Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 24, 2009

Leon R. Kass, a bioethicist, was named Monday by the National Endowment for the Humanities to give the 2009 Jefferson Lecture. The lectureship is one of the top honors the federal government sponsors for humanities scholars. Kass, a professor at the University of Chicago, was involved in several controversies during the Bush administration, when he served as chair of the President's Council on Bioethics and was viewed by some as too quick to regulate science. The lecture by Kass, " ‘Looking for an Honest Man’: Reflections of an Unlicensed Humanist," will take place on Thursday, May 21, at 7 p.m. at the Warner Theatre in Washington.

March 24, 2009

The Institute of International Education on Monday released a paper on promoting study abroad in science and technology fields, the latest of a series of papers on study abroad capacity and participation. The report notes that about 16 percent of American study abroad students are in STEM fields, while they make up about 26 percent of the undergraduate population. "The academic benefit of study at a foreign university is less immediately obvious in engineering than, say, in languages or history. Engineering professors tend to be more reluctant than others to grant credit for studies conducted with international colleagues. And the students themselves typically are not fluent in foreign languages," states the report. "Still, both European and, more recently, American experience shows these obstacles can be overcome through innovative programming. The international mobility of German (and other European) engineering students has increased dramatically over the last 15 years. This is to a great extent due to exchange programs involving faculty on the departmental level. Through specific agreements on courses and credits, they better understood each other’s educational principles and developed trust in the quality of their partners’ teaching, the indispensable basis for more flexible and generous approach to curricular differences."

March 23, 2009

Two institutions in Moorhead, Minnesota -- Concordia College and Minnesota State University at Moorhead -- are calling off most classes today so students and others may help prepare sandbags to deal with serious local flooding.

March 23, 2009

The British government has backed off from a push for people outside the University of Cambridge to hold a majority of the seats on the institution's governing board, The Guardian reported. However, the university has agreed to provide more information about how it uses the government funds it receives.

March 23, 2009

For weeks now, the Senate (at the bidding of a few senators) has been delaying the confirmations of John Holdren to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Jane Lubchenco to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The delays have infuriated scientists because Holdren and Lubchenco are highly respected researchers whose nominations have been widely applauded. Indeed the "holds" placed on their nominations had nothing to do with them, but reflected a longstanding Senate practice in which lawmakers block nominations from going forward as a way of gaining attention for other issues. Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, for example, blocked the nominations because of unrelated concerns he has about U.S. policy on Cuba. On Thursday, however, the Senate finally and uneventfully confirmed both officials. Holdren and Lubchenco each issued statements Friday welcoming their confirmations and pledging to make their decisions in office based on sound science.

March 23, 2009

Eleven students at Michigan State University have returned from a spring break trip to Guatemala during which their bus was seized and they were forced off and tied up, then robbed at gunpoint, The Detroit Free Press reported. The students were on a program in which they were performing volunteer work in Guatemala.

March 23, 2009

Under the new GI Bill, which covers veterans' tuition up to the most expensive resident rate at a public college in the state, private colleges have the option of entering into a matching program with the federal government to cover the balance. How many colleges will participate in the Yellow Ribbon program, and to what extent, has been an open question as many institutions await final regulations. Significantly, the University of Phoenix, which serves more veterans than any other college, does plan to participate in the new GI Bill's Yellow Ribbon program at the maximum 50 percent match, for 30,000 students or more (which would cover current veteran enrollment), according to Patrick Sutliff, who oversees veterans affairs at the institution.

March 23, 2009

The board of the College of DuPage last week adopted a series of policies that effectively give the board more explicit authority over daily management of the college -- including many matters that professors say should primarily be handled by the faculty and the administration. The dispute has been going on for months and focused on a revision of the college's policy handbook. The board did delay a vote on including David Horowitz's "Academic Bill of Rights" as college policy -- a measure that was included in earlier draft -- but board members indicated that they may come back to that issue at future meetings.

March 23, 2009

One of the longest serving presidents in higher education, Benjamin F. Payton of Tuskegee University, has announced plans to retire. During Payton's tenure, Tuskegee broadened its educational offerings (and changed its name from Tuskegee Institute to Tuskegee University to reflect that shift). Tuskegee has a prominent role in the history of black higher education and a tradition of long-serving presidents, starting with Booker T. Washington. Since its founding in 1881, the university has had only five presidents.

March 20, 2009

Relations between Bishop Joseph Martino, who leads the dioces of Scranton, and Misericordia University appear to be worsening. Last month, Bishop Martino criticized the university for acting as a host for a speech by a gay rights activist, saying that Misericordia was not being faithful to Roman Catholic teachings by allowing the appearance. University officials said they hoped to meet with the bishop, but he is now refusing to meet until the university publicly explains how it “teaches Catholic morality regarding sexuality and homosexuality," The Times Leader reported. The university is not responding to the bishop's rejection of a meeting.

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