Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 8, 2009

President Obama is expected today to announce that he is lifting limits, imposed by President George W. Bush, on federal support for stem cell research. The restrictions have been widely condemned by scientists as hindering research, and as symbolic of the Bush administration's imposition of ideological tests on science policy. The move by President Obama has been expected; during his campaign, he promised such a shift. His campaign document on science said: "Despite recent advances pointing to alternatives like adult stem cell and cord blood, embryonic stem cells remain unmatched in their potential for treatment of a wide variety of diseases and health conditions. Barack Obama has been a long-term supporter of increased stem cell research. He introduced legislation while a member of the Illinois Senate that would allow embryonic stem cell research in Illinois. Obama has cosponsored legislation to allow greater federal government funding on a wider array of stem cell lines. Obama believes we need high ethical standards that allow for research on stem cells derived from embryos produced for in vitro fertilization, embryos that would otherwise be needlessly destroyed."

March 8, 2009

The U.S. Education Department on Saturday published additional guidance about how it plans to distribute more than $50 billion in the coming months to help states stem cuts to education programs. While the guidance offers significantly more detail than has been previously available -- noting, for instance, that in applying for money from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, states must assure that they will "establish and use pre-K-through-college and career data systems to track progress and foster continuous improvement" -- it still leaves many questions unanswered.

March 8, 2009

New York Medical College, a free-standing institution with 1,600 students in M.D., public health and other graduate medical sciences programs, has signed a letter of intent to merge with a university, but won't name the likely partner, The Journal News reported. A spokeswoman for Touro College, while not confirming that it had signed a letter of intent, said that officials there were in "serious negotiations" with the medical college. The New York Medical College is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, and Touro has Jewish affiliations.

March 7, 2009

Two Texas A&M University students -- who were brother and sister -- were shot and killed Friday in their off-campus apartment, and a student at nearby Blinn College has been charged with the murders, The Bryan/College Station Eagle reported. Also on Friday, students were scared but there were no injuries when a police officer at the University of Illinois at Chicago accidentally discharged his gun while investigating reports of possible gunfire on campus, the Chicago Tribune reported. Also last week, five men who are not students at Fairleigh Dickinson University were arrested following reports that someone was waving a gun at the New Jersey university, the Associated Press reported. And in South Carolina last week, a student at York Technical College was arrested after a handgun he was carrying went off during class. WCNC News reported that the student originally said that he fell asleep in class and that the gun fired when it fell through a hole in his pocket. But the student -- who faces charges of carrying a pistol unlawfully and carrying a weapon on a campus -- then changed his story and said that he was holding his handgun in his pocket and that he accidentally hit the trigger. The professor in the class reported that, after the incident, the student apologized and left the class.

March 7, 2009

A large crowd greeted Richard Dawkins at the University of Oklahoma Friday, cheering on the biologist as he spoke about evolution and the attacks on science by creationists and others. Some legislators spoke out against the university's invitation to Dawkins. One member of the Oklahoma House has introduced resolutions (which have not been voted on) to express disappointment with the university for giving a forum to the noted scholar because of his "biased philosophy." Another resolution prompted by the Dawkins visit attacked the university's zoology department, saying that it has been "framing the Darwinian theory of evolution as doctrinal dogmatism rather than a hypothetical construction within the disciplines of the sciences." The zoology department offended the legislator in question by having material on the department Web site that explains the science of evolution. Despite a heckler/questioner, Dawkins was able to give his talk and won strong support from the audience. He opened his talk (video of which is on YouTube) by noting the legislative opposition to his visit, and wondering whether the diversity of thought on science that his critics want would extend to the parody produced by The Onion of "intelligent falling" as a challenge to the theory of gravity.

March 6, 2009

New York authorities on Thursday charged that the son of a University of Chicago professor engaged in identity theft and harassment of scholars with whom his father has a long-standing disagreement about the Dead Sea Scrolls, The New York Times reported. Raphael Golb is accused of creating e-mail accounts in which he pretended to be his father's scholarly critics, and of using those accounts to advance his father's theories. Golb is the son of Norman Golb, who has argued -- in contrast to the views of most scholars of the Dead Sea Scrolls -- that they were not produced by the Essenes. Raphael Golb is accused of using the e-mail accounts to attack the idea of Lawrence H. Schiffman, a leading scholar of the Dead Sea Scross who disagrees with the elder Golb and who teaches at New York University. Norman Golb told the Times Thursday that his son " “is an honorable person,” and “could not have done such a thing.”

March 6, 2009

The ex-professor and professor whose separate appearances on the college lecture circuit regularly cause controversies appeared together Thursday night -- to still more controversy. William Ayers -- the University of Illinois at Chicago professor who is regularly attacked for his past in the Weather Underground -- traveled to the University of Colorado at Boulder to speak with and on behalf of Ward Churchill, who lost his job teaching there when the university determined that he had engaged in repeated incidents of scholarly misconduct. Churchill maintains that he was fired for his political views, and the joint appearance came just days before a court will consider Churchill's suit against the university charging that he was wrongfully dismissed. Churchill and others have also criticized the university for charging the student group that organized the effort $3,000 for extra security for the event. While the university said that the security enhancements were necessary, students and Churchill said that the fees were an attempt to discourage the event. The Denver Post reported that Ayers, in his remarks, said that the Churchill dismissal could have an impact well beyond his case. "I don't worry about Ward Churchill as much as I worry about the teacher in Denver who teaches social studies and can't bring herself to raise questions because of what she saw happen to Ward Churchill," Ayers said. "The real victims are across the country and across the world and the people we don't know. That is the chilling effect that we should all worry about, those of us who care about democracy."

March 6, 2009

The editorial staff of the Oregon Daily Emerald, which went on strike Wednesday in protest of organizational changes, plans to return to work and publish a newspaper today, the newspaper announced Friday.

In an editorial published on the student newspaper's Web site, the Emerald staff said the paper's Board of Directors is open to further discussions about the role of a new publisher. The board had previously agreed to a plan that would place the new publisher in a supervisory role over the editor-in-chief, breaking with the current organizational structure in which the editor only answers to the board.

"The newsroom of the Oregon Daily Emerald still harbors legitimate concerns about the future of this organization and the supervisory role of a professional publisher over our student editor in chief," the editorial stated. "We will not abandon that concern. But we believe it is in the best interest of both the company as a whole and all of our readers to move forward while these serious discussions take place."

The publisher position was to be filled on an interim basis by Steven A. Smith, a former editor of the Spokesman Review who had provided consulting services to the Emerald. Smith decided not to take the job when he learned of the strike, and the board plans to conduct a national search to replace him.

March 5, 2009

More white scholars are teaching black studies, and they are finding students (themselves more likely than in the past to include non-black students) more accepting, the Los Angeles Times reported. A Northwestern University professor quoted in the story says: "There probably are students who wouldn't enroll in a black studies course with a white professor.... But it's my view that students are incredibly open-minded. They may at first say, 'I wonder if this person is qualified,' but students want a teacher who performs well, and, at the end of the day, that's how they'll judge you."

March 5, 2009

This week at Dartmouth College started with the announcement that Jim Yong Kim would become the next president. The choice was well received on campus, while Asian American educators nationally hailed the news because Kim will expand the very small pool of Asian American presidents and will be the first one to lead an Ivy League institution. Students at the college who produce a daily news mass e-mail of short humorous items called the Generic Good Morning Message looked for humor in the news, and have ended up being accused of insensitivity. Their e-mail to campus about the appointment said in part: "On July 1, yet another hard-working American's job will be taken by an immigrant willing to work in substandard conditions at near-subsistent wage, saving half his money and sending the rest home to his village in the form of traveler's checks. Unless 'Jim Yong Kim' means 'I love Freedom' in Chinese, I don't want anything to do with him. Dartmouth is America, not Panda Garden Rice Village Restaurant." (The full text can be found here.) Many students were, to put it mildly, not amused by the attempt at humor, prompting apologies, statements, calls for meetings and more. James Wright, Dartmouth's outgoing president, sent a campus e-mail Thursday calling the message "hurtful to our Asian and our Asian American community and indeed to all of us." Wright also forwarded to the campus a note from Kim, who said he understood the pain felt by Asians at Dartmouth over the e-mail, but did not want people to judge the college by the incident. He said Dartmouth is a place that "cherishes free speech, but also nurtures mutual respect and civility." Kim then went on to express concern for the student who sent the e-mail. Wrote the college's president-elect: "I want to ensure that the student who wrote the e-mail understands the enriching role that people of diverse backgrounds will play in his life. But I also don't want this lapse in judgment to limit his prospects for the future. Dartmouth students are very talented, but we all make mistakes -- especially when we are young."

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