Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, August 15, 2011 - 3:00am

For about 48 hours this weekend, it appeared as if the chaos that reigns every few years when the college conferences that play big-time college sports start raiding one another's members was about to resurface. Word that Texas A&M University's Board of Regents would meet today to consider leaving the Big 12 Conference (still healing from the last round of league shifting) for the Southeastern Conference brought condemnation from Big 12 officials who viewed Texas A&M as breaking a commitment and from commentators who said it possible upheaval showed that no one is in control in college football. The prospective move by Texas A&M to become the Southeastern league's 13th member was seen as a precursor to the SEC raiding other conferences for a 14th member (if not 15th and 16th members), causing yet another round of money-fueled competition aimed at attracting bigger television contracts.

Sunday afternoon, though, the SEC's presidents announced that they would not look to add any additional members -- at least not right now. “The SEC presidents and chancellors met today and reaffirmed our satisfaction with the present 12 institutional alignment,” said Bernie Machen, president of the University of Florida and chairman of the league's presidents. “We recognize, however, that future conditions may make it advantageous to expand the number of institutions in the league. We discussed criteria and process associated with expansion.”

Monday, August 15, 2011 - 3:00am

John Sharp, former Texas comptroller, is expected to be named Monday as the next chancellor of the Texas A&M University System, The Austin American-Statesman reported. Sharp would be the latest in a series of former politicians named to lead higher education systems in Texas.

Monday, August 15, 2011 - 3:00am

Arizona is a pivotal state in the national debate about immigration policy, but the state's approach has encouraged one academic expert to leave. Gabriel (Jack) Chin, who has been an outspoken critic of Arizona's approach, has left his law professorships at the University of Arizona for one at the University of California at Davis, The Sacramento Bee reported. "The Arizona Legislature's passed laws that I see as harsh, cruel and inhumane, and it seems unlikely it's going to stop in the next decade," Chin told the Bee, adding that he and his wife didn't want to raise their daughters in the state.

Monday, August 15, 2011 - 3:00am

Three states in India have banned the opening of a film, "Aarakshan," which is in part about India's system of university quotas for members of some disadvantaged groups, The New York Times reported. The system in India is highly controversial, but is enforced by court orders. The name of the film means "reservation," which is how Indians refer to the set-asides for members of certain castes or ethnic groups. The film's website is here, and the trailer follows:

Monday, August 15, 2011 - 3:00am

Nikolai Volodin, head of the Pirogov medical school, one of Russia's most prestigious, has been fired for allegedly admitting "ghost students" -- fake students whom would enable the medical school to then control who actually was offered admission, BBC reported. Under reforms adopted in 2009, Russian medical schools are supposed to use uniform admission standards so that the best students are admitted.

Monday, August 15, 2011 - 3:00am

Western Kentucky University has banned from campus an incoming freshman who has been planking on campus, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported. The problem wasn't the planking itself -- a fad of posing flat in unlikely places, and posting photographs online -- but of the planker putting stickers on the spots where he planked. The university considers that act to be defacing property.

Friday, August 12, 2011 - 3:00am

Eight Native American students on Thursday sued the University of North Dakota and state officials over a new state law requiring the institution to maintain its "Fighting Sioux" name for athletic teams, The Bismarck Tribune reported. The university defended the name -- opposed by many Native Americans and the National Collegiate Athletic Association -- for years, but was on the verge of ending the name's use when legislators intervened. The lawsuit charges that the state is violating the students' rights by interfering in a decision that should not be made by political leaders. Further, the suit charges that the use of the name is harmful to Native American students.

Friday, August 12, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Purchase College's Matthew Immergut reveals that charisma is not an attribute that can be possessed, but a sociological relationship to be cultivated. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, August 12, 2011 - 3:00am

Cooking is the leading cause of university housing fires, accounting for 88 percent of them, according to an analysis released Thursday by the U.S. Fire Administration. An average of 3,800 university housing fires occur each year, causing 25 injuries and $9 million in damage on average annually.

Friday, August 12, 2011 - 3:00am

Academic institutions produced more startup companies as they commercialized their researchers' work in 2010 than they did in 2009, although some other forms of licensing activity decreased slightly, according to the preliminary results of an annual survey of the Association of University Technology Managers. The number of new U.S. patent applications filed by the institutions in the AUTM survey soared to 12,281 in in 2010, from 8,364 in 2009; the number of patents issued also rose, and licensed technologies and inventions at the surveyed institutions produced 651 startup companies in 2010, up from 596 in 2009. But the number of commercial products created stayed flat (657 vs. 658 in 2009) and the number of licenses executed dipped.

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