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Monday, January 31, 2011 - 3:00am

Hope College's board has adopted a new statement on sexuality that affirms the legitimacy of scholarly examination of sexuality, even if that examination does not adhere to the teachings of the Reformed Church in America, with which the college is affiliated. "Hope College promotes the indispensable value of intellectual freedom and recognizes that there are Christians who take scripture seriously and hold other views. Hope College affirms the scholarly examination and discussion of all issues surrounding human sexuality even if they differ from the institutional position," says the statement. The board studied the issue and released the statement amid criticism over the college's decision last year to block an appearance on campus by Dustin Lance Black, the screenwriter for the film "Milk" and an advocate for gay rights.

While the new board statement affirms the right of professors to examine issues of sexuality, it is not clear that student groups could invite someone like Black to appear on campus. The board statement says: "Sexuality, including longing and expression, is a good gift from God and a fact of our existence affirmed in the Christian scriptures and by the Church throughout the centuries. This biblical witness calls us to a life of chastity among the unmarried and the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman.... Accordingly, Hope College will not recognize or support campus groups whose aim by statement, practice, or intimation is to promote a vision of human sexuality that is contrary to this understanding of biblical teaching."

Monday, January 31, 2011 - 3:00am

Local and national faculty groups on Friday blasted what they saw as a violation of academic freedom in the case of Kristofer Petersen-Overton, an adjunct instructor who was removed from teaching an upper-level master's course on the Middle East following criticism from a state politician -- though the college reiterated its prior statements that the two events were unrelated.

Calling the situation an "ugly byproduct of a labor system that undermines academic freedom for thousands of hard-working adjunct faculty," Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress at the City University of New York, the faculty union at CUNY, said in a statement that the union will not tolerate what she called political meddling in academic decisions. The term "meddling" was a reference to complaints from New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind that the syllabus written by Petersen-Overton lacked balance in presenting a uniformly critical look at Israel in its dealings with the Palestinian territories.

The college continued to state that Petersen-Overton was removed from the course because, as a fourth-semester graduate student, he was not sufficiently qualified to teach the upper-level master's course, and that he was approved outside of normal hiring channels (the faculty of the political science department has come to Petersen-Overton's defense). Moreover, the college added that the review of Petersen-Overton's credentials began before administrators received Hikind's letter.

The union said that other doctoral students in the CUNY system regularly teach courses at similar levels. A college spokesman, Jeremy Thompson, said the administration was going to review its hiring practices to make sure that no longer happens.

Bowen added that the union would use "every tool" at its disposal to defend its members, whether they work full time or part time. Those tools include using political influence and, if necessary, legal action, a spokesman said.

CUNY's Professional Staff Congress is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the American Association of University Professors. The latter group also issued a statement defending Petersen-Overton, and added that it does not require courses to balance competing views. "Exposure to advocacy can be a beneficial component of an education, so long as students are not expected to agree with an instructor's point of view," said Cary Nelson, AAUP president, in a statement. Nelson added, speaking for himself, that Petersen-Overton's disputed unpublished essay "Inventing the Martyr," which discusses the role of sacrifice and martyrdom in the construction of Palestinian identity, is "a serious and informative work of scholarly analysis" that would provide insight to readers no matter what their stand on the Middle East might be.

Monday, January 31, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Quinnipiac University's Charles Polnitsky explains why most of us don't move while dreaming and the problems faced by those who do. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, January 31, 2011 - 3:00am

Three postsecondary institutions affiliated with the Assemblies of God and located in Springfield, Mo., may merge, they announced on Friday. Announcements from the three colleges suggested that there may be economies of scale by joining forces, and enhancements of their missions, given their common religious faith. The institutions are the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Central Bible College and Evangel University.

Friday, January 28, 2011 - 3:00am

University of Iowa officials promised Thursday to investigate what caused 13 football players to be hospitalized with a muscle disorder following offseason workouts, the Associated Press reported. Sally Mason, the university's president, and David Miles, president of the Iowa Board of Regents, agreed to a 90-day timeline for completion of a “root cause analysis of the events that led to the need to hospitalize these young men.” The university noted Wednesday that the players have rhabdomyolysis, "a condition involving the release of muscle fiber into the bloodstream," which can be caused by physical exertion. The players were participating in grueling workouts that started last week. Miles told USA Today, “Going forward, it is essential that we take the necessary steps to understand the factors that led to this to ensure that it never happens again.”

Friday, January 28, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Landmark College's Jim Baucom suggests specific study methods that are firmly based in research on cognitive improvement. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, January 28, 2011 - 3:00am

More than 8,500 Change.org members have signed an online petition addressed to the chairman of the Washington Post Company, Donald Graham, calling for a freeze on all Kaplan University admissions until the online university changes how it attracts its students. Shannon Croteau, a mother of three and a former Kaplan student, led the petition drive along with a group of other former students. "They told me they were accredited the same as Ivy League schools were," Croteau said. "They lie and cheat. It has ruined me." The petition title says: "Tell Kaplan and The Washington Post to Stop Cashing In On Low-Income Students." The group is asking for Kaplan to "end unethical business practices," which it deems predatory. The petition also cites the GAO report that investigated 16 for-profit universities and is at the center of debate over whether to regulate the for-profit education sector, and calls for the Washington Post to stop denying "wrong-doing."

Ron Lori, Kaplan Higher Education senior vice president of communications, responded that Kaplan has forgiven Croteau's financial obligations to the university and invited her to return to complete her degree, but she declined. Lori added that he believes few of the Change.org petitioners are former Kaplan students.

This item has been updated to add Kaplan University's response.

Friday, January 28, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of California at Irvine is apologizing that one of its dining halls served chicken and waffles on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, advertising it as an "MLK Holiday Special," the Los Angeles Times reported. The menu was planned at the last minute and was not intended to offend, but was not in the "best taste," a spokeswoman said. A member of the Black Student Union lodged a complaint about the menu.

Thursday, January 27, 2011 - 3:00am

Louisiana's Board of Regents has identified more than 450 academic programs at the state's public universities that will have to defend themselves against potential elimination because of low enrollments, The Advocate of Baton Rouge reported. The regents said the larger number of programs targeted -- the board has cut a total of 245 programs the last two years -- was necessary if Louisiana's public universities are to remain efficient and focused as the state faces continuing budget cuts. Programs will have until February to argue that they should be consolidated or continued instead of cut, the Advocate reported; a final report is due in April.

Thursday, January 27, 2011 - 3:00am

Utah State University has agreed to settle a lawsuit by the parents of a freshman who died from consuming vodka in a hazing incident in 2008, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. The parents never sought money, but agreed to drop the suit in return for what they said they wanted from the litigation: pledges by the university to improve oversight and guidance of the Greek system to prevent such tragedies.

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