Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, April 11, 2011 - 3:00am

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights refused on Friday to reconsider suspending its investigation into discrimination against women in university admissions, voting 4-3 against putting a motion on the agenda that would have reopened the inquiry. The commission voted by the same margin last month to suspend the study, which had subpoenaed data from 19 colleges within a 100-mile radius of Washington, D.C. The goal was to discover whether colleges relaxed standards for men, but not women, in order to achieve gender balance. Commissioners supporting the inquiry argued that a significant amount of data had already been collected and that abandoning the study would be a waste of resources. Its opponents, who last week argued against continuing with incomplete data, said that nothing had changed their minds.

Monday, April 11, 2011 - 3:00am

Lawrence Summers may have had a controversial run as Harvard University's president, but now that he's back from service in the Obama administration, his lectures on campus are wildly popular with students, who come early to get a seat and stay late to ask questions, The Boston Globe reported. "I got a lot of satisfaction from being president but now I can focus on students in the way I wasn’t able to as president," he told the Globe. "I don’t think I’d enjoy being engaged in who was going to be hired and how the curriculum’s going to be reformed and the like at this stage. My life is much freer now."

Monday, April 11, 2011 - 3:00am

A part-time English instructor at Olympic College in Washington has filed a formal complaint with the National Education Association, alleging that his full-time colleagues retaliated against him for speaking out against a state bill that would benefit them but hurt adjuncts. "My treatment by the [Washington Education Association] calls into question the determination and ability of the WEA to provide fair and equal representation to the overwhelming majority (10,000) of the professors who teach 'part-time' in Washington's community and technical college system," the instructor, Jack Longmate, wrote in an April 5 letter to NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. (In Washington, adjuncts are referred to as part-timers, even if some of them work full-time when all of their courses at various campuses are added together. Tenured and tenure-track professors are considered full-time.)

"The WEA has not acknowledged or addressed the serious and unmitigated conflicts of interest that exist between the part-timers, who lack any job security," continued Longmate, "and the full-timers, who have tenure and serve as their de facto supervisors."

Longmate, who was the subject of an earlier article in Inside Higher Ed, testified -- not as a union representative -- in February in front of the House Education Committee of the Washington State House of Representatives against a bill favored by the union. That bill would establish a way for the state to pay for salary increases for faculty members in the state's 34 community and technical colleges. In his letter to Van Roekel, Longmate said that his Washington colleagues censured him for coming out against a union-backed bill, demanded he resign as secretary of the campus chapter of the Association for Higher Education and rescinded his per diem and lodging for a union lobby day -- and didn't allow him a chance to defend himself. Longmate asked Van Roekel to establish a trusteeship over the Washington chapter to redress what he alleges are violations of its constitution and bylaws, and to bring in a third party to conduct an impartial investigation. Longmate contended that the issues brought forth in his complaint reflect systemic conflicts of interest between full-time and part-time faculty, and he asked the NEA to review its contracts to ensure compliance with its duty of fair representation.

The NEA was not immediately able to comment.

Monday, April 11, 2011 - 3:00am

A survey of students at eight colleges and universities in North Carolina found that 17.4 percent are current users of hookahs, water pipes that have grown in popularity in recent years. Researchers at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center who conducted the study say that students seem unaware of health risks associated with the practice.

Monday, April 11, 2011 - 3:00am

Disgraced financier Bernard Madoff recently gave a jailhouse interview to The Financial Times in which he said that one of his activities behind bars may soon be advising business schools. The article says: "Several business schools have approached him, he adds, and asked him to work on ethics courses. He likes that idea; Harvard and Northwestern are in his sights." The feelings may not be mutual. A spokeswoman for Northwestern's business school said that the institution is not engaged in any discussions with Madoff. (UPDATE: A spokesman for Harvard's business school said Monday morning that there was "no truth" to the idea that it was having any talks with Madoff.)

Monday, April 11, 2011 - 3:00am

Leading Australian universities are creating new positions to recruit and retain indigenous students, The New York Times reported. Indigenous people make up 2.4 percent of the population but 1.25 percent of students entering universities, according to a recent study by the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne.

Monday, April 11, 2011 - 3:00am

Conrad Volz, director of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Healthy Environments and Communities, is leaving his position, saying that the university wants him to focus on teaching and research, and not to be an advocate in environmental debates, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported. (He has been a critic of Marcellus shale drilling, and has drawn fire from its supporters.) University officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Monday, April 11, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Purchase College's Meagan Curtis discusses similarities in how emotion is conveyed through music and speech. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, April 11, 2011 - 3:00am

The Obama administration and Senate Democrats have rebuffed an effort by Congressional Republicans to use pending budget legislation to hamper the Education Department's ability to implement regulations requiring for-profit colleges and other vocational programs to ensure that their students are prepared for "gainful employment." Few details are available at this point about the compromise reached late Friday night between the White House and Congressional negotiators over a spending bill for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year; it is not entirely clear, for instance, how the legislation will affect federal student aid and research programs, although a post on the White House blog said the deal maintained the maximum Pell Grant at $5,550. The post also says that the deal will force the White House to abandon its effort to "double the funding of key research and development agencies," but still permits "strong investments in National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Science Foundation and the Office of Science."

But a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada confirmed Sunday that the legislation would not contain a provision sought by a group of House members that would bar the Education Department from using any of its fiscal 2011 funds to carry out the controversial gainful employment rules, a new version of which the department is poised to release. The measure would have effectively delayed implementation of the regulations until October at the earliest. Opponents of the measure urged members Saturday to continue to push for the provision, but the Reid spokesman said it was dead.

The gainful employment provision was one of 66 "policy riders" that House Republicans sought to attach to the 2011 budget legislation, "and this was one they pushed for," the spokesman said. "But Sen. Reid and the White House firmly said no."

Monday, April 11, 2011 - 3:00am

The National Center for Education Statistics needs increased autonomy to better do its job, according to a report issued Sunday by the American Educational Research Association. The report also calls for flexibility for the Institute of Education Sciences to develop and carry out its research agenda.

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