Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 3:00am

A federal judge has allowed four top officials at the University of California at Davis to be sued for violations of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, rejecting their claims that they are immune from such litigation, The Sacramento Bee reported. The decision does not weigh in on the merits of the suit -- now in its seventh year -- by three former women's wrestlers. The judge ruled, however, that freedom from "purposeful discrimination in education" was a clear constitutional right in the period in which the women sued, so the officials are not immune and a trial may go forward. The university is continuing to contest the suit.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 3:00am

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to consider an appeal of a ruling by New York State's highest court upholding the use of eminent domain to obtain certain properties for a new Columbia University campus in West Harlem. The Supreme Court's refusal to consider the case ends years of legal fights over Columbia's expansion plans.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 3:00am

A new study of students at the University of Northern Iowa and Southeastern Oklahoma University has found that about one-third of students said that they had been untruthful on faculty evaluations they submit at the end of courses, The Des Moines Register reported. While students admitted to fudging the truth both to bolster professors they liked and to bring down those they disliked, the latter kind of fabrication was more common.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 3:00am

Authorities at Denmark's Aalborg University have reprimanded a professor who, with three other men and one woman, staged and filmed orgies -- in which the men wore the robes of monks while having sex with the woman -- in a university machine room, The Copenhagen Post reported. The rector stressed that no judgment was being made about the activity, only about the use of university facilities. "What consenting people get up to in their spare time is none of my business," said Finn Kjærsdam. "But we're responsible for all university facilities, and we cannot and will not have things like that going on here."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of California Board of Regents voted Monday to cut retirement health benefits to deal with massive deficits in the fund that is supposed to pay for them, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The standard retirement age will move to 65 from 60 and the early retirement age to 55 from 50 -- delaying the age at which people can receive various levels of benefits. The university system will gradually reduce its share of retiree health costs from 89 percent to 70 percent, and will impose a two-tier system in which new employees will receive a less generous package. The changes have faced the most criticism from low-wage employees at the university, and unions representing some of those employees still must approve changes in their contracts to reflect the new policy. University officials have said that they have no choice but to adopt these changes to keep the retirement fund solvent.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 3:00am

An evenly divided U.S. Supreme Court on Monday affirmed a lower court's decision on the pricing of products made outside the United States -- a ruling that textbook companies had urged the justices to endorse. The 4-4 ruling, from which Associate Justice Elena Kagan had recused herself, came in a legal fight between Omega, the watch manufacturer, and Costco, the wholesale chain store, over the sale of imported versions of products at prices lower than Omega charges for its own U.S.-made products. Textbook companies had feared -- and librarians and advocates for students had hoped -- that a ruling for Costco could open the way to the flooding of the U.S. market with the less-fancy editions that textbook companies have produced for students in poorer countries. The court's split ruling means that it has much less weight than a decision with a clear majority in favor, and leaves many of the issues to be decided another day.

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 3:00am

A panel that oversees the names of buildings at Eastern Illinois University has rejected the idea of renaming Douglas Hall, which is named for Stephen Douglas, the senator who debated Lincoln and who advocated the rights of individual states to keep slavery, The Journal Gazette and Times-Courier reported. The Faculty Senate at the university urged that the name be changed, arguing that Douglas was not worthy of being honored with a building at a state university. Critics of the faculty proposal said that Douglas should not be judged by today's standards, although faculty members noted that many of his contemporaries viewed his as an ardent defender of slavery, to the detriment not only of slaves but of the United States.

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 3:00am

Bennie Wilcox, former dean of law at Kaplan University, was convicted Friday of sending threatening e-mail messages to various Kaplan officials, Bloomberg reported. The e-mails were sent under other names, but prosecutors charged Wilcox sent them. He has denied the charges and has maintained that he was framed in retaliation for being a whistle blower in a suit charging Kaplan with various violations of federal student aid rules.

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 3:00am

Colorado State University has created a new panel to consider the admission of some athletes and musicians of "exceptional talent" who don't meet regular admissions criteria. While the new committee will not just focus on admitting athletes, The Coloradoan reported that the impetus for creating the panel was a dispute over eight athletes who had been denied admission through the standard process. After the athletic director appealed, all of the athletes were admitted.

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 3:00am

A federal judge has ruled that Martin Gaskell, an astronomer formerly at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, has the right to sue the University of Kentucky over a job offer he didn't get after search committee members focused on his criticism of evolutionary theory, The Louisville Courier-Journal reported. Gaskell was the leading candidate for the job before discussion on the search committee turned to his views on evolution, according to court documents. Gaskell says he lost the job due to illegal religious discrimination because of his religious views as a Christian. But university officials have argued that one's views on evolution are relevant in hiring for scientific positions.

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