Higher education leaders in California on Saturday announced the release of $537 million in federal stimulus funds for the state's public colleges and universities, the Los Angeles Times reported. The funds come from the state's $3.1 billion allocation of the federal stimulus bill. Few details have been released regarding how the state's higher education systems will use the funds, and lawmakers and educators alike stressed that there wasn't enough money to make up for all of the currently planned cuts. Said State Sen. Gloria Romero: "You can almost compare this to a blood transfusion to a very sickly patient. But this is triage and only addresses a portion of the problems we face."
Higher Education Quick Takes
Linda Bunnell, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, is facing increasing criticism, but she says she is making necessary changes at the institution. The Associated Press reported that fund raising leaders have questioned the way she treats them, even as some on campus say she is spending too much time off campus trying to raise money. The situation has become so vexing, the AP reported, that the university has hired a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice to mediate. Adding to the controversy: Bunnell has admitted to getting in an accident with a state vehicle after she had been at a club where she ordered three alcoholic beverages (but says she consumed only one). And a student group, seeking to draw attention to her travels off campus, put documents online that included her credit card number.
Colby College has become the latest institution to shift its admissions policies with regard to standardized testings for applicants. Colby has until now required all students to submit SAT or ACT scores. The college has approved a five-year experiment in which applicants will have the option of instead submitted three SAT subject test scores.
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the seminary and graduate school of the Reform branch of Judaism, may have to close two of its three American campuses because of financial troubles, the Los Angeles Times reported. The college is facing endowment declines, flat donations and pension difficulties, leading to the possible closures. The college currently has campuses in Cincinatti, Los Angeles, New York and Jerusalem, although there is no consideration of closing the Israeli branch.
Some professors at Florida International University are planning to hand deliver a copy of the university's sexual harassment policy to Isiah Thomas as basketball coach, The New York Times reported. Thomas was at the center of a sexual harassment suit in which a federal jury awarded $11 million, and professors are raising questions about the message the university is sending about harassment by hiring him. Giving Thomas a copy of the harassment rules would be a "constructive rather than destructive way" to deal with the concerns, one professor said.
Nine universities have received mysterious seven-figure gifts in recent weeks, in return for a promise not to seek the identity of the donor, the Associated Press reported. All of the institutions identified by the AP are public, and most are not flagships. The mystery donor used lawyers or intermediaries to deliver the funds, and requested that most of the money be used for scholarships. The universities and the size of the gifts are: Norfolk State University ($3.5 million), Pennsylvania State University at Harrisburg ($3 million), Purdue University ($8 million), and the Universities of Colorado at Colorado Springs ($5.5 million), Iowa ($7 million), Maryland-University College ($6 million), North Carolina at Asheville ($1.5 million), North Carolina at Greensboro ($6 million) and Southern Mississippi ($6 million).
Yeshiva University, which invested and lost millions with Bernard Madoff, has revised its conflict of interest rules, barring trustees from doing business with the university, Bloomberg reported. Madoff was a member of Yeshiva's board, as was Ezra Merkin, whose investment firm sent Yeshiva's funds to Madoff.
Players and the coach of the volleyball team at Quinnipiac University, backed by the Connecticut chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, have sued the university in federal court, charging that its plans to eliminate the sport violate Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The suit charges that, even before proposing to eliminate the sport, the university failed all of the possible tests for compliance with Title IX. The ACLU released the suit and a letter sent to the university last month requesting discussions on the issue. University officials told the Associated Press they would not comment because the matter is in litigation.
Georgetown University and President Obama have come under criticism for a decision to cover religious iconography in a university building where Obama gave a speech Tuesday. As one Georgetown professor pointed out on his blog, the letters IHS, symbolizing the name of Jesus Christ, were obscured when Obama spoke on the economy at the Roman Catholic university's Gaston Hall. Julie Green Bataille, spokeswoman for Georgetown, called the covering of the letters a "logistical issue" in an e-mail to Inside Higher Ed. "In coordinating the logistical arrangements for the event, Georgetown honored the White House staff's request to cover all of the Georgetown University signage and symbols behind the Gaston Hall stage in order to accommodate a backdrop of American flags, consistent with other policy speeches," Bataille wrote. Patrick Deneen, chair of Hellenic studies and an associate professor of government at Georgetown, said the decision to cover the IHS symbol went far beyond simply obscuring university logos. "This is a central symbol of Christian faith," he said. "I think it’s a totally different matter than covering some kind of institutional insignia.” A White House spokesman issued a statement, saying "Decisions made about the backdrop for the speech were made to have a consistent background of American flags, which is standard for many presidential events. Any suggestions to the contrary are simply false." Cybercast News Service published pictures illustrating the covering of the symbols. The Georgetown situation comes in the wake of continuing criticism by conservative Catholics of the University of Notre Dame's decision to invite the president to speak at commencement, citing his views on abortion and other matters.
Washington and Lee University has announced the return of a book to its library -- 52,858 days late. The book wasn't actually borrowed, but was taken by a Union soldier during the Civil War, when troops moved through Lexington, Va. in 1864. From an inscription written by the soldier, it appears that he thought he was taking the book from the library of the Virginia Military Institute (which is a neighbor to Washington and Lee). The book -- the first volume of W.F.P. Napier’s four-volume set, History of the War in the Peninsula and in the South of France -- was passed on through generations. The most recent owner decided to figure out the book's owner and returned it to Washington and Lee.