Briefly

    CSU, graduate students reach deal

    Averting a strike that threatened to disrupt classes and delay grading, the California State University and the union representing its graduate students announced that they had reached a tentative agreement just hours before a labor stoppage was set to begin.

    In a short and cryptic statement released just minutes after midnight on May 12 — the day of the planned strike — the union told the media that the dispute had been averted.

    “We are very pleased that we have reached an agreement for the first contract with the [union],” CSU Assistant Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Sam Strafaci stated in a joint press release issued by the union and university later in the day. “Initial contract bargaining is often very difficult, and the agreement is an indication that the parties took their work seriously.”

    Strafaci said both parties were “willing to be creative” and find compromise on a three-year contract for the university’s 6,000 student employees.

    Previously, the university had not recognized the right of graduate students to be organized by the United Auto Workers, the union that represents graduate students across the country.

    “This is an historic agreement for academic student employees at CSU,” the union’s bargaining committee member and San Diego State University teaching assistant Raymond Wight stated in the release.

    Atmosphere naturally removes smog

    Natural chemical processes taking place in the atmosphere may remove smog and other hydrocarbons at a rate faster than previously believed by scientists, chemists at UCSD and Purdue University reported in a joint study.

    Researchers had previously known that chemicals high in the air interact with ultraviolet energy in sunlight and form hydro-oxide molecules that act as “natural air cleaners.” However, actual observation of the chemical processes has been difficult because of challenges posed by the study of photochemistry at the corresponding wavelengths. Using sensitive lasers, UCSD and Purdue researchers have recorded these reactions for the first time.

    The results indicated that the atmosphere may produce up to 20 percent more OH radicals than originally predicted and could imply that the atmosphere can break down pollution more effectively than originally thought.

    Kansas urged to include evolution study

    Phil Skell, a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, has jumped into the debate over what role evolution should play in state education curriculum in Kansas. The state made national headlines several years ago after its Board of Education deleted most references to the Darwinian theory.

    Earlier this month, the board held hearings to re-examine whether the theory should be included in the state’s education guidelines, though scientists who said the hearings were rigged in favor of critics of evolution largely boycotted them.

    In a letter to the board, Skell urged it to include favorable evidence supporting evolutionary theory in conjunction with its scientific criticisms.

    Bill would extend loan forgiveness

    Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) has introduced a congressional bill that would extend an expiring program that provides student-loan relief for military reservists called up to active duty.

    Originally approved in 2003 by a wide bipartisan margin, the provisions of the law allow the U.S. Department of Education to provide assistance to active troops. The provisions are set to expire at the end of September.

    The bill would extend the authority for the education secretary to issue waivers excusing military personnel from their federal student-loan repayment obligations.

    The 2003 law also asked colleges to refund tuition and fees of students who were called away for duty in the middle of a school session and to minimize requirements for reapplication.

    Scholarship fraud complaints on rise

    The number of complaints and inquiries into potentially fraudulent scholarships and grants climbed to 4,486 in 2004, up from 670 the year before, the Federal Trade Commission announced in a new report.

    Though the numbers could indicate an increase in scholarship fraud, the report suggested that the spike might instead have been caused by more vigilant enforcement by government agencies.

    Most recent trends indicate that fraudulent activity has shifted from scholarship-search services to financial-aid consulting services.

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