Last year, Macalester College celebrated Presidents' Day with this funny video of the college's president, Brian Rosenberg, inhaling helium, eating three bowls of cereal, and generally making light of his presidential duties. While the video attracted considerable attention, the college decided against a sequel, instead posting a video about bad ideas for sequels. Today, Rosenberg plans to call the households of 18,000 alumni, parent and friends today -- at one time. The call will be the largest in the college's history. Special guests on the line will include Walter Mondale, the former vice president, and Tim O'Brien, the author, both Macalester alumni.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The University of Arizona will today announce that it will open a National Institute for Civil Discourse as a nonpartisan center to promote research, education and public programming about civility in public life, The Washington Post reported. The honorary chairs of the new center will be two former U.S. presidents, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. The University of Arizona is in Tucson, where six people were killed and Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot in January.
Allegheny College is among the institutions already doing work in this area, sponsoring a survey and award to promote civility, and encouraging colleges to join the "Soapbox Alliance," a group of colleges and universities that refuse to let their facilities be used for closed political events.
Georgia's legislative leaders have reached a deal on how to preserve the hugely popular HOPE scholarship program: They will limit its benefits, decreasing its value. HOPE has paid full tuition scholarships, plus covered books and fees, at any public college or university in Georgia for those who graduate from high schools in the state with at least a B average. The program is credited with keeping many top students in the state for college -- and it has been running out of money. Under the deal, the Associated Press reported, scholarships would no longer rise with tuition, the book stipend would be cut in half, student fees would no longer be covered, and HOPE funds could not be used for either remedial education or credits in excess of those needed to graduate in four years.
A 62-year-old man was arrested Thursday for allegedly poisoning some of the old oak trees at a gathering place where Auburn University fans celebrate their sports victories, the Associated Press reported. The man was identified by authorities as the person who called into a radio show and admitted spreading herbicide around the oak trees. On the radio show he closed his comments with a statement of solidarity with the University of Alabama, saying "Roll Damn Tide."
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Education Department is planning four regional community college summits in the next two months, Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced Thursday. The goal of the summits, which continue discussions begun last fall at the Jill Biden-hosted White House Summit on Community Colleges, is “to identify promising practices for increasing completion at community colleges.” Each summit has been given a specific focus:
- Feb. 28, Community College of Philadelphia: “Transitioning Adult Learners to Community Colleges and the Workforce”
- March 9, Lone Star College System, Houston: “Successful Transfer Programs”
- March 23, Ivy Tech Community College, Indianapolis: “Partnerships Between Community Colleges and Employers”
- April 15, San Diego Community College District: “Exemplary Programs for Veterans, Military Members, and Families”
An Education Department announcement notes that “representatives from community colleges, business and industry, philanthropy, labor, state and local government, and students” will be invited to the summits. Though the announcement notes that community college presidents may "kick-off the summits," it does not explicitly mention faculty involvement in them. The lack of faculty members at last fall’s White House summit was a point of contention.
DePaul University has dropped a requirement that all undergraduate applicants submit either SAT or ACT scores -- and the university says that it is the largest private institution to have made such a shift. The university cited the positive experiences of many colleges and universities that have dropped testing requirements, the correlation between test scores and family income and other factors. Applicants who opt not to submit test scores will be asked to complete some short response essays.
The Idaho State Board of Education on Thursday suspended the Faculty Senate at Idaho State University, which voted no confidence last week in the university's president, Arthur Vailas, The Spokesman-Review reported. Officials of the board, which governs all public education in the state, said the decision was “the most reasonable action to take at this time" given what it characterized as the disconnect between the faculty and Vailas, for whom the board had recently expressed support. “The impasse between the leadership of the senate group and the administration has reached a point where the prospect of any kind of progress was simply non-existent. It’s time to start over.” The board directed Vailas to develop an interim faculty body, the newspaper reported.
After a brief break in months of protests, they resumed Thursday at the University of Puerto Rico, The New York Times reported. Students have been protesting a new fee that effectively doubles costs for them. Last week, the president of the university quit and there were a few days of relative calm on the main campus. But on Thursday, the Times reported, students were able to close down the humanities departments and most access to the social sciences building.
A new report by Excelencia in Education asserts that institutions across the country can learn how to improve Latino student persistence and degree completion, especially during these challenging economic times, by mimicking the strategies of eight colleges and universities along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas. The highlighted institutions are El Paso Community College District, Laredo Community College, South Texas College, Texas Southmost College, Texas A&M International University, and the Universities of Texas at Brownsville, El Paso and Pan American. All of these are designated Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) by the federal government, meaning more than a quarter of their student population is Hispanic, and they rank among the top institutions in enrolling and graduating Latino students, both statewide and nationally. Some of their effective strategies include campus-based work-study programs, guaranteed need-based scholarships, and emergency loans and installment/payment plans for them. Excelencia officials note that, amid federal budget talks (including the possible trimming of the Pell Grant maximum and HSI grants), this report is meant to influence “federal policy makers addressing the broader growth of Hispanic students throughout higher education.”