DC Digest - December 12, 2011
In Today's Issue:
- Duke Signs Joint Letter Urging Defense Authorization Conferees to Strike Senate SBIR/STTR Amendment
- Bipartisan Group of Senators, Including Burr and Hagan, Sign Letter Opposing DOD MOU on Tuition Assistance
- Duke Responds to Proposed Revisions of Select Agents and Toxins Regulations
- AAU Comments on OSTP Bioeconomy Blueprint
- Administration Issues Guidance on Achieving Diversity in Higher Education
- Can Washington Fix What Ails American Higher Ed?
DUKE SIGNS JOINT LETTER URGING DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION CONFEREES TO STRIKE SENATE SBIR/STTR AMENDMENT
A group of 47 associations, scientific societies, and institutions, including Duke, sent a letter on Friday to conferees on the National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1867) urging them to remove the small business reauthorization bill that was added to the measure on the Senate floor. The letter notes that House-Senate negotiations on the small business bill are currently underway and says that the Defense authorization bill is an inappropriate vehicle for reauthorizing these programs.
Duke opposes the Senate version of the Small Business Innovative Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) bill (S. 493) because it would increase the small business set-aside in the research budgets of the major federal research agencies at a time when agency budgets already are constrained. The signees support the House version of the bill (H.R. 1425), which does not include the increase in the set-aside.
Conferees on the Defense authorization bill are expected to complete their work early this week.
Letter Urges Defense Authorization Conferees to Strike Senate SBIR/STTR Amendment (pdf)
BIPARTISAN GROUP OF SENATORS SIGN LETTER OPPOSING DOD MOU ON TUITION ASSISTANCE
As reported in the November 28 DC Digest, a group of higher education associations wrote last month to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta urging him to withdraw the Department’s Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Military Tuition Assistance (TA) program.
Last week, Senators from both parties, including North Carolina Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan, joined the push to get the Defense Department to reconsider its MOU for tuition assistance for service members. More than 50 senators have now signed a letter to the Defense Department asking for a delay in the implementation of the memorandum of understanding.
Many colleges and universities are concerned that the Department, in making a good-faith effort to ensure better educational outcomes for service members and protect against fraud, has overstepped the department’s authority by interfering with institutional policies on transfer credit and other issues. College officials believe that changing the agreement is key because the rules, if put in place by the Pentagon, could set a precedent for other departments -- including Veterans Affairs -- or for federal oversight of higher education in general.
The Office of Federal Relations remains engaged in this issue and will continue to provide updates as they become available.
Bipartisan Senate DOD MOU Letter to Secretary Panetta (pdf)
Majority of Senators Sign Letter Opposing Defense Department Rules (InsideHigherEd)
DUKE RESPONDS TO PROPOSED REVISIONS OF SELECT AGENTS AND TOXINS REGULATIONS
Duke submitted comments last month on proposed revisions to the Select Agents and Toxins Rule, a rule concerning the regulation of possession, use, and transfer of select agents and toxins (SAT). SATs are the dangerous pathogens and toxins deemed to be potential bioterrorism threats that are jointly regulated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA). The proposed revisions were announced in the Federal Register on October 3, 2011.
Duke's letter outlined the university's position on particular definitions, select agent exemptions, rules governing responsible officials, security.
Duke Response to Proposed Revisions of Select Agents and Toxins Regulations (pdf)
AAU COMMENTS ON OSTP BIOECONOMY BLUEPRINT
AAU submitted comments on December 6 in response to the Office of Science and Technology Policy's (OSTP) Request for Information (RFI) on development of a Bioeconomy Blueprint. The goal of the Blueprint is to delineate "Administration-wide steps to harness biological research innovations to address national challenges in health, food, energy, and the environment."
The RFI posed questions on a wide range of issues, from workforce and training to fostering innovation and commercialization, and on such specific issues as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. AAU noted in its comments that "many of the issues identified have been of longstanding interest to AAU and our member institutions" and urged OSTP also to give serious consideration to comments submitted by AAU member institutions. The AAU comments reiterated the association’s established positions on regulatory burden, the importance of research infrastructure, and the need for support of proof-of-concept research. OSTP is expected to unveil the Bioeconomy Blueprint by the end of January 2012.
AAU OSTP Bioeconomy Blueprint Comments (pdf)
ADMINISTRATION ISSUES GUIDANCE ON ACHIEVING DIVERSITY IN HIGHER EDUCATION
The Departments of Justice and Education on Dec. 2 released a new guidance document detailing the flexibility that the Supreme Court has provided to colleges and universities to promote diversity on campus.
The guidance, based on three Supreme Court decisions, Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, describes how race can be taken into account in admissions, pipeline programs, recruitment, and support programs such as mentoring and tutoring as efforts to achieve diversity.
“University administrators have been confused about how they could follow the court’s rulings and still achieve the benefits of diversity,” Ada Meloy, general counsel for the American Council on Education, told The New York Times. “So they will welcome this practical, step-by-step set of directions.”
Administration Issues Guidance on Achieving Diversity in Higher Education (ACEnet.edu)
CAN WASHINGTON FIX WHAT AILS AMERICAN HIGHER ED?
At a meeting with college leaders last week, President Barack Obama was looking for ideas. Amid record budget deficits, can Washington actually do anything to help make American colleges less expensive and more productive?
Those related challenges are front and center for everyone from Occupy protesters to business leaders concerned about American competitiveness. And expert opinion on what Obama — or any president — can do about the problem varies, from very little to quite a lot.
Can Washington Fix What Ails American Higher Ed? (CBSnews.com)