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Does the SAT matter? Bates raises questions

An intriguing review by Bates College suggests that colleges could do just fine without the Scholastic Assessment Test. Twenty years after Bates made SAT scores optional for applicants, it looked back on the success rates of its students -- and found that those accepted without test scores are no more likely than their SAT-submitting peers to struggle academically or drop out. About one-third of Bates students are accepted without SATs, and their grades average 3.06, compared to 3.11 for those who send in scores, according to the newly released study. The study found that nonsubmitters are slightly more likely to choose creative majors like art and theater, and to end up as teachers or financial analysts, while submitters study more math, philosophy, and physics, earn more graduate degrees, and go on more often to become doctors and lawyers. Overall, the small Maine school has seen more minorities, women, and low-income students apply since it dropped the SAT requirement. Bates Vice President William C. Hiss said the results raise serious questions about the SAT's value in admissions "if testing serves to screen out people who would be successful."

THE AMBASSADOR FROM WALTHAM: Iraqi human rights champion Kanan Makiya, professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern studies at Brandeis University, is rumored to be on tap as Iraq's next ambassador to the United States, according to a report in The Washington Post. Makiya, who has been on leave for two years, is in Iraq working on the Iraq Memory Foundation, a group he founded to collect documents of Saddam Hussein's abuses. The "Republic of Fear" author couldn't be reached to comment on the job, but people in Waltham are excited. "Kanan has not been a yes man to anyone," said Marc Brettler, chair of Near Eastern and Judaic studies. "It's about respect for him as an intellectual." Makiya, at Brandeis since 1996, was scheduled to teach in the spring. Even if he gets the job, Brettler said, he hopes Makiya would still come back and teach at Brandeis -- someday.

BLOGROLLING: How did Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe suddenly land in hot water for borrowing from another scholar in a book published 19 years ago? It seems a pivotal role was played by Lawrence Velvel, dean of the Massachusetts School of Law -- the small, iconoclastic school in Andover best known for its accreditation battle with the American Bar Association. Velvel started a national affairs weblog earlier this year, even though he doesn't use a computer and has his secretary type in his entries. Velvel questioned Tribe's sympathetic comments in the Globe about Charles Ogletree, who recently apologized for lifting paragraphs from another book. Then Tribe actually wrote back to Velvel, agreeing that the issue of people "passing off the work of others as their own" is a significant one. Tribe also noted, poignantly in retrospect, that he wished the issue could be separated from "public excoriation of individuals." But it was that comment, which Velvel posted on his blog, that an unidentified professor flagged to the Weekly Standard, suggesting the magazine look back at Tribe's book. Velvel's blog has now attracted even more high-profile posters, including Alan Dershowitz and Chicago's Richard Posner. Velvel says he wants "every single piece of dishonesty in society [to be] laid bare," but was a bit bewildered to have become part of the Tribe story. "I didn't set out to have a role. It sort of just happened," he said.

WHO'S RUNNING THE REVIEW? Harvard was buzzing last week about the news that Jeff Wolcowitz was stepping down as an associate dean of the college. He is only one of several administrators who have left or been pushed aside recently, but his departure is a shock because he was the central figure overseeing the far-reaching curriculum review, the college's effort to rethink everything about what a Harvard student should learn. Wolcowitz didn't answer messages, and nobody who knew the back story was talking. Harvard issued only a terse statement saying Wolcowitz, an economics instructor, would devote his time to teaching.

HELP WANTED: The hunt is on -- again -- for a dean to lead the year-old McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston, after a yearlong national search ended in failure. Administrators offered the job to Jack Knott, director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, but negotiations broke down this summer, a source close to the talks said. The new school also failed to land a chairman for its department of public policy and public affairs after the top choice, economist Sourushe Zandvakili of the University of Cincinnati, dropped out when faced with Boston's high housing costs, the source said. The new search will reportedly focus on local candidates.

TAKE THIS JOB.... Unhappy professors at all nine state colleges staged a "day of outrage" Wednesday to protest their poor pay. When the cost of living in the Commonwealth is considered, full professors at the colleges earn $19,000 less, on average, than their peers in comparable states, according to a new study commissioned by college trustee leaders and based on national human resources data. The trustees, who are appointed by Governor Mitt Romney, sent him a letter last week asking for a meeting and warning that without competitive salaries, recruiting will falter and quality will erode. Romney has proposed raises of 1 percent per year for three years in the professors' next contract.

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