A state judge ruled Wednesday that researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Madison may be held criminally liable for the deaths of sheep in decompression experiments, and authorized the appointment of a special prosecutor to look into the matter, Isthmus reported. The ruling by a judge in Dane County, Wisc., came after animal rights groups urged local law enforcement officials to pursue criminal charges against nine university faculty and staff members. The groups said that the deaths, in research examining the effects of decompression (or "the bends"), violated state law that prohibits the killing of animals through decompression, and Judge Amy Smith concluded that "probable cause" exists to conclude that the researchers violated the law. The state prosecutor who brought the charges concluded that no exception existed for research. Madison officials could not be reached for comment.
Higher Education Quick Takes
With a statement of support from a broad coalition of higher education groups, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers on Wednesday formally unveiled a set of "common core" academic standards that, the groups hope, could become a baseline for state expectations for what students must learn to be prepared for college and the work force. The standards in English and mathematics, which panels of college faculty members helped to vet, could, if adopted widely, become linked to college admission or placement standards in ways that could smooth the path from high school to college for some students.
Supporters of student health insurance plans who saw provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act threatening the plans were reassured Wednesday in a meeting with President Obama’s chief health care deputy. Representatives of the American College Health Association, the National Association of College and University Business Officers, College and University Professional Association for Human Resources and the six presidential higher education associations met Wednesday with Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, to share their concerns. They worry that student plans -- currently defined as "limited duration," a category that exempts the plans from being part of the individual market -- would under the new law become too expensive for colleges and universities to offer.
One person in the room for the meeting, Steven Bloom, assistant director of government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, said that DeParle assured the group that the absence of language making clear that the plans could continue to operate just as they do today was "not intentional." The Obama administration has emphasized that "if you like the insurance you have, you get to keep it," Bloom said, "and they view student insurance as part of that.... It's just fallen through the cracks."
College health advocates first met with Congressional aides last fall to discuss this same concern, but language supporting student health insurance plans never made it into the final bill. Now that the bill has been passed and legislation is all but frozen on Capitol Hill, Bloom and his peers expect that a fix will come through regulations.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Wednesday appointed 15 people to a new panel charged with helping two-year colleges comply with a new federal requirement that degree-granting institutions report on their completion or graduation rates. The reporting requirement was one of many included in the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act, and the law called for creating the Committee on Measures of Student Success to recognize the fact that traditional measures of completion and graduation do not work for many community colleges (and other institutions, for that matter), given the flow of students into and out of the institutions for financial and other reasons. The panel will be headed by Thomas Bailey, a professor of economics and education at Columbia University's Teachers College and head of its Community College Research Center. The panel's other members, and their affiliations, are:
- Margarita Benitez, senior associate, Excelencia in Education
- Wayne Burton, president, North Shore Community College
- Kevin Carey, policy director, Education Sector
- Alisa Federico Cunningham, vice president, Institute for Higher Education Policy
- Jacob Fraire, assistant vice president for educational alliances, Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation
- Isabel Friedman, student, University of Pennsylvania
- Millie Garcia, president, California State University at Dominguez Hills
- Sharon Kristovich, higher education consultant
- Harold Levy, managing director, Palm Ventures; former chancellor of New York City Public Schools
- Geri Palast, executive director, Campaign for Fiscal Equity
- Patrick Perry, vice chancellor, California Community College System
- Lashawn Richburg-Hayes, deputy director, MDRC
- Linda Thor, chancellor, De Anza College
- Belle Wheelan, president, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' Commission on Colleges
A study presented at this week's meeting of the Association for Institutional Research raises questions about what the Collegiate Learning Assessment is really measuring -- at least at one campus. The CLA has been adopted by many colleges to measure gains in students' critical thinking and other skills over the course of their undergraduate education -- with the test given to freshmen and seniors, to examine gains in various cohorts. Braden J. Hosch, director of institutional research at Central Connecticut State University, examined his institution's scores and found a correlation between the time students take on the test and their scores. He found that in a cohort in which students performed better, the average time spent on the test was 63 minutes, compared to 45 minutes in a year in which scores were lower. The finding could reinforce one criticism of the CLA: that because it is given to a small sample of students, who take it voluntarily, results may be skewed by how motivated students are to give their best effort.
New Jersey's Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a former dean at Mercer County Community College, who is now 79, was the victim of illegal age discrimination when the college declined in 2005 to renew her appointment, The Star-Ledger reported. The college had cited her status as an "at will employee" and the fact that the former dean worked on a series of contracts, and that the last contract was simply not renewed. Rose Nini, the former dean, said that the then-president in 2004 made it clear he thought she was too old to be working. The court ruled that she was covered by the law. Nini and the college had earlier reached a settlement in the case, but the Supreme Court went ahead with its ruling.
Illinois lawmakers continue to debate the state's system of allowing legislators to award scholarships to college students in their districts -- with little oversight over whether the awards benefit political allies or donors. The Chicago Tribune reported on how one lawmaker used his funds -- not even following the minimal rule that recipients live in his district. One lawmaker gave out $94,000 to the four children of a political supporter, with the students saying they lived in the legislator's district even though they lived elsewhere and neither of their parents lived in the district.
Canada's government is boasting of great success in attracting top researchers from around the world to Canadian universities through a new program to promote research excellence. But many social scientists in the country are concerned about the lack of anyone from their disciplines being named to one of the special chairs, Maclean's reported.
These meetings, conferences, seminars and other events will be held in the coming weeks in and around higher education. They are among the many such that appear in our calendar on The Lists on Inside Higher Ed, which also includes a comprehensive catalog of job changes in higher education. This listing will appear as a regular feature in this space.
To submit a listing, click here.
On Friday, just a week after announcing it would be sold to private investors, Lambuth University announced it would not be sold and would retain its nonprofit status. Bill Seymour, the president, said in an interview that negotiations with the investors led both sides to think that the university would be best served by keeping its nonprofit status, but working with the investors, whom he declined to name. Lambuth had been rushing to send its accreditor -- the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which has placed the university on probabation -- a proposal to approve an ownership change. Seymour said that, at the last minute, the university decided not to file, and that it will instead seek approval to add new online courses that will be offered in a yet-to-be-determined partnership with the investors. Lambuth is so low on cash that it didn't make payroll in May, but Seymour said that the investors would do so, and would provide money to keep the university running until the new online programs start. He said existing programs would also continue. Asked if the funds being provided by the investors were a donation, he declined to characterize them in any way.
Belle S. Wheelan, president of the SACS Commission on Colleges, said that the organization would review whatever proposal Lambuth makes. Asked about whether issues were raised by investors keeping the institution running without a change in ownership, she said that nonprofit colleges can receive gifts or loans from outside groups. But she added that "if you are paying the bills, you may own the place."