News in brief

February 16, 2012

United States

Contraceptives cause headaches

A Pennsylvania university has denied that it is encouraging sexual promiscuity among students after gaining international notoriety for allowing contraceptive pills to be sold from a vending machine on its campus. Roger L. Serr, vice-president for student affairs at Shippensburg University, released a statement aimed at correcting "misperceptions" after newspapers worldwide reported on the availability of the emergency contraceptive, Plan B, at the institution. "We are not the first one to make Plan B available, so this is not unique to us or to public higher education," the statement says. "The cost for the medication is paid by the purchasers. No state tax funds or student health fees are used." It adds that the vending machine is in a private room in the health centre that is accessible only to students. "The university is not encouraging anyone to be sexually active," it concludes. "That is a decision each student makes on his or her own."


Sen and social sensibility

The Indian government has announced plans to establish a new research centre and 10 annual fellowships in a bid to improve social sciences research. The Ministry of Human Resource Development has unveiled a five-point plan for attracting researchers to the field, including 10 Amartya Sen Awards for "advancement of knowledge in social sciences", The Hindu newspaper reported. The Indian Council of Social Science Research has also been asked to set up a social sciences research innovation centre. Kapil Sibal, human resource development minister, said the council would create a network of academics in the field and produce affordable textbooks, digests and manuscripts to aid lecturers and students. It will also develop a fellowship scheme for young scholars pursuing social sciences research.


Success? Just Google it

Google has announced its first formal teaching collaboration with a university. Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales de Paris (HEC), a leading French business school, has announced a partnership with Google France that will see the search-engine giant assist in developing digital entrepreneurs, The New York Times reported. "Google can help us train students to become entrepreneurs in digital business," said HEC director general Bernard Ramanantsoa. The collaboration, Google@HEC, will include lectures, seminars and meetings for students taught by digital entrepreneurs and Google employees. Jean-Marc Tassetto, director general of Google France, said it was the first partnership of its kind. "We are entering a new phase in transformation and cooperation," he said.

United States

Step down then take a chair

A row has broken out over a professorial role handed to an employee of a US university just weeks after she resigned a senior post over an email scandal. Lisa Troyer quit as chief of staff to Michael Hogan, president of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, after it was alleged that she had sent anonymous emails attempting to influence the decisions of a faculty governing body. Professor Troyer claimed that her computer had been hacked, although The News-Gazette reported that this account had been questioned by others at the institution. Now it has emerged that she has accepted a tenured faculty post at the university with a salary of more than $100,000 (£63,000) a year. A spokeswoman for the university said that Professor Troyer's tenured position had been approved by Urbana-Champaign's board of trustees "shortly after she joined the university".


Best-before date for data flagged

An independent agency should take control of higher education statistics in Australia because current data are produced too slowly and are too vague to allow users to assess how the system is working, a leading policy analyst has claimed. Andrew Norton, programme director of higher education at the Grattan Institute, a public policy thinktank, said the education department issued reports too late to detect emerging trends, The Australian reported. Mr Norton said that at least two major private providers did not report statistics at all. "The demand-driven system is less predictable than it used to be," he said. "We need early warning signs of strange things that might require attention."

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