Toilet drainage issues appear to be a growing problem in higher education. On Monday we noted concern at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks about people flushing socks down the toilets of the fine arts complex. Now comes word from The Boulder Daily Camera that the University of Colorado at Boulder is suing a company for $40,000 over damage caused by toilet paper "that failed to disperse properly."
Higher Education Quick Takes
A legislative committee in Louisiana, after rare testimony from Gov. Bobby Jindal, approved a measure that would combine historically black Southern University at New Orleans into the University of New Orleans, despite strong opposition from black lawmakers, The Times-Picayune reported. The proposal, which Jindal said would create one stronger institution out of two that have struggled, was approved largely along party lines, with only one Democrat joining nine Republicans in supporting it. A Senate panel is due to consider a parallel measure today.
Preliminary results from Tuesday’s election show that incumbents on the Flathead Valley Community College Board of Trustees easily held off a surprise challenge from a group of conservative candidates whose views and campaign rhetoric startled many in the rural Montana region who were used to uneventful races. Among other positions, the challengers argued that the college relied too heavily on federal funding and that its faculty and staff unions should not have the right to collectively bargain for their salary or benefits levels. A campaign blog maintained by one of the main challengers offered congratulations to the incumbents in a post Wednesday afternoon. The official results of the election are slated to be released and certified at the next Board of Trustees meeting, May 23.
David Protess, a legendary Northwestern University journalism professor known for his efforts to show the innocence of wrongly accused prisoners, is on leave from the university, amid investigations that he lied to the university about his conduct. But The Chicago Tribune reported that he has both signed an agreement not to return to teaching and that he started teaching an "underground class" to students. According to the Tribune, reports are surfacing that he told students to lie about their identities in some past class investigations -- a tactic he says is justified in some cases, but that others question.
The University of Texas at Austin has largely resisted the controversial higher education reforms being pushed by Texas Governor Rick Perry and others close to him, but Texas A&M University -- the governor's alma mater -- has been more open to the ideas. For instance, Texas A&M has published rankings of professors' "productivity." But this week, 22 prominent A&M alumni, all of whom have been been designated as "distinguished alumni" for their contributions to the university, are circulating a letter calling for Texas A&M to oppose the governor's ideas, The Houston Chronicle reported. The letter refers to "an extraordinary level of political intervention in our university" that could hurt the university's standing. In particular, the letter questions "proposals to fundamentally change how research universities in Texas fulfill their educational responsibilities."
The University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh has taken unspecified "corrective action" against Stephen Richards, a criminal justice professor, for encouraging students to sign a petition to recall a state senator, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Anger over legislation to strip most state employees -- including those at public colleges and universities -- of their collective bargaining rights has led to recall campaigns against a number of legislators. A student recorded Richards and turned over the material to Republican Party officials. Richards isn't returning calls seeking comment. The Oshkosh chancellor, Richard Wells, issued a statement noting that the university respects academic freedom, but "Professor Stephen Richards’ classroom comments of March 7 clearly crossed the line into inappropriate political activity."
Many people were shocked that Osama bin Laden was discovered in a city. But this week's big news was entirely consistent with a project by ecosystem geographers at the University of California at Los Angeles, who published an article in 2009 stating an 89.9 percent chance that bin Laden would be found in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where he was killed, Science reported. The work was done by two UCLA geographers, Thomas Gillespie and John Agnew, and a class of undergraduates. They published their findings in MIT International Review.
The dispute between Amazon and college bookstores is heating up. Amazon is now seeking a court order declaring that it is not false or misleading for it to claim discounts of 30 percent on new college textbooks and up to 90 percent on used textbooks, Bloomberg reported. The move follows a complaint by the National Association of College Stores, filed with the Better Business Bureau, calling those claims misleading.
The Pacific-10 Conference -- soon to be the Pac-12, with the addition of the Universities of Utah and Colorado at Boulder -- will start its own cable television network next year, according to an article Tuesday in The New York Times. It also notes that, on Wednesday, the conference will announce it has a new agreement with Fox and ESPN worth $3 billion over 12 years to broadcast “most of its marquee football and basketball games.” The television deal is the richest ever for an athletic conference. Unlike some previous agreements, this one will give the Pac-10 complete ownership of its network. The article notes that Fox owns 49 percent of the Big Ten channel and ESPN owns all of the Longhorn Network, a recently announced venture focusing entirely on the University of Texas at Austin.