Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011 - 3:00am

The Middle East Studies Association is urging the Turkish Coalition of America to withdraw a lawsuit against the University of Minnesota over materials, since removed from the university's genocide studies website, calling a website of the Turkish group an "unreliable" source for information about the Armenian genocide, which most scholars say happened, and which the Turkish group questions.

In a letter to the coalition, the Middle East studies group said: "Your organization, and those who hold perspectives different from those expressed by scholars associated with the Center, certainly have the right to participate in open scholarly exchange on the history of the Armenians in the late Ottoman Empire or any other issue, by presenting their views at academic conferences, in the pages of peer-reviewed scholarly journals or by other means, thereby opening them up to debate and challenge. We are distressed that you instead chose to take legal action against the University of Minnesota and its Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, apparently for having at one point characterized views expressed on your website in a certain way. We fear that legal action of this kind may have a chilling effect on the ability of scholars and academic institutions to carry out their work freely and to have their work assessed on its merits, in conformity with standards and procedures long established in the world of scholarship. Your lawsuit may thus serve to stifle the free expression of ideas among scholars and academic institutions regarding the history of Armenians in the later Ottoman Empire, and thereby undermine the principles of academic freedom."

Bruce Fein, one of the lawyers for those suing the University of Minnesota (a group that includes a student there), rejected the criticisms from the Middle East scholars. Via e-mail, Fein said that "it is obvious that the letter writers never bothered to read the complaint.... The complaint explicitly renounces what the misinformed letter authors assert: that we are challenging the right of professors to voice their opinions about the reliability of web or other information sources. The complaint questions the authority of a state school to de facto prohibit students from visiting websites solely because of the viewpoint expressed and not for any bona fide educational purpose. If I were a teacher, I would give an F grade to the letter for failure of the writers to do their homework and egregiously misrepresenting the facts without even contacting the opposing side."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011 - 3:00am

A set of transactions involving radio frequencies in California presented a new opportunity for one university and a lost opportunity for students at another, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The newspaper said that the University of Southern California had bought the Bay Area's only classical music station, which it plans to move to the FM frequency (90.3) that had been occupied by KUSF, the largely volunteer station operated by students at the University of San Francisco. USF officials shut down the station's operations Tuesday morning, which they said was necessary to undertake the transition to an online-only format. But the seemingly sudden move drew complaints from students and others at the station.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011 - 3:00am

Miami University in Ohio stopped using a Redskins logo in 1997, but has continued to permit the sale of some merchandise with it as a "heritage logo." The university has decided to stop that practice, The Oxford Press reported. While some students and alumni have objected, university officials said it was time for everyone supporting the university to do so with clothing and banners for the new team logo, the Red Hawks.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - 3:00am

Rutgers University has returned a Renaissance-era painting stolen by the Nazis to the grandson of the real owners, the Associated Press reported. The Jewish couple who owned "Portrait of a Young Man," a 1509 work by the German painter Hans Baldung Grien, made a deal to trade a group of paintings for their freedom, but the Nazis took the art and still sent the couple to death camps. A grandson tracked the painting to the art gallery at Rutgers, which had been given the painting by a dealer in 1959. Suzanne Delehanty, director of the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers, said that when she learned the history of the painting, "we decided right away we wanted to do the right thing."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - 3:00am

Boston University has called off a planned study abroad program in Niger, following the kidnappings of two Frenchmen there, The Boston Globe reported. Fifteen students had been scheduled to travel to Niger for the spring semester.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - 3:00am

Eugene Lang College of the New School has announced that it is now test-optional on admissions. Students who do not want to submit an SAT or ACT score may provide a graded paper with a teacher's comments.

Monday, January 17, 2011 - 3:00am

The Faculty Senate of South Carolina State University last week voted no confidence in President George Cooper, The Post and Courier reported. Faculty leaders cited significant financial problems, a lack of commitment to principles of shared governance and the absence of a vision for the future of the university. Cooper's lawyer told the newspaper that "Dr. Cooper takes the position that the Faculty Senate does not reflect the full faculty at South Carolina State University."

Monday, January 17, 2011 - 3:00am

A University of Rochester undergraduate was stabbed fatally at a fraternity party and another student has been charged in the murder, The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported. Authorities said that the two students had a disagreement that predated the party. Officials at California State University at Northridge, meanwhile, think they may have averted a tragedy with the arrest of a student found to have a shotgun and bomb-making materials in his dormitory room, Reuters reported. In another incident that could have been a tragedy, someone with a gun fired five shots into a glass door of a dormitory at Baker University, in Kansas, early Sunday morning, but students were not injured, The Kansas City Star reported. Authorities are investigating whether the former boyfriend of a resident of the dormitory is responsible.

Monday, January 17, 2011 - 3:00am

Nicolaus Ramos paid his tuition bill at the University of Colorado at Boulder in an unusual way -- with more than $14,000 in one-dollar bills, The Sacramento Bee reported. The idea behind this nearly 30-pound payment was to draw attention to the rising cost of higher education.

Friday, January 14, 2011 - 3:00am

Harold Koh, legal adviser to the U.S. State Department, has written a letter to a number of academic and civil liberties groups pledging that federal officials will make every effort not to apply ideological tests in deciding which foreign scholars can have visas for academic trips to the United States. "In evaluating the reasons for the proposed travel, the department will give significant and sympathetic weight to the fact that the primary purpose of the visa applicant's travel will be to assume a university teaching post, to fulfill teaching engagements, to attend academic conferences, or for similar expressive or educational activities," the letter says. The American Association of University Professors and other groups that have been pushing for such assurances praised the letter.

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