Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 2, 2009

Samim Anghaie, and his wife, Susan, were arrested Friday and charged with fraud for using $3.7 million in government contracts for personal uses, such as the purchase of cars and homes, The Gainesville Sun reported. The two are also charged with submitting false information to get the contracts from various federal agencies. Samim Anghaie has been director of Florida's Innovative Nuclear Space Power and Propulsion Institute. The couple's lawyer said that they had no comment on the charges.

October 30, 2009

Just under 11.5 million students were enrolled in a college or university in the fall of 2008, and 39.6 percent of all Americans aged 18 to 24 were enrolled -- both figures that set records, according to an analysis released Thursday by the Pew Research Center. Community college enrollments accounted for almost all of the gains over the previous year, consistent with the enrollment booms they experience when the economy falters.

October 30, 2009

Presidents of Division I universities in the National Collegiate Athletic Association moved ahead Thursday on several changes designed to rein in perceived abuses and excesses in big-time college basketball. The Division I Board of Directors approved a set of recommendations aimed at limiting the flow of money to third parties (like informal sports agents) who have increasingly cropped up in the college recruiting pipeline, and increasing the penalties against college coaches who violate the new guidelines. The board also endorsed and put on the agenda for a vote at January's NCAA Convention a set of proposals that would cut the length of the men's basketball season by one game, to 28, and restrict the number of physical education courses that basketball players who transfer from two-year colleges can count toward their credentials. The association's Executive Committee also formally began its search to replace Myles Brand as the NCAA's president.

October 30, 2009

Gov. Jennifer Granholm decided not to veto funds for Michigan State University's agricultural extension programs after striking a deal in which the university agreed to restructure the programs to focus on environmental issues, the Detroit Free Press reported. Granholm had been widely expected to veto much of the $64 million in state funds that Michigan State's extension and experiment station programs receive annually, but changes announced by the university Wednesday appeared to have averted the cuts.

October 30, 2009

The University of Florida received attention this month for a spoof disaster planning document -- place on the university's Web site with other disaster preparedness documents -- on dealing with a zombie attack. On Wednesday, an improv student group called Theatre Strike Force demonstrated what a zombie attack might actually look like. The Independent Florida Alligator has video of the "attack."

October 29, 2009

Colleges have seen a surge in the rates at which students are being diagnosed with H1N1 or similar flu illnesses, according to new data from the American College Health Association. The association has been using a national sample of 270 colleges and universities to track the spread of H1N1, and, in the last week, the rate of cases increased by 34 percent. In addition, several regions where H1N1 had appeared to be in decline -- the Northeast, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and the Midwest -- saw increases. Of the colleges in the survey, 97 percent reported new cases. Details on the latest data are available here.

October 29, 2009

The higher ed technology group Educause on Wednesday released its based on the results of its "Core Data Service Fiscal Year 2008 Summary Report," annual survey of 930 colleges and universities. This year's installment focuses on information technology trends on campuses between 2004 and 2008. Centralized IT funding rose, but only in proportion to enrollment and inflation. Outsourcing became more popular: In 2008, 70 percent of colleges used an external supplier for at least one IT function, and the use of homegrown systems decreased for all categories except library information systems. Colleges have increasingly turned to commercial vendors for learning management systems and e-mail clients, with a number of campuses considering dropping institutional e-mail addresses altogether, the report says.

October 29, 2009

Monday, Butler University formally withdrew the libel and defamation lawsuit it had filed against Jess Zimmerman, an undergraduate student who kept an anonymous blog that criticized senior administrators. The case did not name Zimmerman directly, and instead was filed against “Soodo Nym,” the moniker he used to write the blog. Even after Zimmerman went public and admitted he was “Soodo Nym,” Bobby Fong, Butler's president, told faculty multiple times, as he did in one statement, that “The university did not, has not, and will not sue Jess Zimmerman.” By university administrators' logic, because they had not named Zimmerman directly in the suit, they had not technically ever sued a student. Zimmerman and many professors and other students took issue with this stance in the days following his public outing. On Zimmerman's new blog, he even kept a running tally of the number of days the lawsuit remained active in Marion County court following Fong’s statement that the university was not suing him. Ultimately, the suit remained in force for a week.

Michael Blickman, the university’s attorney, noted in a statement that the university had begun an “internal disciplinary process” to punish Zimmerman last week, before the suit was dropped. Of the move, Blickman said, “The university and its administrators strongly support freedom of speech and academic freedom. The free exchange of ideas is fundamental to academic life. However, the University also has a commitment and duty to protect the safety of all its members and ensure the opportunity to teach and to learn freely.” Zimmerman, by contrast, criticized how the disciplinary process was being handled in his blog: “I worry about them since the president, on numerous occasions, has seen fit to pronounce me guilty. I would have hoped that we could have the trial first and the verdict second, but that isn’t the way Butler has decided to operate."

October 29, 2009

An article in The Huffington Post explores continuing concerns over whether oversight of research subjects is sufficient to protect participants. While some instances of insufficient protection have received widespread public attention, the article says, others have not and the Obama administration has suggested interest in the issue by appointing a critic of oversight to lead the Office of Human Research Protections.

October 29, 2009

The lawyer for a woman who has accused three University of Arkansas basketball players of rape is demanding a special prosecutor in the case after local officials declined to prosecute. The Associated Press reported that the lawyer cited conflicts of interest by the university, which conducted initial investigations into the allegations. For instance, the lawyer noted that a university police officer -- in a videotaped interview -- said "I don't do anything to an athlete that I'm not comfortable with the fact that this is going to become national news." Further, the request noted that the local prosecutor who declined to bring charges is the son-in-law of the former Arkansas athletics director, Frank Broyles, an icon in the state, and the brother-in-law of an athletics department spokesman. The prosecutor said that his relatives played no role in his decision, which he said was motivated by a lack of evidence.

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