Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012 - 3:00am

Barbara Walters apologized Tuesday when e-mail records revealed her efforts to help Sheherazad Jaafari, an aide to Syria's president, get a job or get into Columbia University's journalism school, The Telegraph reported. Walters got to know Jaafari when the journalist was pushing to interview Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president whose government has been holding on to power in the country with brutal crackdowns on protesters. The e-mail records indicate that Walters approached a Columbia professor, praising Jaafari, and that he then offered to help.

Richard Wald, the professor, said he would try to get the admissions office "to give her special attention." Wald told the Telegraph that Jaafari had not applied so he didn't do anything on her behalf, but he said that "I would ask the admissions office to give special attention to anyone with a recommendation from Ms. Walters or anyone else in journalism." Walters issued a statement in which she said: "In the aftermath [of the Assad interview], Ms. Jaafari returned to the U.S. and contacted me looking for a job. I told her that was a serious conflict of interest and that we would not hire her. I did offer to mention her to contacts at another media organization and in academia, though she didn't get a job or into school. In retrospect, I realize that this created a conflict and I regret that."


Wednesday, June 6, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, John Parmelee of the University of North Florida reveals how Twitter is reshaping the relationship between politicians and their constituents. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012 - 3:00am

A North Carolina appeals court has ruled that private colleges' police records are not public records. The ruling came in a case brought by a one-time student journalist who filed an open records request seeking records from Elon College about a student's arrest. The appeals court said that the private institution was not covered by the open records requirements. The Student Press Law Center criticized the ruling. Frank LoMonte, executive director of the association, said, "Getting more information about crime into the public’s hands does nothing but good. There’s no good argument why a crime that takes place in the quad of a private college should be kept secret, while the same crime would be public if it took place in the middle of a Pizza Hut."

Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - 3:00am

College of Letters and Science faculty at the University of California at Los Angeles have voted against a proposal that would have required undergraduates to take a compulsory course called “Community and Conflict in the Modern World” as part of their general education requirements. A total of 404 ballots, representing about 30 percent of the faculty members, were submitted, with 56.1 percent voting against the requirement. Critics of the proposal said before the vote that the proposed requirement was similar to a 2004 “diversity requirement” proposal that was rejected.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said in a statement after the results were announced that he was disappointed that the requirement wasn’t approved. "I’m especially disappointed for the many students who worked with such passion to make the case for a change in curriculum set by faculty,” he said.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, James Hanson of Seton Hall University explains efforts to reduce unwanted encounters between humans and sharks by developing an effective repellent. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - 3:00am

By the end of March, Pennsylvania State University had spent just under $10 million on expenses related to the child sex abuse scandal involving allegations against Jerry Sandusky, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The costs reflect payments for legal fees, consultants and public relations. Other payments -- such as settlements reached with the former Penn State President Graham Spanier -- are not included in the calculation.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - 3:00am

Tel Aviv University announced Monday that it was canceling the reservation made for a university auditorium for a concert this month of the works of Richard Wagner, Haaretz reported. While Wagner's works are revered by many music lovers (including the Israel Wagner Society, which planned the event), playing his music is taboo in Israel, where his anti-Semitic writings and his many Nazi fans (well after his death) have made his works controversial. The university said that the auditorium was reserved without revealing the purpose, and that it was facing outrage over agreeing to the booking. Uri Chanoch, deputy chairman of the Holocaust Survivors Center, wrote to the president of the university, saying of the planned concert: "This is emotional torture for Holocaust survivors and the wider public in the state of Israel."

Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - 4:24am

College and university presidents are expected to announce at the White House today a new system to promote clarity of financial aid packages, The New York Times reported. Starting in the 2013-14 academic year, students will be provided with a "shopping sheet" with easily understandable aid packages, detailing costs after grants, and estimating monthly payments on any loans. Details will be released today.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - 4:27am

The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, charged with enforcing Roman Catholic teachings, on Monday denounced the book Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, by Sister Margaret A. Farley, saying that it was "not consistent with authentic Catholic theology," and should not be used by Catholics, The New York Times reported. Sister Farley is a professor emerita of Christian ethics at the Yale University Divinity School. The book presents theological rationales for, among other things, same-sex relationships, masturbation and remarriage after divorce. In a statement, Sister Farley said: "I can only clarify that the book was not intended to be an expression of current official Catholic teaching, nor was it aimed specifically against this teaching. It is of a different genre altogether."


Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - 4:30am

Ohio State University has received a bid of $483 million to lease parking operations for the next 50 years, The Columbus Dispatch reported. The university had hoped for a bid of at least $375 million. Some faculty members and others have criticized the leasing plan as needless outsourcing, but university officials have said that a deal could improve parking management and provide needed revenue.



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