News in brief

April 14, 2011

United States

Republicans rebuffed at Madison

The senate of a US university has voted in favour of its chancellor taking a lead in "contesting and resisting the misuse" of Wisconsin's freedom of information law. The vote came after a Republican Party official used the public records law to request emails from William Cronon, a University of Wisconsin-Madison academic who had criticised recent Republican-led legislation curtailing collective bargaining by the state's public-sector employees. In a statement on the university's website, Carolyn A. Martin, Madison's chancellor, said that while the institution would comply with the law, it would not release "private e-mail exchanges among scholars that fall within the orbit of academic freedom and all that is entailed by it". A freedom of information request was lodged by Stephan Thompson, deputy executive director of the Wisconsin Republican Party. He asked for all emails sent to or from the university email account of Professor Cronon that contained keywords including "Republican", "collective bargaining" and "union".


All kidding and research aside

Nearly a third of academic staff at an Australian university have accepted teaching-only positions after the option of giving up research was offered to all. Faculty at Central Queensland University were given the offer in the wake of the university's poor performance in the Excellence in Research for Australia initiative, which assessed research quality within the country's higher education institutions. In addition to increasing teaching-only positions, the university has said it may end research in areas that scored poorly in the ERA. Scott Bowman, its vice-chancellor, said: "It's not about putting teaching-only staff in a ghetto, but we had to stop kidding ourselves that all our academics were doing research."


Fraud probe sparks reform

A permanent research fraud investigation committee is to be set up in Brazil after a scientist at one of the country's leading public universities was accused of doctoring data. The National Council for Scientific and Technological Development, which is part of the Ministry of Science and Technology, will henceforth investigate allegations of fraud after Claudio Airoldi, a professor at the State University of Campinas, allegedly altered data in 11 papers published in international journals. The Brazilian newspaper Folha quoted the chairman of the council, Glaucius Oliva, as saying: "We decided to appoint a temporary committee to help create a committee of scientific integrity, for when such cases come to light." Until now, allegations of misconduct have been investigated by individual institutions.

United States

'Alarming' campus sex crime rise

US universities have been urged to do more to prevent sexual violence on campus. According to Joe Biden, the US vice-president, sex crimes affecting students often go unreported because the victims are afraid the university will not punish offenders. Mr Biden travelled to the University of New Hampshire last week to discuss new Department of Education guidelines, while Russlynn H. Ali, assistant secretary for the department's Office of Civil Rights, said that there was a "terrible and alarming trend of sexual violence" in the country. Her comments, reported in The New York Times, follow a 26-page complaint against Yale University, signed by 16 students and alumni, alleging a sexually hostile environment on its campus. A Yale spokesman said the university took allegations of such misconduct "very seriously".


ESU call to support jailed student

The European Students' Union has called on higher education authorities to put pressure on Iran to release a student leader who was imprisoned a year and a half ago. Bahareh Hedayat was arrested in December 2009 and subsequently jailed for nine and a half years for anti-state propaganda. In a statement issued last week, the ESU expresses solidarity with Ms Hedayat, 30, and praises her efforts in the "violently oppressed Iranian student movement". It calls on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation and the European Commission to "demand her release and protection".

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