Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 25, 2009

The Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act has new life in a new Congress. On Tuesday, U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) introduced the bill, which would authorize $80 million in grants for study abroad, to be administered by a new foundation. An earlier version of the legislation fell short of passage in the 110th Congress after clearing the House of Representatives. The bill is based on recommendations from the Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program, which set an oft-cited goal of upping the number of Americans studying abroad to one million.

February 25, 2009

A conflict over the state funding formula for community colleges is getting bitter in Nebraska. Metropolitan Community College, in Omaha, has been kicked out of the Nebraska Community College Association. Metro says that it wouldn't pay for lobbying against its own interests. “They threw us out because we were unwilling to pay for their lobbyist who lobbies against us,” Dave Newell, chair of the college's board, told KETV News. Metro argues that the funding formula used by the state needs to change because it doesn't link funding sufficiently to enrollments. Rural legislators like the formula as it is, saying smaller institutions need extra help. One lawmaker has proposed legislation that would cut funds from colleges that aren't member of the Nebraska Community College Association, the group that kicked Metro out.

February 24, 2009

The Rev. Joseph Martino, bishop of Scranton, on Tuesday asked Misericordia University to specify how sexuality is taught at the institution, and whether those teachings are consistent with Roman Catholic teaching. The statement followed an appearance at the university by Keith Boykin, an advocate for gay rights. The bishop had asked that the talk be called off, and he is now asking the university to "seriously consider" abolishing its Diversity Institute, which invited Boykin. "The Bishop’s rationale is that students should learn respect for all races and cultures, but that viewpoints that are in direct opposition to Catholic teaching should not be presented under the guise of 'diversity,' " said a statement from the bishop. "Doing so within a formal structure sanctioned by the institution gives the impression that these viewpoints are acceptable, or that all morality is relative." The university issued a statement indicating that it would be happy to meet with Bishop Martino, and that Misericordia is "committed deeply to its Catholic mission."

February 24, 2009

As a growing number of Texas lawmakers push to give college students to the right to carry concealed weapons on campus, an unofficial spokesman has emerged at the University of Texas at Austin to oppose such a move. The Dallas Morning News reported that John Woods, a graduate student, has been speaking out on the issue from his personal experience as a Virginia Tech graduate whose girlfriend was shot and killed in the massacre there. Students with guns can easily have emotional breakdowns or gun accidents, he notes. "Crime on campus is, statistically, incredibly low. Virginia Tech got very, very unlucky," Woods told the newspaper. "If students have guns on campus, that can only create more danger." But State Sen. Jeff Wentworth isn't convinced and is introducing legislation this week to allow students to carry guns. "I don't want to wake up and read in the paper that Texas students were mowed down like sitting ducks on campus because they weren't allowed to defend themselves," he said.

February 24, 2009

Canadian officials are moving to recruit and enroll many more international students. The Toronto Star reported that Immigration Minister Jason Kenney recently noted that Australia allows 10 times the students from India that Canada does, and vowed to change that ratio. "We are not receiving enough foreign students," he said, adding that foreign students are "a source of revenue." In Britain, university leaders are worried that planned increases in visa fees will discourage foreign students from applying and enrolling, The Guardian reported.

February 23, 2009

The Ontario branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees -- which represents teaching assistants in the province -- has voted to boycott Israel universities to oppose that country's policies in Gaza, CBC News reported. The union backed away from a proposal to boycott individual Israeli scholars and now says it is only opposed to institutional ties to Israel universities.

February 23, 2009

President Obama on Friday chose a University of North Dakota official to head the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services agency that, among other things, oversees the federal health professions programs that help train nurses and other health workers. The president announced the selection of Mary Wakefield, director of the university's Center for Rural Health and associate dean for rural health at North Dakota's School of Medicine and Health Sciences. She is a former nurse and a former aide to U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota.

February 23, 2009

Adjunct leaders from a variety of institutions and different parts of the country on Sunday formally agreed to create the National Coalition for Adjunct Equity, which will aim to be a new national voice for those off the tenure track. The co-chairs of the new group are Deborah Louis , who teache at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and Eastern Kentucky University, and Maria Maisto, who teaches at the University of Akron. Maiston, in a statement, said: "Current economic conditions have made adjunct faculty even more vulnerable than usual. We believe it is imperative that a national organization dedicated only to contingent faculty be formed to educate the public about the need for just and equitable treatment of what is now 70 percent of the teaching faculty nationally.”

February 22, 2009

The Iowa Supreme Court on Friday ruled that a fraternity had the right to sue the University of Iowa for its use in a disciplinary hearing of a tape – made secretly and illegally – of hazing activities. But the court also reduced damages awarded by a lower court. The tape was made by a student who lived in the Phi Delta Theta house, but who was not a member of the fraternity. While he could not attend fraternity initiations, he was able to leave a recorder in the room where they took place. A lower court ordered damages to be paid by both the university and Phillip Jones, who was at the time of the dispute vice president of student services. The lower court ordered the university to pay $100 for each day the fraternity was suspended (a total that was nearly $100,000). But the Supreme Court found that because the punishment was for both hazing and alcohol violations, the payments should be recalculated to cover time related only to the hazing charges. Further, because Jones did not know it was illegal to use the tape, the court said he could not be found personally liable.

February 22, 2009

The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Friday announced the arrests of four people charged with harassing and endangering University of California researchers who work with animals. In one incident, those arrested are charged with trying to enter the home of a researcher in Santa Cruz. In another incident, three of those arrested have been linked to fliers that publicized the home addresses and personal information of university researchers who work with animals – two of whom then had firebombs left at their homes. “With so many legal options to make their voices heard … it is inexcusable and cowardly for these people to resort to terrorizing the families of those with whom they do not agree,” said Charlene B. Thornton, special agent in charge of the FBI’s San Francisco office, in a statement. The Animal Liberation Press Office sent an e-mail to reporters saying that those arrested had engaged only in peaceful and legal protest.

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