In today’s Academic Minute, Nicholas Leadbeater of the University of Connecticut explains the similarity between molecules and Lego bricks, and reveals how chemists use them to build new and useful compounds. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Scientists at the University of Johannesburg, in South Africa, on Friday announced a joint water research agreement involving counterparts at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, in Israel; the University of Ghent, in Belgium; and the University of California at Los Angeles. The announcement raised some eyebrows as the Johannesburg faculty voted in March to end ties with Ben-Gurion, saying that the Israeli university was complicit with policies that hurt Palestinians. (Ben-Gurion has maintained that it actually does considerable work with Palestians, and many academic groups have opposed academic boycotts, but the Johannesburg administration followed the faculty vote and allowed to lapse an agreement between the two universities.) While the new agreement has been reported in some publications as an abandonment of the faculty vote, Johannesburg officials say that is not the case. The faculty had the right to bar institutional exchanges, but not those arranged by individual faculty members, the officials said. Ihron Rensburg, vice chancellor at Johannesburg, issued a statement in which he said that the university "upholds academic freedom and the right of its academic staff to develop relationships with whomsoever they wish."
Jason Liptow, an adjunct at Mid Michigan Community College, is charging that he was dismissed shortly after he announced he was going to try to form a union to provide job security for instructors, The Morning Sun reported. College officials said that Liptow violated confidentiality rules by posting a Facebook status update that said "Student emailed me wanting to know how he could pass the class, he hadn’t been there and failed three open-book tests." Liptow said that he did not violate confidentiality since he did not name the student.
Yale University has rejected a call from the Middle East Studies Association for an independent inquiry into the university's decision not to offer a faculty position in 2006 to Juan Cole, a scholar at the University of Michigan who has a wide following for his blog, which is highly critical of U.S. foreign policy. The association called for such an investigation because of recent reports that the Bush administration was trying to undercut Cole's reputation at about the same time that Yale was considering and rejecting him for a position. A letter from Peter Salovey, provost at Yale, to the association, said: "I can assure you in the strongest possible terms that no member of the Bush Administration nor any other government official contacted the president, provost, or two deans involved in overseeing the appointments process in the case of Professor Cole, nor is there any evidence of inappropriate external interference or other impropriety in this appointment matter. We see no reason to compromise the confidentiality of a faculty deliberation on the merits of an appointment by constituting an external faculty committee to conduct an investigation."
California Governor Jerry Brown filed a brief Friday backing a lawsuit that seeks to invalidate the state's referendum banning the consideration of race and ethnicity in admissions decisions by the state's public colleges and universities, The Los Angeles Times reported. A federal appeals court recently ruled in a similar case that a Michigan referendum unconstitutionally took away the rights of minority citizens to influence admissions policy. While that decision is being appealed, advocates of affirmative action are hoping for a similar win over California's referendum.
MDRC, the research organization, this week released "Unlocking the Gate," a literature review on what is known about remedial education and how to improve its chances of success. The report focuses on four strategies: helping students avoid developmental education by preparing for college-level work before college; changes that shorten the length of time needed in remedial education; programs that mix basic skills and job training or college-level content; and programs that improve the advising or tutoring that remedial students receive.
A House of Representatives appropriations subcommittee on Thursday backed legislation that would provide $20 million less to the National Endowment for the Humanities in the 2012 fiscal year than the agency is receiving this year. The measure would allocate $135 million to the NEH, which would represent a reduction of 13 percent -- nearly double what the House panel proposed to cut from the Interior Department and other agencies covered the spending legislation. In an e-mail alert Thursday urging advocates for the humanities to oppose the measure, the National Humanities Alliance said that "these disproportionate cuts would compromise the agency’s ability to fulfill its mission." The National Endowment for the Arts would also receive $135 million under the subcommittee's bill, which the full Appropriations Committee is expected to take up next Tuesday.
Amid numerous proposed cuts to language programs in higher education, the Executive Council of the Modern Language Association has issued a statement calling for colleges to provide students with the chance to become fluent in a second language. "[D]espite student demand for language courses and public recognition of the opportunities of globalization, many college language programs have been reduced, closed, or threatened with closure," the statement says. "These actions deny students critical learning opportunities and impoverish their education. Preventing students from participating in college-level language learning does them a profound disservice, diminishes our cultural capacities, and isolates the American public from the conversations of the rest of the world."
One paper involving a Harvard biologist has been retracted, and another has been withdrawn, The Boston Globe reported. The retracted paper appeared in the journal Blood, and the withdrawn paper appeared in The Journal of Biological Chemistry.