Higher Education Quick Takes
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.
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.
The American Association of University Professors has written to the University of Virginia to urge it to more forcefully resist requests for certain e-mail and other records from professors involved in the study of climate change, and from other scientists. While the university has resisted some requests, its recent agreement to one such inquiry has the AAUP concerned that professors' privacy and right to engage in controversial research is being damaged. A university spokeswoman said that the institution would respond to the AAUP, but has not done so yet.
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.
Hundreds of Chicago State University students received state financial aid even though they lacked the grades needed to remain enrolled, The Chicago Tribune reported. The Tribune reported last month about Chicago State failing to enforce its rules about suspending those who fail to meet minimal grade requirements, but the information about state financial aid emerged Wednesday at a state hearing.
Executives of Spencerian College, a for-profit institution among several being investigated by Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, a Democrat, have not only been donating money to his Republican opponent, but have been urging employees to back the Republican, Todd P'Pool, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported. One former admissions officer described a session in which employees were asked to raise their hands to indicate that they would donate to P'Pool. Under Kentucky law, it is a felony for an employer to "coerce or direct any employee to vote for any political party or candidate." Grover Potts Jr., a lawyer for the Sullivan University System, of which Spencerian is a part, said that officials may have recommended votes for P'Pool, but that nothing was coercive.
The University of Swaziland is shut, lacking the funds to operate, BBC reported. The country faces extreme shortages of funds, and it is unclear when the institution might resume classes.
The University of Vermont's former president permitted "inappropriate and imprudent" behavior by his wife in ways that undermined the university's "guidelines and values," but did not violate any laws or university policies, according to a report commissioned and released Wednesday by the institution's Board of Trustees. The report explores allegations that arose from a controversy surrounding the actions of Rachel Kahn-Fogel, whose pursuit of a relationship with a senior administrator at Vermont and subsequent admission of a longstanding battle with mental illness led to the resignation last month of her husband, Daniel Fogel, as the university's president.
The board-mandated review rejected a charge that the doctorate given to Michael Schultz, the development official who was the subject of Kahn-Fogel's attention, had been awarded inappropriately. The inquiry also found no evidence to support an allegation that Fogel, Kahn-Fogel and other officials had inappropriately spent university funds on non-university travel or expenses, although it did reveal that the officials had overspent their meal thresholds by a total of $151.
On the third issue explored during the investigation, potentially inappropriate personnel actions by the president and his wife (who had an official volunteer role as a fund-raiser), the board's report found no "violations of the law or university policy." But it concluded that the "lack of clarity" surrounding Kahn-Fogel's role at the university caused confusion and poor morale and that "presidential staffing and personnel decisions were at times based on personal preferences rather than objective performance assessment."
"All of this ran counter to the university's stated guidelines and values," the board chairman, Robert F. Cioffi, said in a prepared statement, and "to be effective and meaningful, these guidelines and values must be followed and exemplified across the university, especially by the institution's leadership. And we fell short of that goal."
The Christian Legal Society has settled a lawsuit against the University of Montana's law school over the latter's refusal to recognize the former as an official student organization. Under the settlement, the law school agreed not to consider factors such as the relative popularity of student organizations in deciding whether they can be recognized. The society had argued that this practice would amount to illegal viewpoint discrimination. But the society agreed not to sue the university should it be denied recognition over law school rules requiring student organizations to be open to all students. The Christian group maintains that it meets this requirement because its activities are open, but the law school in the past has disagreed because the society requires members and leaders to share its beliefs.