Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011 - 3:00am

Tens of billions of dollars in cuts to some Medicare reimbursements and hospital payments are now on the table as part of the deficit-reduction talks between the White House and Congressional Republicans, and cuts in at least one area would affect the $9.5 billion Medicare pays to teaching hospitals each year, the New York Times reported Tuesday. Whether the cuts will become law depends on the outcome of the negotiations, but the American Council on Graduate Medical Education, as well as a coalition of hospital lobbyists that includes the Association of American Medical Colleges, has raised the alarm.

In an open letter, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, which accredits residency programs, laid out its concerns about the changes. Medicare payments comprise the majority of funding for training medical residents and fellows, the council wrote. Losing the Medicare payments would mean that the small, often rural health-care providers that make up about half of group's 681 accredited programs might have to stop offering residencies. Larger providers might turn to industry sponsorship or ask residents to pay tuition. "Abrupt and dramatic reductions in Medicare [graduate medical education] funding will have a significant and adverse impact on both the number of residents educated and trained, and the quality of that education," the group wrote. "This will challenge the profession's responsibility as a public trust to produce the next generation of physicians to serve the needs of the American public through the provision of excellent, innovative, safe and affordable care."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of Notre Dame has agreed to a series of policy changes to resolve an inquiry by the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights into the university's handling of sexual assault charges. The OCR statement referenced a number of concrete changes that will assure those bring complaints of clear information about their options and a range of support, while also requiring prompt investigations by the university. Notre Dame's statement, in contrast, referred to "several minor modifications" it agreed to make in its policies. The Education Department inquiry followed a series of complaints about Notre Dame's handling of such allegations. In one case revealed by The Chicago Tribune, a new student at St. Mary's College (Notre Dame's neighbor) killed herself shortly after accusing a Notre Dame football player of sexual battery -- a charge that her family believes the university did not investigate adquately. The parents of Lizzy Seeberg, the St. Mary's students, told the Tribune on Friday: "Perhaps it will be her legacy that our daughters and granddaughters, our sisters and nieces, may one day soon walk their college campuses with the safety and freedom that they should expect and that the people should demand."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Ben Trachtenberg of the University of Missouri School of Law explains how economists value human life and why the lives of Americans are becoming more valuable. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011 - 3:00am

Long Beach City College and the Los Angeles Community College District employed a manager of construction projects who had recently served jail time in Texas for paying bribes in school construction projects, The Los Angeles Times reported. One of the Texas prosecutors of Louis M. Cruz, the project manager, told the Times he was stunned about his ability to find work with similar responsibilities. "After he'd been to prison? That's incredible," said Cliff Herberg, first assistant district attorney in Bexar County, Texas. "Didn't they wonder where he was for two years?" Cruz could not be reached for comment. Cruz worked at Long Beach as an employee of a company that manages construction projects for the college. He was dismissed because of complaints he was causing delays, but officials said that they did not know of his Texas record while he was employed there.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011 - 3:00am

North Korea has told its university students that they must spend the next 10 months working on construction projects and abandoning their studies, Reuters and University World News reported. North Korea is behind its targets on a massive construction campaign that leaders have said will leave it a "great and prosperous nation." Universities remain open, with instructors and foreign students continuing operations.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011 - 3:00am

Two tenured faculty members in cognitive science at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette have received termination notices following a decision to end a doctoral program in their discipline. The Advertiser reported. In February, the University of Louisiana System enacted rules that make it easier than before to eliminate tenured jobs -- such eliminations are drawing fire from the American Association of University Professors, among others.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011 - 3:00am

Harvard University's medical school and Massachusetts General Hospital have punished three professors -- including Joseph Biederman, for many years an influential child psychiatrist -- for conflicts of interest, The Boston Globe reported. Biederman and his colleagues -- Thomas Spencer and Timothy Wilens -- revealed the action in a letter to colleagues. The Harvard investigation was prompted by a Senate probe that questioned whether Biederman and others were reporting consulting fees they received from pharmaceutical companies at a time they were publishing articles about the use of various drugs. The letter from the three professors said that they had made "honest" mistakes but that they “now recognize that we should have devoted more time and attention to the detailed requirements of these policies and to their underlying objectives.’’

Tuesday, July 5, 2011 - 3:00am

A Virginia jury on Thursday ruled that 16 former students who sued Virginia Western Community College are entitled to more than $50,000 each, backing their claim that the college misled them about the accreditation of its nursing program, The Roanoke Times reported. The students were enrolled when the college had conditional accreditation from the National League for Nursing, but evidence presented at the trial suggested that the college did not revise materials such as its website when that group withdrew accreditation. The state is considering an appeal -- and more student suits are pending.

Friday, July 1, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Robert Vanderlan of Cornell University explains the role poets played in creating one of the 20th century’s great media empires. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, July 1, 2011 - 3:00am

The longtime former president of Hocking College and his wife -- also a former official at the Ohio institution -- were charged Thursday with violations of ethics and other laws related to actions while in office, The Columbus Dispatch reported. John Light, who presided over Hocking for nearly 40 years, was charged for failing to report college-paid travel, while Roxanne DuVivier, a former vice president at Hocking, faces several conflict of interest charges, the newspaper reported. Hocking's successor had a very short tenure, ousted last month after clashes with the board.

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