Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 10, 2009

Legislation to permit those registered to carry concealed weapons to carry them on college campuses is advancing in Missouri and Texas. In Texas, the House Public Safety Committee has now approved a measure that appears to have the support of a majority in the House of Representatives, The Houston Chronicle reported. In Missouri, the House of Representatives voted Thursday to lift a ban on carrying concealed weapons on campuses, KOMU News reported. In both states, legislators favoring concealed weapons on campus say that students would be safer if they could respond to a threat. But in both states, some legislators and most campus safety experts say that guns pose unique dangers on campuses, where students are not necessarily mature and may be tempted to use firearms while drunk. In the words of Missouri Rep. Chris Kelly: "College boys love things that go boom. What we don't need is beer and college boys and firearms."

April 10, 2009

What if the federal government held an auction and nobody came? That's essentially what happened this month, and the U.S. Education Department announced Thursday in a message to student loan providers that it was canceling its Congressionally mandated plan for state-by-state competitive bidding processes for the right to make federal student loans for parents. The auction, which was enacted as part of budget reconciliation legislation in 2007, was set to take place next week. But as the law was written, the auctions were to be held only in those states that received at least two requests from lenders -- and not a single state received two such requests, Daniel T. Madzelan, a senior department official, said in an e-mail message Thursday. Most states received no requests at all, he said. The auction idea had become increasingly fraught because of the economic downturn and with the Obama administration contemplating much broader changes in the federal student loan programs. Democratic leaders in Congress introduced legislation late last month that would have postponed the auction for a year -- which may not be necessary given the department's announcement Thursday.

April 10, 2009

Clark University has called off a lecture by Norman Finkelstein, saying that it would conflict with and possibly detract from a conference about the Holocaust on campus, The Boston Globe reported. John Bassett, the university's president, said in a letter to the campus paper that he canceled Finkelstein's talk due to "unfortunate scheduling" near a conference sponsored by the university's Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Clark is known for its programs in Holocaust studies. Finkelstein, an outspoken critic of Israel, is known for writing about the Holocaust that focuses on Israeli use of the history of the Holocaust to justify its actions. Finkelstein was invited to Clark by a group called Clark University Students for Palestinian Rights. The statement from Bassett said: "It is possible that our understanding of the Middle East conflicts would be enriched by conversations with Professor Finkelstein. It is my judgment, however, that having Professor Finkelstein speak on the same evening as our planned conference would only invite controversy and not dialogue or understanding."

April 10, 2009

C.D. Mote Jr., president of the University of Maryland at College Park, has decided that the institution will keep a two-minute prayer at graduation ceremonies. The Baltimore Sun reported that the University Senate -- which has student, faculty and staff members -- voted this week to recommend that the university end the prayer, saying that it was not inclusive. But Mote, in a statement, said that "for many people, a prayer of gratitude and a moment of reflection are an important part of our commencement tradition."

April 10, 2009

The University of Colorado will "vigorously challenge" any move to reinstate Ward Churchill to his job teaching ethnic studies at the Boulder campus, a spokesman told The Daily Camera. While the announcement was not a surprise, it was the first formal indication of how the university will respond to last week's verdict by a state jury that Churchill was fired inappropriately for his political views. The university has maintained that he was fired for repeated instances of scholarly misconduct. The judge in the case has the discretion to order Churchill reinstated or to instead order other compensation, such as a cash payment, but Churchill has said repeatedly that he wants his job back. Churchill's lawyers have suggested that he could simply return to campus and start teaching again, but the university spokesman called that a "spurious" premise and noted that the findings of misconduct were not discredited by the verdict. "The notion he can just settle back into his teaching duties is questionable," the spokesman said. A lawyer for Churchill called the university's position "offensive," adding that "a jury of their peers has convicted them of being constitutional violators."

April 9, 2009

President Obama on Wednesday nominated New Jersey's top higher education official (who is also a former top aide to U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy) to head the Labor Department agency that oversees federal job training programs. Jane Oates, executive director of the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education and a senior adviser to Gov. Jon S. Corzine, is the president's choice to be assistant labor secretary leading the Employment and Training Administration, which administers the Workforce Investment Act and other federal job training programs. If confirmed by the Senate, Oates would oversee the agency's work, among other things, on spending additional billions in federal stimulus money for job training, much of which could flow to community colleges, and working with Congress to renew the Workforce Investment Act. In other recent Obama administration personnel moves, the president has nominated John Q. Easton, executive director of the University of Chicago's Consortium on Chicago School Research, to direct the U.S. Education Department's Institute of Education Sciences, which oversees the federal government's work on education research. At the center, Easton worked closely with Education Secretary Arne Duncan on research aimed at improving the Chicago Public Schools. And the Portland Press Herald reported that Duncan has appointed Glenn Cummings, dean of institutional advancement at Southern Maine Community College and a former speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, for a key role in the Education Department's Office of Vocational and Adult Education.

April 9, 2009

Joseph Massad may have won an epic tenure battle at Columbia University. No official announcements have been made by Columbia or Massad, but The Angry Arab News Service -- a blog sympathetic to him -- quotes him as confirming campus reports that he has been assured of tenure. Many scholars of Middle Eastern studies believe Massad deserves tenure and that his promotion has been held up unreasonably because of opposition by pro-Israel groups. Those groups, in turn, say that Massad is hostile not only to Israel but to students whose views on Israel differ from his own.

April 9, 2009

Johns Hopkins Medicine has become the latest medical school to bar gifts from pharmaceutical companies. New policies announced Wednesday prohibit the acceptance of gifts or entertainment -- including food -- regardless of value, from pharmaceutical and medical device companies. Consulting arrangements that carry compensation but no real duties also are barred. Beginning in 2010, Hopkins will no longer accept free pharmaceutical samples, although in some limited cases, it will use "de-identified samples " (those without the brand name or manufacturer's name) for patient education. While consulting work for drug companies will not be barred, reporting requirements to prevent conflicts of interest will be strengthened. "Industry plays a crucial role in advancing medical research and treatments, and the intent is not to discourage principled partnerships," says Julie Gottlieb, assistant dean and director of the Johns Hopkins Medicine Office of Policy Coordination, in a statement. "The major reason for developing this policy is to limit the impact of industry marketing influence on faculty and physicians' decision making and by so doing protect patients."

April 9, 2009

The bishop for the Diocese of Scranton has deemed the response of four Catholic colleges to his inquiry into contraceptives on campus “insufficient.” The presidents of King’s College, Misericordia University, Marywood University and the University of Scranton said in a joint letter Monday that they do not provide condoms or oral contraceptives on campus, but the bishop said further documentation is needed – citing two specific reasons for concern, including the inclusion of condoms on Marywood’s packing list for international students. Officials at the four colleges either declined or did not respond to requests for further comment Wednesday.

April 9, 2009

A for-profit education company owned by a leading private equity firm has bought Florida Technical College, which operates three career-oriented campuses, according to Stifel Nicolaus Investment Banking, which announced the sale. EduK, which operates several colleges in Puerto Rico and is financed by Leeds Equity Partners, completed its purchase of Florida Technical College from Forefront Education, Stifel Nicolaus said. Florida Tech operates 17 programs on three campuses. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

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