Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a new solution to the budget problems at California's community colleges: more part-time instructors. The governor has asked legislators to suspend for five years state requirements that 50 percent of a community college district's educational expenditures be used for instructors' salaries, and that set a goal that 75 percent of instructional hours be taught by full-time faculty members, The Sacramento Bee reported. The community college system is currently facing hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts -- with the prospect of turning students away all over the state. The California Federation of Teachers, the largest union of community college faculty members, is opposing the idea. Fred Glass, a spokesman for the union, told the Bee: "Nothing the governor says these days surprises us. He seems to be using this [fiscal crisis] as an opportunity to slash-and-burn education."
Higher Education Quick Takes
The U.S. Education Department on Friday said that its primary grant program to stimulate higher education innovation would focus this year on community college programs designed to help adult students and displaced workers. In an announcement in the Federal Register, the Education Department said it would give special priority in this year's grant competition in the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education to "innovative strategies to benefit working adults and displaced workers who are pursuing degrees or credentials in community colleges," including those that improve "academic remediation; tutoring; academic and personal counseling; registration processes; students' course selection and scheduling; instructional delivery, student support services related to childcare," or other purposes.
A new report by Free Exchange on Campus, a coalition of groups opposed to David Horowitz's "Academic Bill of Rights" and similar measures, argues that the entire movement is built on false premises and is designed to attack higher education. The report, "Manufactured Controversy," notes that legislative successes for this movement have been minimal, but that the effort still needs scrutiny. "Fortunately, the work of these conservative critics of higher education has been repulsed. Each and every legislative attempt to circumscribe the free exchange of ideas has met stiff resistance and ultimately failed, while legal and institutional attempts have offered nothing more than Pyrrhic victories," the report says. "Even as the threat wanes, it is important to understand that the right-wing critics of higher education are opportunistic and that so long as the academy remains the location of independent thought and vigorous debate, it always will be a target." The study summarizes various groups that have encouraged the Academic Bill of Rights or similar measures, and explores their funding sources, among other issues. Several right-leaning foundations have played key roles, the study says.
Via e-mail, Horowitz said of the new study: "This latest Free Exchange 'report' is yet another Orwellian attack by the teacher unions that seeks to portray the defenders of academic freedom as its opponents. To describe critiques of academic abuses as 'attacks on education' is like describing the opposition to child abuse as 'attacks on adults.' But that's exactly what the Free Exchange report does. It is able to do this by misrepresenting the argument of its opponents, distorting the facts, and omitting the vast body of evidence demonstrating that abuses exist."
The Association of Research Libraries has adopted a policy discouraging members from agreeing to confidentiality clauses in the deals they make with publishers and other vendors. While the policy excludes true trade secrets, it states that a growing trend of including confidentiality clauses makes it difficult for libraries to negotiate when they are seeking deals. “While research libraries may have in the past tolerated these clauses in order to achieve a lower cost,” said Charles B. Lowry, the association's executive director in a statement, “the current economic crisis marks a fundamentally different circumstance in the relationship between libraries, publishers, and other vendors.” The association plans to create a mechanism by which its members can share information with one another about their agreements.
When T. Boone Pickens donated $165 million to Oklahoma State University in 2006 to build a state-of-the-art athletics "village," athletics boosters cheered and critics raised questions about priorities. Now the project is being deferred and still more money may be needed -- due to last year's Wall Street collapse. The money from the Pickens gift, along with some smaller gifts, had been in a special fund, and with investment earnings, its value was $407 million just prior to last year's investment drops. The Tulsa World reported that in a matter of weeks, the fund lost $282 million, forcing delays and more fund raising efforts before the project can get into full swing.
A key legislator is calling for the resignation of B. Joseph White, president of the University of Illinois, and other university leaders, as a result of a scandal in which politically connected applicants were given preference in getting in -- sometimes over the strong objections of admissions officers, the Chicago Tribune reported. The Tribune exposed the "clout' admissions system, which the university has since suspended. "They were trusted to protect our university.... In my eyes, they failed in that regard and they should resign," said Rep. Mike Boland, chair of the House Higher Education Committee. While many legislators helped get some applicants get in, the Tribune said that Boland's name does not appear on the patronage lists maintained by the university. A spokesman for the university said that no resignations are expected.
Kicking off the Congressional appropriations process for federal programs relevant to higher education, the House of Representatives panel that sets spending for most federal science programs drafted legislation Thursday that would provide more than $7 billion for the National Science Foundation and $510 million for the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology, among other programs. The allocations proposed by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies generally fell short of those recommended by the Obama administration, but would represent significant increases over what the agencies are receiving in the current 2008-9 fiscal year. The NSF, for instance, would receive $5.642 billion for research and related activities under the House panel's proposal, up from $5.183 billion in 2008-9 but less than the $5.733 billion the president proposed. The agency's education programs would receive a 2 percent increase over 2008-9, to $862 million. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration would receive about $4.5 billion for its science programs, about equal to its current funding. Consistent with recent Congressional requirements, the House panel also released a table of projects earmarked by lawmakers for specific would-be recipients, which includes more than 150 projects worth tens of millions of dollars for colleges and universities. Among them: $1 million projects for Claflin University, Drew University, Sam Houston State University, Texas Tech University, and Towson University.
A new study published in the journal Economics of Education Review explores how students of different sexual orientations have different academic and extracurricular experiences in college. The study, based on surveys involving more than 40,000 students, was conducted by Christopher S. Carpenter, an assistant professor of economics and public policy at the University of California at Irvine. Among the findings about sexual orientation are the following comparisons of gay to straight students:
- Gay male students have higher college grade point averages and perceive their academic work as more important.
- Gay and bisexual males are more likely to report the presence of a faculty member or administrator with whom they could discuss a problem.
- Gay and bisexual males place more importance on participating in student organizations, volunteer activities, the arts, and politics.
- Bisexual females are less satisfied with the education they are receiving and spend less time studying.
- Lesbian and bisexual females place more importance on participation in the arts and politics.
Part-time faculty members at Cooper Union and in the pre-college division of the Manhattan School of Music have voted (separately) to be represented in collective bargaining by the New York State United Teachers, affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. Job security was a major issue in both organizing campaigns.
Alabama's community college system, which has been plagued by financial scandals in recent years, has a new one. The Securities and Exchange Commission says that an investment company paid for the friends and relatives of college officials to go to Broadway shows and sporting events and to eat out at top restaurants in New York City during bond-rating trips, and that the college system then reimbursed the company, effectively meaning that the system used public money to pay for these inappropriate benefits, The Birmingham News reported. The SEC fined the investment company $55,000 for its role in the payments, which took place from 2003 to 2005. The newspaper reported that during trips to New York City paid for this way in 2003, the wives, adult child and boyfriend of two-year college officials saw the musicals Gypsy, Chicago and Hairspray. And one college official brought along an aunt and uncle, who visited a college that had recently admitted their son. According to the college system, none of the employees involved work for the system today.