All posts by Andrew Mytelka


Faculty Critic of NYU’s Role in Abu Dhabi Is Target of Secret Investigation

Andrew Ross, a faculty member at New York University who has been a sharp critic of the abuse of migrant workers in the construction of its campus in the United Arab Emirates, is the target of a mysterious investigation, The New York Times reports. An investigator has been seeking out “people to comment negatively” about him, the Times says, but has refused to disclose who hired her.

The investigation has also taken aim at a reporter, Ariel Kaminer, who co-wrote an article for the Times about th…


After Weeks of Limbo, South Carolina State’s Board Fires President

Three weeks after putting South Carolina State University’s president on leave, the institution’s Board of Trustees voted on Monday to fire him, reports The State, a newspaper in Columbia, S.C.

The ousted president, Thomas J. Elzey, had drawn criticism for not doing enough to lead the historically black university out of a morass of debt and accreditation troubles, although the board did not specify why it had acted against him, according to The State.

The financial problems, including a $17-mil…


Education Dept. to Drop 5 Collection Agencies Over ‘Deceptive Practices’

[Updated (3/2/2015, 12:35 p.m.) with response from a trade association representing the five agencies.]

The U.S. Education Department is cutting ties with five private collection agencies that it says provided inaccurate information to student-loan borrowers. In an announcement late Friday, the department also said it would step up its monitoring and guidance of such collection agencies, which work under government contracts, to ensure that they give borrowers accurate data on their loans.

The …


U. of California President Calls Off Proposed Increase in Tuition

Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California, has postponed a planned tuition increase as a gesture of good faith while negotiations continue with Gov. Jerry Brown over state support for higher education, the Associated Press reported. The university’s Board of Regents voted in November to raise tuition by as much as 5 percent in each of the next five years, to make up for lower-than-expected state funds.

Speaking at the University of Southern California on Wednesday, Napolitano said she was also hopeful the university system will be able to forestall any tuition increase for the next academic year.

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U. of Texas Chancellor Convenes Panel to Review Admissions Practices

William H. McRaven, chancellor of the University of Texas System, said on Monday he had formed a committee to look into admissions practices on the flagship Austin campus. The announcement came in the wake of a report, issued last week, that said the campus’s president, William C. Powers Jr., had intervened to help well-connected applicants gain admission, sometimes despite the admissions office’s wishes.

Mr. McRaven charged the committee with studying the report’s recommendations and best practices in the admissions field, and reporting back to him within 60 days. The committee’s members are a Who’s Who of former University of Texas leaders, including three former presidents of the Austin campus and three former system chancellors.

“My goal is to ensure full and open transparency to the public with respect to how admissions decisions are made at UT Austin.” McRaven said. “I realize that admissions practices are complicated and nuanced processes, but we must clearly define a policy that determines the degree of appropriate discretion at the institution level, while ensuring a fair and transparent process for applicants.”

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Princeton Receives $300-Million Bequest of Rare Books

Princeton University has received a bequest of some 2,500 rare books and manuscripts from a longtime benefactor who died last fall, the university announced on Monday. The donation, valued at $300-million, is the largest in Princeton’s history.

The donor, William H. Scheide, continued a tradition of collecting started in the 19th century by his grandfather and father. But the private collection has been housed in the university’s Firestone Library, where it is available to researchers and students, since 1959. (Mr. Scheide and his father were both alumni of Princeton.)

Highlights of the collection include a Gutenberg Bible, a first printing of the Declaration of Independence, a run of Shakespeare folio editions, and important autograph manuscripts by Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart.

According to a New York Times obituary of Mr. Scheide published after he died, in November, at age 100, he was known not only as a philanthropist, musicologist, and musician. He was also active in civil rights and was the most generous individual donor in the history of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Correction (2/15/2015, 3:48 p.m.): This post originally reported incorrectly that Mr. Scheide’s grandfather was a Princeton alumnus. Only Mr. Scheide and his father were alumni of the college. The post has been updated to reflect this correction.

“Through Bill Scheide’s generosity, one of the greatest collections of rare books and manuscripts in the world today will have a permanent home here,” said Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber.

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New President of Texas A&M at College Station Is U. of Washington’s Chief

The Texas A&M University system announced on Tuesday that its Board of Regents had chosen as the sole finalist to be the new president of its flagship campus Michael K. Young, currently president of the University of Washington. Mr. Young, a former law professor at Columbia University, State Department official during the first Bush administration, and former president of the University of Utah, will succeed R. Bowen Loftin, who left the College Station campus to become chancellor of the Univers…


New Chinese Crackdown on Internet Access Draws Academic Critics

University professors in China and Chinese students hoping to study in the United States are among the sharpest critics of recent efforts by Beijing to hamper the widespread use of virtual private networks to bypass the country’s tight Internet restrictions, The New York Times reports.

The students have used the networks, known as VPNs, to submit online applications to American colleges. The professors say the government’s new crackdown, which has disrupted VPNs to an unparalleled degree, has made it impossible for them to use Google Scholar, a search tool providing links to a vast archive of scholarly papers.

The Times quoted a naval historian as saying, “It’s like we’re living in the Middle Ages.” A biologist said the results of the crackdown “suggest little respect for the people actually engaged in science.”

Chinese authorities have long had the ability to interfere with V.P.N.s, but their interest in disrupting such programs has mounted alongside the government’s drive for so-called cyber-sovereignty, especially since President Xi Jinping came to power two years ago. Lu Wei, the propaganda official Mr. Xi appointed as Internet czar, has been unapologetic in promoting the notion that China has the right to block a wide array of online content.

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CUNY Campus Drops ‘Mr.’ and ‘Ms.’ to Foster Respect for Students’ Diversity

The City University of New York’s Graduate Center is advising its faculty and staff members to avoid using such courtesy titles as “Mr.,” “Ms.,” and “Mrs.” in written correspondence with students and instead to address them by their full names, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The goal of the new policy, which was laid out this month in a memorandum from the provost’s office and goes into effect this spring, is to “ensure a respectful, welcoming, and gender-inclusive learning environment … and to accommodate properly the diverse population of current and prospective students,” the memo says.

A university spokeswoman told the Journal that the policy stemmed from efforts to comply with Title IX, a federal gender-equity law. But Saundra Schuster, a lawyer and Title IX expert quoted by the newspaper, called the decision to base the new policy on the federal law “ridiculous.” “I love the concept,” she said, “but they are not mandated to do this.”

Gendered salutations represent “an outdated and unnecessary formality [that] serves no purpose other than to label and risk misrepresentation,” said Allison Steinberg, a spokeswoman for the Empire State Pride Agenda, an advocacy group for gay and transgender people. “We’re hopeful this gesture will inspire others…to follow in CUNY’s innovative footsteps.”

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Russian Spy Ring Sought to Recruit Young Women at University in N.Y.

In intercepted phone calls, participants in a Russian spy ring, who were charged on Monday, “discussed their attempts to recruit U.S. residents, including several individuals employed by major companies, and several young women with ties to a major university located in New York City,” according to a federal complaint quoted by the Associated Press. The complaint did not specify which university, but Newsweek noted that both Columbia and New York Universities have major Russian-research centers.

Three people were charged Monday in connection with a Cold War-style Russian spy ring that tried to recruit New York City residents as intelligence sources, authorities said. The defendants were directed by Russian intelligence official “to gather intelligence on, among other subjects, potential United States sanctions against Russian banks and the United States’ efforts to develop alternative energy resources,” according to a complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan.

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