News in brief - 6 June 2013

June 6, 2013

United States
Transylvanian head kick blues

Academics have given their university president a vote of no confidence, a move unprecedented in the institution’s history. Staff at Transylvania University in Kentucky protested against the leadership of R. Owen Williams, who retains the backing of the institution’s trustees. The vote stems from the president’s refusal to grant tenure to two faculty members, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported, a decision that exacerbated existing misgivings over his management style. The no-confidence statement says: “We find ourselves very distressed to be in this situation; it is only because of the extreme nature of these failures of leadership that we find it necessary to take a vote of no confidence.”

Anti-Semitic allegation

A French university has defended a student theatre production that was labelled “grossly anti-Semitic” by a Jewish leader. Richard Prasquier, president of the Representative Council of French-Jewish Institutions, made the accusation about the play Your Children’s Role in the Global Economic Recovery. “How else would one describe a play in which a greedy money dealer called Goldberg presses a family to invest their life savings in repugnant causes?” Dr Prasquier wrote. He added that the production included a reference to Nazi hunters named Cohen 1 and Cohen 2 who abandon their cause for cash, The Jerusalem Post reported. Catherine Benguigui, vice-president of culture, sport and associations at the University of La Rochelle, said the humour was “difficult to handle” but maintained that it was not anti-Semitic. The university added that it “does not censor” students.

Bonuses laid bare

An Australian university has lost its battle to keep the bonus payments it makes to senior staff under wraps. A freedom of information case about the payments was brought by the National Tertiary Education Union against the University of New England. The university argued that “a decision to award a manager less than the maximum bonus due to average performance is much more serious if the decision is likely to be made public” and “has the potential to embarrass the relevant manager and damage the manager’s reputation and standing”. However, Peter Molony of the New South Wales Administrative Decisions Tribunal ruled that the public interest in the disclosure prevailed over such considerations, The Australian reported. NTEU branch president Tim Battin said that the bonus details would help to inform debate about the managerial culture at the university.

Turn up the Red light

China’s government has urged universities to step up the ideological and political training of young teachers. In a statement published last week, the Ministry of Education says it has issued a document in conjunction with the Communist Party of China Central Committee and its publicity department to instigate the plan. In the seven-part document, party organisations in all higher education institutions are encouraged to recognise the importance of enhancing and improving young teachers’ ideological training, political education and knowledge of current affairs and policy, the Xinhua state news agency reported. The document states: “Words and deeds that go against national interests and the healthy growth of students should be completely eradicated.”

United States
Good idea - it’s ours

The trustees of a US university have formally approved rules that state that inventions created by their academics belong to the institution. The University of Utah’s regulations now say that inventions created by academics within their fields belong to the university, regardless of whether they were conceived on its property or not. The rules also give faculty members a greater share of the profits made from their ideas than under existing provisions, bumping their potential take to 40 per cent of the first $100,000 (£66,180) in royalties rather than the first $20,000, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Officials say the changes are necessary to strengthen Utah’s position with inventors and the companies that make products based on the ideas. The policy also applies to student inventions made using campus resources.

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