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.
Higher Education Quick Takes
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.
Supporters of Zotero, a popular tool for scholars to save and organize digital resources, are celebrating the dismissal by a Virginia judge of a suit by Thomson Reuters over the use of software in the project. Zotero is based at the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. The suit had frustrated many scholars, who viewed it as interfering with a valuable tool.
The University of California at Los Angeles announced Wednesday that James Franco, the actor and UCLA alumnus, has backed out of his planned speech on June 12 at the graduation ceremony for the College of Letters and Science. A statement from Franco, released by the university, said: "I deeply regret not being able to keep my commitment to giving the commencement speech at UCLA's graduation this year. Unfortunately the date conflicts with me needing to be on location to begin pre-production on my next film. I wish everyone in the 2009 class the best of luck in all of their future endeavors." UCLA says it is searching for a substitute speaker. Some students had opposed the selection of Franco in the first place, but they wanted a replacement months ago, when the university had more time to find an alternative.
The chancellor of the Texas A&M University System is in an increasingly public fight with the president of the flagship campus at College Station. Mike McKinney has floated the idea that the chancellor's job that he holds might also directly lead the College Station campus, eliminating the job of Elsa Murano, who is the first woman and first Latino to hold the presidency there. Faculty and others oppose the idea of merging the positions. On Thursday, McKinney's first-year evaluation of Murano was released by the university. The Houston Chronicle reported that the chancellor gave Murano average or below average ratings in most category and said that she doesn't carry out policies with which she disagrees. Murano “fails to assume responsibility for decisions. (Should work WITH faculty, not FOR),” the review said. Murano issued a response in which she said: "I completely and absolutely disagree and reject the results of this evaluation.”
The South Carolina Supreme Court on Thursday ordered Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican, to apply for the $700 million in federal stimulus funds -- most of which would go to public education at all levels -- set aside for the state, The State reported. Sanford has been critical of the stimulus plan and has tried to keep South Carolina from spending most of the stimulus funds. The General Assembly was in a legal dispute with the governor over whether it could order him to take the funds, and the Supreme Court backed the legislators.
The Georgia Board of Regents has increased the cap on the use of lecturers at public colleges from 10 to 20 percent of a public college or university's faculty, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Lecturers do not have tenure or research responsibilities, and so tend to teach more courses each semester than do professors. Board officials said that they raised the cap to allow colleges to make more hires, despite tough budget times, in high-demand areas. At the same time, the goal of the program is to keep the tenure-track as the norm for the faculty. The cap does not apply to part-time positions, which have been used to date by many colleges, and some faculty leaders questioned why those slots should not also be capped so more tenure-track positions would be created.
An advocacy group for public higher education in Massachusetts has filed a federal complaint charging the state with diverting federal stimulus funds from higher education to other areas, The Boston Globe reported. Massachusetts received a waiver, allowing it to spend stimulus funds designated for education on other areas for the next fiscal year, but the complaint charges that the state is trying to "frontload" spending so that more funds are used under the waiver and less will be available for public higher education. State officials said that they were spending the dollars consistent with their obligations under the waiver, and that they needed the flexibility because of the severity of the budget crisis in the state.