Higher Education Quick Takes
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has replaced the only trustee on the board of the Medical University of South Carolina who was a woman or an African American, The State reported. Some legislators are charging that the governor, a Republican, is taking away needed diversity from the board. The governor has defended the quality of those she is appointing to boards.
An internal audit has found little oversight over the travel expenses of Allen Sessoms, president of the University of the District of Columbia, The Washington Post reported. The audit noted that no budgets were ever developed for the president's travel -- which has come under scrutiny -- and that there was little evidence that the university's board monitored these expenses. A spokesman said that the university would not comment until the board reviews the audit.
More than 400 sociologists have signed a petition urging colleagues to vote against a proposed dues increase by the American Sociological Association unless the group provides more details on why the money is needed. The petition notes that the ASA has explained that a new dues structure is needed to make the system more progressive, and the petition endorses that principle. But it notes that, more than make dues more progressive, the new structure increases fees for all working sociologists and produces significantly more revenue for the ASA. "We believe that such a large aggregate increase in dues should be explained to members, before any vote, by a clear account of what more the ASA will be doing or why it needs to raise funds beyond a cost of living increase to continue existing services. This explanation must be specific about the services to be funded by additional dues revenue, and distinguish services that need additional dues funds from those that generate enough revenue on their own to break-even or make a profit."
Sally T. Hillsman, executive officer of the association, noted in response that the ASA publishes its annual audit online and has shared detailed financial plans with members, and will continue to do so. She added, however, that "it is clear that our members need and want more information," and said more would be forthcoming. "While we believe that revising the dues structure will benefit ASA, it is important to note that it is a proposal. ASA members have the final say," she said. "We have been glad to see vibrant discussion among members about the proposed dues change."
The membership of the Common Application is about to grow by 48 colleges, to a total of 460. While the Common Application was founded 35 years ago, half of its membership has joined in the last decade. And while the program was once associated with small liberal arts colleges, it has expanded in recent years. This year's additions include two flagship public universities -- the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Kentucky -- on top of 10 other flagships added in the past few years. Public institutions now make up 12 percent of the colleges in the program -- a record high. Another notable addition this year is Howard University, the fifth historically black college to participate.
Liberty University last week temporarily blocked access to a local newspaper, The News & Advance, from the campus network, the newspaper reported. Jerry Falwell Jr., chancellor of the university, declined to say why the newspaper was blocked, but said that, as a private university, the administration could "block a number of sites at will." He added that "[m]ost of the websites that are blocked have to do with obscene material, material that is inappropriate.... It just so happened last week The News & Advance was blocked for a day or two. We’re a private organization and we don’t have to give a reason and we’re not.” Jim Romenesko's Poynter Institute blog reported (and subsequently updated the item) that Liberty acted in the wake of an article in the newspaper noting that Liberty was the top recipient in Virginia of federal student aid.
A new state audit has identified numerous financial problems at Chicago State University, disappointing officials who hoped that a new administration there would put an end to such issues, the Chicago Tribune reported. Among the problems identified were a period of several months last year when the university did not send bills to students, and paying vendors more than they were entitled to under contracts. The university did not dispute the findings.
The University of Illinois on Tuesday said it would appeal a federal judge's ruling last month that, if upheld, could make it harder for public universities to cite a federal student privacy law to deny requests for information by reporters or others. In the announcement, which seeks a stay of the judge's March ruling, Illinois officials said that the decision "threatens the privacy of student records and millions of dollars in federal education funds the University receives annually." It does so, the university argued, by putting it "in the predicament" of having to violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act if it is to comply with the Chicago Tribune's request under a state open-records law for records about politically connected applicants.
A state judge has thrown out a lawsuit by supporters of Southern University at New Orleans, challenging the right of the Louisiana Board of Regents to take actions while lacking minority members, The Baton Rouge Advocate reported. The suit was an attempt to block the board from recommending a merger of historically black Southern-New Orleans with the University of New Orleans. Since the suit was filed, Governor Bobby Jindal -- an advocate for merger -- has appointed a minority member to the board, which has recommended a consolidation plan for the two institutions. The lawsuit was based on a provision in Louisiana's Constitution calling for the board to reflect the diversity of Louisiana.
Judge Tim Kelley ruled that there was nothing illegal about the board operating without that diversity reflected. "The issue is what’s legal," the judge ruled. "No matter how morally wrong, how offensive to your citizens, how damaging to this state’s commitment to eliminate perceived prejudice and injustice, nor how politically ill-advised and damaging, both in short term and in long term, it’s not this court’s job to tell the governor how to do his job."