Senate leaders on Friday released their version of a bill to set federal spending for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year, which would reject virtually all of the cuts proposed in the legislation that passed the House of Representatives last month. The Senate measure -- which, if passed, would set up a sharp contrast and a potential conflict that could lead to a government shutdown -- would keep the maximum Pell Grant at its current $5,550, largely shield spending on other student aid and academic research programs, and sustain programs that the House would eliminate, such as the AmeriCorps national service program.
Higher Education Quick Takes
University presses need to consider new business models, and share information on successful new approaches, but no one model should be assumed to be correct for all, according to a report being released today by the Association of American University Presses. "[T]he simple product-sales models of the 20th century, devised when information was scarce and expensive, are clearly inappropriate for the 21st-century scholarly ecosystem. As the report details, new forms of openness, fees, subscriptions, products, and services are being combined to try to build sustainable business models to fund innovative digital scholarly publishing in diverse arenas," the report says.
The report stresses the role of university presses in vetting and improving scholarly writing, not just publishing it, and that emphasis turns up in several recommendations. "Open access is a principle to be embraced if publishing costs can be supported by the larger scholarly enterprise. University presses, and nonprofit publishers generally, should become fully engaged in these discussions," the report says. Another recommendation: "Proposals and plans for new business models should explicitly address the potential impact of the new model on other parts of the press’s programs, as well as explicitly address the requirements, both operational and financial, for making the transition to a new model."
Sixty percent of the students polled at Columbia University support a return of the Reserve Officer Training Corps to their campus, according to a report submitted Friday to the University Senate by a special Task Force on Military Engagement. The survey was open chiefly to undergraduate students: in Columbia College, the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of General Studies and Barnard College. Graduate students at the School of International and Public Affairs also voted. The survey was administered online over an eight-day stretch, and 2,252 students voted.
In addition, 79 percent of students approved of Columbia "allowing the participation of Columbia students in ROTC, whether on- or off-campus,” which already has been happening. Other statements garnering strong student support included the notion that a ROTC program with Columbia-educated officers would be a positive development (66 percent). Nearly as many, 58 percent, believed military engagement on campus would increase intellectual diversity at Columbia.
The task force, which was composed of five students and four faculty members, also summed up weeks of e-mailed comments it received and provided transcripts to three public meetings on the subject (one of which was the source of controversy). The results of the latest vote, in the wake of the repeal in December of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that barred gay servicemen and women from serving, differed from the last such survey taken at Columbia in 2008. A referendum that year revealed that 49 percent of students favored a return of ROTC to campus.
The fate of the program now rests with a vote of the 108-member University Senate sometime during the next two months.
J. Michael Bailey on Saturday issued a new statement, apologizing for the after-class sex act demonstration held for his human sexuality course at Northwestern University, the Chicago Tribune reported. Bailey has up until now defended the act, in which a man used a sex toy to stimulate a naked woman to orgasm, and his new statement continues to say that no harm was caused. However, his new statement also says that he was sorry for "upsetting so many people" and that he would "allow nothing like it to happen again." Further, he said, "I regret the effect that this has had on Northwestern University's reputation, and I regret upsetting so many people in this particular manner. I apologize."
However, the statement also criticized the way the incident has been discussed. "During a time of financial crisis, war, and global warming, this story has been a top news story for more than two days," he said. "That this is so reveals a stark difference of opinion between people like me, who see absolutely no harm in what happened, and those who believe that it was profoundly wrong."
Baylor University has rejected a student request for recognition of the Sexual Identity Forum as an official student group, KXXV News reported. Students, some of whom are openly gay, want recognition of the group to promote open discussion of sexuality. But Baylor argues that recognition would be inappropriate. Baylor's statement on sexuality states: "The university affirms the biblical understanding of sexuality as a gift from God. Christian churches across the ages and around the world have affirmed purity in singleness and fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman as the biblical norm. Temptations to deviate from this norm include both heterosexual sex outside of marriage and homosexual behavior. It is thus expected that Baylor students will not participate in advocacy groups which promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching." Students pledged not to engage in advocacy activities, but that promise failed to persuade the university.
Moody's Investors Service is today releasing a report predicting that the coming years will see more public colleges declare "financial exigency," a condition of such dire financial danger that faculty groups acknowledge it may justify steps as severe as layoffs of tenured faculty members. Moody's makes its prediction on the basis of continued state budget cuts -- without additional federal stimulus money to minimize the impact of cuts. Moody's rates colleges' credit-worthiness, and the ratings can have a significant impact on the cost of borrowing through bonds. The report notes the fears of some colleges that a declaration of financial exigency might result in a lower bond rating.
But Moody's says not to worry. A summary of the report from Moody's says that "financial exigency is likely to be a positive step in terms of credit standing because it empowers management to take aggressive cost-cutting steps to preserve cash flow to pay debt service. Such a declaration would have little or no negative impact on a university's bond rating if Moody's expects the actions to improve the institution's future financial position."
Could the Bill Gates-Steve Jobs rivalry extend to educational philosophy? Gates last week gave a talk to the nation's governors in which he urged a focus on "categories [of courses] that help fill jobs and drive that state economy in the future." But in a talk last week in which he unveiled the latest Apple products, Jobs urged a broader focus for education -- and specifically praised the liberal arts. "It's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough -- it's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing and nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices," Jobs said, according to an account in The Seattle Times.
After weeks of divisive debate, Bergen County College’s Board of Trustees reached a compromise Wednesday with Kathleen A. Donovan, the New Jersey county executive who threatened to cut local funding for the college if she did not gain the ability to unilaterally remove items from the board’s meeting agendas. Under the compromise, which was approved unanimously by the board, Donovan can shelve agenda items, but they can be put back on the agenda within a month. Pleased with the decision, Donovan told the Bergen Record: “It’s not my job to pick the teachers or interfere with the workings of the college. It’s dollars and cents. It’s about how the money is spent.” E. Carter Corriston, board chairman, released a statement Thursday, stating: "The board looks forward to a partnership with the Bergen county executive that will promote the mutual goal of providing excellent educational opportunities to the students of Bergen Community College at a fair and reasonable cost."
The trustees of New Jersey's Brookdale Community College placed the president of the two-year institution on unpaid leave Thursday amid an investigation into charges that he had run up significant travel and other expenses that "may not be directly connected to Brookdale or are contrary to Brookdale’s adopted policies," the board said in its statement. Brookdale's president, Peter Burnham, came under fire last week after the Asbury Park Press and other publications reported on his significant benefits and perquisites. Further reviews of the college's budget led to Burnham's suspension and the hiring of an interim president, the board said.