The semi-annual gathering of the Association of American Universities is one of the least visible events you can imagine. The group of leading research universities, which tends to like to operate quietly, doesn't even promote the meeting on its own website. But the meeting that began Sunday in Washington is generating some unusual interest in unusual places -- like at ESPN. That's because the presidents of the Big Ten Conference are using the conference as a setting for their continuing discussions about adding new members, since all of the league's current 11 members belong to the AAU and its meeting is one of the relatively few times they all gather in one place, as the Chicago Tribune pointed out. ESPN confirmed that they will be joined there by the conference's commissioner, James E. Delany. The Big Ten's expansion plans could help to reshape the college sports landscape, especially if the league seeks to add Big East powers like Rutgers or Syracuse University or the University of Pittsburgh, Big 12 Conference institutions like the University of Missouri at Columbia -- or the University of Notre Dame.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Daniel LaVista was named Friday as the next chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District. LaVista, a newcomer to California, is executive director of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. Earlier in his career, he led three different community colleges: the College of Lake County, the Community College of Baltimore County and McHenry County College.
In an interview Friday, LaVista said he was attracted to the job by the idea of being closer to the campuses and their students than he is in a statewide role.
He said that, in terms of his goals, "I want to have another look at what's happening with student success," especially at a time when national attention is focused on community colleges. He said that there are many outstanding programs already in place in the district, and that he wants to focus on applying best practices -- the use of learning communities, better advising systems and so forth -- so that they reach as many students as possible.
A major topic of his discussions with the board, LaVista said, was California's terrible budget outlook. LaVista said he believed that the district could achieve some additional savings through economies of scale of various campus operations, but that he would need to learn more in Los Angeles first. He said he believes that, however tight budgets are, it is important to have "innovation funds" so that some new ideas needing money can get off the ground.
Rockingham County, Va., police raided the offices of the student newspaper of James Madison University Friday, seizing photographs of a recent off-campus party that attracted thousands and was marred by arrests and violence, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. Although the police had a search warrant, the Student Press Law Center is criticizing the raid as an inappropriate infringement on the freedoms of the student press.
Members of the American Association of University Professors have elected Cary Nelson to a third two-year term as president of the association. Nelson is professor of English and Jubilee Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has stressed such issues as the impact of budget cuts on professors, the treatment of non-tenure-track faculty members and graduate students, and academic freedom.
Citing budget cuts facing the entire university, the University of California at Davis announced Friday that it is eliminating four of its intercollegiate athletic teams: women's rowing, men's wrestling, men's swimming and diving, and men's indoor track and field. The teams' members are 73 women and 80 men. The cuts will save about $5 million over the next five years, and are also part of a plan to eliminate a deficit in the athletics department. The athletes involved and some team alumni are already criticizing the decision.
Despite severe budget cuts, the University of California has spent about $2 million on bottled water in recent years, The New York Times reported. The article noted that the expenses include bottled water that goes to campuses in areas known for particularly high quality tap water.
A group of Democratic U.S. senators and representatives introduced legislation Thursday that would once again make most private student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy. Borrowers could discharge such loans before Congress changed the bankruptcy laws in 2005, and advocates for students have argued since then that the often high-risk and costly loans should be treated like automobile and other forms of consumer loans, which distressed borrowers can discharge.
A state appeals court has revived a lawsuit challenging a University of Colorado rule barring concealed weapons on its campuses, the Associated Press reported. The suit -- by a student group in favor of concealed weapons on campus -- says that state law bars other entities such as local government from banning concealed weapons. But university officials have said that they do not believe they are covered by the law. The university is considering an appeal.
Hundreds of college history professors -- many from Texas but others from around the country -- have signed a letter urging state education officials to delay and revise history standards that the historians say distort the field, The Austin American-Statesman reported. Some historians involved said that their reputation is being hurt by the state backing standards that appear to portray only the positive (and conservative) in American history. One historian talked about speaking recently at the University of Oxford and being barraged by questions about the standards.
A group that advocates for high-quality, affordable student health insurance plans released an analysis Wednesday that suggests the recently passed health care reform law could be detrimental to colleges' and universities' abilities to provide health care and insurance to students.
The Lookout Mountain Group, which calls itself "a non-partisan study group of college health and higher education professionals," said it anticipates that the likely shift of many students to high-deductible "young invincibles" plans (and perhaps their parents' or employers' high-deductible plans) that don't pay for primary and preventative care would be damaging to student health centers and the students themselves. There are mixed opinions on whether students under the age of 27 will choose to stay on their parents' plans -- an option that goes into effect next fall -- rather than buying campus-based policies, but Lookout Mountain thinks students will choose to go for their campus-based policies.
The group added that regulatory and statutory changes will be needed to keep student plans legal past 2014, and that international students will have a hard time finding coverage.