Two students at the University of Calgary -- identical twin brothers -- have sued the university for suspending them over a Facebook group they created about a professor, The Calgary Herald reported. The students' group was called "I no longer fear Hell, I took a course with Aruna Mitra," the faculty member whose course they criticized. The papers for the course were examined by an independent reviewer, who determined that the grades -- about which the group was critical -- were within the normal range, but the university still raised grades by one grade each. The university says that remarks made on the page were inaccurate. But the students' suit raises issues of due process and free speech. "I'm happy to fight for what I believe is right. There was an injustice done to us," Steven Pridgen, one of the students, told the Herald. "If a university is supposedly for bringing about free speech and change, especially in humanities and social sciences, that was not done in this situation."
Higher Education Quick Takes
New Internal Revenue Service regulations require colleges to estimate the value of some of the benefits they provide college presidents, such as housing. As The Boston Globe reported, colleges are interpreting the requirement in different ways. Some are reporting the monthly rental value of the entire home, while others argue that most of the home is a general entertaining space so that only selected rooms should be valued.
Eric Balderas, a sophomore at Harvard University, is facing deportation to Mexico, the country that he and his family left when he was 4, without the legal authority to come to the United States, The Boston Globe reported. Balderas was detained by authorities while trying to fly back to Boston from San Antonio, where he graduated from high school (as valedictorian) and where he had been visiting his mother.
A new group, Students for Academic Choice, is trying to become a voice in policy debates, saying that it represents students in for-profit higher education. But an Associated Press article notes its close links to the main lobby for the for-profit institutions, which leads some to question the student group's independence. The Career College Association, the institutional lobby, helped the students establish a website, draft bylaws and hold an election of officers. "I'm skeptical of the organic nature of the group given that it is completely toeing the association's line," Christine Lindstrom, higher education program director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, told the AP. But Harris Miller, president of the CCA, said: "This will be, I think, as this organization grows and gets legs, an effective antidote to those people who hang on a few disgruntled students or former students and somehow think it's typical of the student reality."
The first dominoes in the latest round of big-time college football conference switching fell late last week, with the University of Colorado at Boulder announcing that it had accepted an invitation to join the Pacific-10 Conference, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln becoming the 12th member of what is still known as the Big Ten Conference, and Boise State University jumping to the Mountain West Conference. More moves are almost certainly on the way, which may not bode well for some members of the Big 12 Conference, who fear that the defections of Nebraska, Colorado and possibly others could devastate their league. Officials of the University of Oklahoma, another Big 12 member, reportedly met with Pac-10 leaders on Saturday, and promptly scheduled a Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday, presumably to discuss the university's options.
Indiana officials on Friday announced the creation of a state branch of Western Governors University, which provides online education based on helping students demonstrate competencies, not just complete certain course hours. Under the partnership, the state will not provide operating support, but will allow the use of state student aid for WGU programs. Grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Lumina Foundation for Education will support efforts to publicize the new offering.
Sign of the times: Students at the University of California at Los Angeles who want to help those who can't afford food are helping fellow students -- by supporting a food bank at the institution. The Los Angeles Times reported that 40-50 students a day stop by a food bank at UCLA for homeless or poor students.
The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, which consists of 14 state universities, may convert some degrees to shared programs offered by faculty members at multiple campuses, rather than trying to provide full degrees at individual campuses, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The fields being considered are French, German, Spanish and physics.
A student organization is urging Stanford University to use its power as a stockholder to back proxy votes that would require companies to investigate the sources of the minerals they use, The New York Times reported. The student group opposes the use of "conflict minerals," which are harvested in some countries when armed groups force villagers into mining them. If Stanford adopts standards on such proxy votes, it would be the first American university to take such a stance.
Academics remain reluctant to allow their journal articles to be deposited in open-access repositories, according to the Oxford University Press. The press announced Thursday that the percentage of Oxford Press articles authorized for re-publication in its open-access repository decreased overall from 6.7 to 5.9 percent between 2008 and 2009. Officials attributed the decrease to a relatively low rate of opt-ins from 11 new journals to which the option was extended in 2009; putting those new titles aside, the proportion of authors allowing their work to be made freely available stayed roughly the same. Still, the stagnation of that rate indicates that researchers are still wary of endorsing an open-access model, Oxford officials said in a release. Humanities scholars were the least willing to participate in Oxford Open, the press's open-access initiative, opting in at a rate of 2.5 percent. Life sciences scholars were the most generous with their work, with 11.4 percent allowing their papers to be freely accessible.