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.
Higher Education Quick Takes
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.
Legal threats and negotiations delayed for three years the publication of an article -- that finally appeared last week -- by the American Psychological Association, The New York Times reported. The article in question offers a critique of the rating scaled used by courts to determine if someone is a psychopath, and the Times reviews the various articles about whether the article or its treatment raise questions about fairness, accuracy and academic freedom.
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."
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.
Moody’s issued a new analysis Thursday that said the debt rating agency continued to stand by its "negative outlook" for private colleges, despite generally stable enrollments at most institutions thus far during the economic downturn. Key problems identified include "weakened balance sheets and reduced institutional
wealth," and "the likelihood of weakened net tuition revenue for private colleges in fall 2010."
The House of Representatives education committee said Thursday that it would hold a hearing next week to examine how regional accrediting agencies define the "credit hour" as they judge the academic quality and rigor of the institutions they accredit. The issue was raised in audits of three accrediting agencies that the Education Department's Office of Inspector General released in the last six months, amid concerns that the agencies are setting too lax a standard for the amount of time students spend on course work to earn academic credit. No details were available on the hearing before the House Education and Labor Committee, other than that it would be held on June 17.