Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, October 4, 2010 - 3:00am

Gay students at the University of Rhode Island have ended an eight-day library sit-in following an agreement with the university, The Providence Journal reported. The students said that the university was failing to assure a safe environment for them. Under the agreement, the university will add sensitivity programs to promote tolerance, give gay students "a voice" on several university committees, move up the schedule for adding a chief diversity officer and for a new staff member for the gay center on campus, and turn an existing building into the gay center's new home.

Monday, October 4, 2010 - 3:00am

Cecilia Chang, already facing charges of embezzling about $1 million from St. John's University, in New York, is now facing additional charges, of forcing scholarship students to work as personal servants, The New York Times reported. Chang was charged with forced labor and bribery, in response to allegations that she told the students, most of them foreign students, that working 20 hours a week under her supervision was required for their scholarships. The duties included menial tasks at her home and such tasks as driving the dean's son to the airport. A lawyer for Chang said that the students' work was a normal part of work-study programs.

Monday, October 4, 2010 - 3:00am

Both Harvard and Brown Universities have announced gifts for humanities research that, while not enormous in terms of the largest gifts to higher education, are notable for their emphasis. Harvard is today announcing a $10 million gift to support its humanities center with interdisciplinary research. The gift is the largest in Harvard's history for the study of the humanities. On Saturday, Brown announced a $3 million gift that will support the recruitment of senior scholars and the development of multiyear research seminars in the humanities.

Monday, October 4, 2010 - 3:00am

Susan M. Reverby, a medical historian at Wellesley College, has uncovered evidence -- confirmed by U.S. officials -- that American scientists infected hundreds of Guatemalans with sexually transmitted diseases in the 1940s, The Boston Globe reported. The scientists' records indicate that they believed they could test various treatments for the diseases, and they did treat those who were infected, although one died. But the experiments were similar to the infamous studies at Tuskegee in that the research subjects never granted permission to be used in this way (although the unknowing participants in the Tuskegee study, unlike those in Guatemala, had become infected with the disease by ordinary means). Based on the findings of Reverby, President Obama apologized to Guatemalan leaders. (See an interview in Inside Higher Ed last year with Reverby about a book about Tuskegee.)

Monday, October 4, 2010 - 3:00am

The Faculty Senate at the University of Johannesburg last week voted to suspend joint research and education programs with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev unless the latter institution meets certain conditions, including adding Palestinian universities to the programs and ending all of its ties to the Israel military. The Senate vote, expected to be adopted by the university as policy, could well end ties between the South African and Israeli universities, especially since many of the ties that Ben-Gurion has to the military are routine in Israel (such as programs to help students who are in the military or who are called up for reserve duty). The move at Johannesburg to cut ties to Ben-Gurion has been endorsed by many South African academics who want to back the Palestinian cause. Ben-Gurion has yet to formally respond, a spokeswoman said. But supporters of Ben-Gurion have criticized the scrutiny the joint research project has received, saying that Israeli universities are being held to higher standards than those in any other country, and that the research that could be cut off helps black South Africans.

Friday, October 1, 2010 - 3:00am

A state budget board in South Carolina on Wednesday imposed a partial moratorium on higher education building projects, in a sign of its members' displeasure with big increases in the institutions' tuitions, The State reported. The board's action comes at a time of turmoil in the political climate for higher education in the state, with the departing governor, Mark Sanford, using a purported summit on higher education Tuesday to lash out at colleges for their prices and perceived inefficiency, following deep cuts in state spending over the last two years that have forced public colleges to slash their own budgets. The moratorium restricts the initiation of new development projects at four-year colleges that raise tuition by 7 percent or more this year and at two-year colleges that boost tuition by at least 6.3 percent, although several categories of projects (those financed with private funds, those with safety implications, etc.) are exempted.

Friday, October 1, 2010 - 3:00am

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday vetoed legislation that would have required foundations and other auxiliary groups tied to California's two main university systems to open their lists of donors to the public, Central Valley Business Times reported. The bill, sponsored by State Senator Leland Yee, a frequent critic of university governance and spending practices, emerged in the wake of controversy over the amount that a foundation at California State University at Stanislaus had paid to bring Sarah Palin to campus, and its refusal to reveal the total. Lawmakers approved the bill, saying it was needed to ensure accountability at California State and the University of California, but Schwarzenegger said the measure, as crafted, would not sufficiently protect the privacy of individual donors.

Friday, October 1, 2010 - 3:00am

The student newspaper at Northwest College, which reported on numerous controversies involving the two-year institution's president and carried on despite the firing of its adviser, has won the College Press Freedom Award. The Northwest Trail earned the award, presented by the Student Press Law Center and the Associated Collegiate Press, because "after [adviser Ron Feemster] was fired, the staff did not retreat from pursuing serious and controversial topics” (including about a religion-tinged recruiting campaign by the college's Mormon president), the law center's director, Frank LoMonte, wrote in an e-mail to the Trail's editors. Feemster wrote about his experiences as the newspaper's adviser on Inside Higher Ed last month.

Friday, October 1, 2010 - 3:00am

A jury on Thursday convicted Raphael Haim Golb, a real estate lawyer, of impersonating a New York University professor and others who disagreed with the theories of Golb's father about the Dead Sea Scrolls, The New York Times reported. Golb claimed that that e-mails at the center of the case were parodies and not meant to be taken seriously.

Friday, October 1, 2010 - 3:00am

Researchers who used a remote control helicopter to collect samples of whale snot and demonstrated that, "on icy footpaths in wintertime, people slip and fall less often if they wear socks on the outside of their shoes" were among those honored last night with Ig Nobel Prizes, the annual recognition granted to scholarly work that "first makes people laugh, then makes them think." The awards, made by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research, come out just before -- but hardly presage -- the Nobel prizes. In one other award -- and this was almost too easy, wasn't it? -- the group honored BP (and three researchers who wrote a paper on the subject) "for disproving the old myth that oil and water don't mix." A full list of the winners is available here.

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