March 5, 2015


Higher Education News:

Number of Colleges Under Investigation for Sexual-Assault Compliance Now Tops 100

The number of colleges being investigated by the federal government for compliance with Title IX in their handling of campus sexual violence has now topped 100, The Washington Post reports. The mounting number of colleges being investigated reflects the growing strain on [the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights], which has become a much-sought arbiter of justice in the eyes of sexual-assault victims nationwide. (Chronicle of Higher Education - March 4, 2015).

Thousands of Veterans Have Filed Complaints Against Colleges in New U.S. System

Thousands of veterans and active-duty members of the armed services have filed complaints against colleges through an online system created just over a year ago, officials in the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs said on Tuesday. The complaint system, which went live on Jan. 30 of last year, was created by the agencies to make it easier for veterans, members of the armed services, and their families to report problems with colleges that receive funds from veteran and military education-benefits programs. So far, a majority of the complaints have centered on financial problems, such as tuition and fee charges and refunds, and the quality of the education received. (Chronicle of Higher Education - March 4, 2015).

Debt Relief for Corinthian Students? 

The Obama administration, under pressure from Congressional Democrats and consumer advocates, is deciding whether to relieve the debt of some federal student loan borrowers who attended Corinthian Colleges. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell wrote to lawmakers last week that the department is “carefully considering the issue.” His letter comes several weeks after the government gave final approval to the sale of many of Corinthian’s campuses. The sale agreement included $480 million in forgiveness of private student loans. (Inside Higher Ed - March 4, 2015)

Research News:

Harold Varmus Stepping Down as Director of U.S. Cancer Institute

Harold Varmus, the feisty, outspoken virologist who has led the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for nearly 5 years, will leave his post at the end of March. Douglas Lowy, who currently serves as NIH's deputy director, will become acting director. Varmus, who served as NIH's director from 1993 to 1999, returned to run NCI in 2010. As NCI director, he pushed studies of tumor genomics to tailor treatments to cancer patients, and launched a “provocative questions” initiative to get researchers to explore mysteries of cancer. (ScienceInsider - March 4, 2015)

House Science Committee Approves R&D Efficiency Bill

The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee today approved the Research and Development Efficiency Act (H.R. 1119), legislation that aims to reduce the burden of federal regulations on government-sponsored research by harmonizing, streamlining, and eliminating duplicative federal regulations and reporting requirements. The Association of American Universities (AAU) strongly supports the bill, which is essentially the same as the measure (H.R. 5056) introduced last year by Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind., and approved by the House.

The bill would task the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) with establishing a working group to review federal research regulations affecting research and research universities. OSTP would report back to Congress within one year on what steps have been taken to carry out the recommendations of that working group.

During committee consideration, the panel approved an amendment offered by Rep. Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill., that would add a third area to the OSTP working group's review: to "identify and update specific regulations to refocus on performance-based goals rather than on process while still meeting the desired outcome." AAU strongly supports this language. (Association of American Universities - March 4, 2015)

House Committee Prods Energy Department to Use More Supercomputers

The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology today approved a bill that would require the Energy Department to research supercomputing technology that could increase computing capability while reducing power use. Introduced by Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill., the American Super Computing Leadership Act [also] requires Energy to partner with national laboratories on supercomputing research . . . The committee also approved the Department of Energy Laboratory Modernization and Technology Transfer Act of 2015, aimed at improving the management of national laboratories. (Nextgov - March 4, 2015)

Health News:

Few Clues From Roberts on Fate of ObamaCare at Supreme Court

The Supreme Court appeared deeply divided Wednesday on whether to curtail subsidies under ObamaCare, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy providing few clues about where they might fall. Roberts, who cast the decisive vote in favor of ObamaCare in 2012, was unusually quiet during the oral arguments, prompting CNN analyst Jeffrey Toobin to declare the chief justice’s views of the case “almost entirely a mystery.” (The Hill - March 4, 2015)

Other News:

Senator Coons Introduces the Strong Patents Act

Sen. Christopher Coons, D-Del., on March 3 introduced the Support Technology and Research for Our Nation's Growth (STRONG) Patents Act of 2015, legislation aimed at targeting the harmful litigation practices of patent trolls without damaging the broader U.S. patent system.

The bill would give the Federal Trade Commission powers against abusive demand letters and make changes to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's process for challenging patents after they have been issued, reports Politico.

The Association of American Universities (AAU) issued a statement on March 2 endorsing the bill. The statement said: "...AAU supports this legislation because it targets the abusive practices of patent trolls through judicious, carefully calibrated measures that would not make it more difficult and costly for all patent holders to enforce their patents and thus diminish the overall strength of the U.S. patent system. Universities' ability to move their discoveries to the private sector for the benefit of the public through technology transfer depends on a strong patent system. It is our hope that Congress will take up this legislation in the coming weeks." (Association of American Universities - March 4, 2015)

Items of Note:


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