Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

June 4, 2009

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.

June 3, 2009

Loyola College in Maryland announced Tuesday that it will no longer require the SAT or the ACT for admission. Those who wish not to submit scores may instead provide an additional teacher recommendation and/or essay. Loyola’s president, Rev. Brian F. Linnane, said in the announcement: “High standardized test scores, while a laudable accomplishment, tell you far less about a person’s talents and potential to succeed in college than course selection, grades earned, personal statements, and extracurricular involvement and achievement. We believe this approach will allow us to become a more inclusive university that recognizes more fully the great depth and breadth of gifts and experiences our prospective students could bring to our community.”

June 3, 2009

An analysis of contemporary data sets on gender and math ability finds that culture, not biology, is responsible for any gender gap in performance. The analysis appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and is based on a series of statistics, showing, for example, that girls at all grade levels now perform on a par with boys on standardized mathematics tests, that American girls are now taking calculus in high school at the same rate as boys, and that the percentage of U.S. doctorates in the mathematical sciences awarded to women has climbed to 30 percent, up from a nadir of 5 percent in the 1950s.

June 3, 2009

The State Department has pledged to speed up the visa review process for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from outside the United States -- many of whom have been experiencing serious delays, The New York Times reported. The department said it would bring in extra staff to deal with a backlog, and would also adopt new procedures to prevent future delays. Eventually, routine visa applications should be dealt with in two weeks.

June 3, 2009

Harvard University plans to announce this week that it is creating an endowed visiting professorship in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies, and that it believes that its chair will be the first of its kind in American higher education, The New York Times reported. (In 2003, the University of Maryland at College Park announced a planned bequest to endow such a chair, so Maryland may have bragging rights on the first announced plans.) The Harvard chair will be named for F.O. Matthiessen, a Harvard literary scholar whom -- as described by a draft press release quoted by the Times -- was "an unusual example of a gay man who lived his sexuality as an ‘open secret’ in the mid-twentieth century,” and who “leapt to his death from the window of a Boston hotel room” in 1950, despondent over the death of his partner.

June 2, 2009

The Division III Centennial Conference announced an agreement Monday to reduce expenses on athletics programs. Under the plan, new limits will be set on the size of travel squads for 14 sports, the start of competition will be moved back, and some championship tournaments will be shortened. In addition, the conference plans to work with others in Division III to cut expenses that officials believe may not be needed, such as microphones for football officials.

June 2, 2009

The Education Department on Monday announced the appointment of William J. Taggart as chief operating officer of the agency's federal student aid office. The aid office was the federal government's first "performance based organization," which gives it more flexibility than most units in the department, as well as accountability measures. Taggart has 24 years of business management experience, most recently as president and chief executive officer of Veritas One Consulting, based in North Carolina.

June 1, 2009

Non-tenure track faculty members at Michigan State University have voted to unionize, 240-113. The new bargaining unit, affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, will cover both full-time and part-time professors who are off the tenure track.

June 1, 2009

Smith, Mount Holyoke and Hampshire Colleges plan to merge their public safety departments, The Republican reported. The move is expected to save money while also giving all three colleges the ability to have more security officers on site for major events, minimizing the need to pay overtime for such security coverage.

June 1, 2009

Layoffs and job eliminations continue to grow. Northland College, in Wisconsin, announced that 13 faculty and staff members were losing their positions. The faculty jobs eliminated involve five non-tenured professors, who will not have their contracts renewed after the coming academic year, The Daily Press reported. The University of Redlands announced layoffs of 29 non-teaching employees, and a pay freeze for all employees, The Press-Enterprise reported. Officials cited declines in endowment value and in gifts.

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