increase in costs. Still, university officials have scheduled a meeting with students later in the week to talk about the issues.
On Tuesday, House Judiciary Chairman Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas) introduced a bill that would reallocate up to 55,000 green cards per year to foreign graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. The STEM Jobs Bill is being fast-tracked for a full House of Representatives vote on Thursday.
To be eligible, students must graduate with a doctorate or two-year master’s degree from a university classified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as doctorate-granting with a high or very high level of research activity (or a university certified by the National Science Foundation as equivalent). Qualifying universities also could not pay commissions or other forms of incentive-based compensation to recruiters of international students. Graduates in the biological or biomedical sciences would be excluded.
The STEM Jobs Bill eliminates the "diversity visa lottery" program – which is open to individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. -- in order to reallocate the slots to foreign STEM graduates. A competing bill sponsored by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-Cal.) would create 50,000 visas for STEM graduates without eliminating the diversity visa program.
Higher education and technology industry lobbying groups have long called for easing the immigration process for foreign scientists educated at U.S. universities.
A Virginia judge has blocked a bid by the American Tradition Institute to obtain e-mail records created by Michael Mann when he was a faculty member at the University of Virginia, The Washington Post reported. The institute is among the groups that believe that the records will raise questions about the validity of climate change research, even though there is a wide consensus among scientists that climate change is real. Mann, the university, and many academic groups believe that the attempt to obtain e-mail represents an attack on science, with the goal of intimidating researchers and denying them any privacy in their exchanges. The judge ruled that the e-mail is exempt from Virginia's open records laws under specific exemptions for communication among public faculty members while producing research. An appeal is expected.
Federal law enforcement officials and the Education Department's inspector general announced Tuesday that they had indicted 21 people for allegedly defrauding at least 15 colleges in California of at least $770,000 through what department officials have characterized as "fraud rings." Summaries of the seven alleged schemes, which were aimed at community colleges and for-profit institutions, can be found in the department's news release.