Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, February 21, 2011 - 3:00am

As Iowa politicians and educators have debated a legislator's proposal that the University of Iowa sell Jackson Pollock's "Mural" for $140 million, many have discussed what the wishes would have been of Peggy Guggenheim, the pioneer collector of modern art who donated the painting in 1951. Guggenheim died in 1979, but it turns out that she weighed in against the idea of Iowa ever selling her gift. In 1963, she heard a rumor that the university was considering a sale, and she wrote to the university's president stating that, if the university no longer wanted to hold on to "Mural," she wanted it back, to display at another museum, The Des Moines Register reported.

The letter -- and the university's reply, assuring Guggenheim that there were no plans to sell the painting -- may be found on the website Scribd, which also features letters suggesting that the university did explore whether Guggenheim's gift was conditional on the university holding on to the painting. (The advice the university received suggested the answer was ambiguous.)

Monday, February 21, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of Arizona will today announce that it will open a National Institute for Civil Discourse as a nonpartisan center to promote research, education and public programming about civility in public life, The Washington Post reported. The honorary chairs of the new center will be two former U.S. presidents, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. The University of Arizona is in Tucson, where six people were killed and Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot in January.

Allegheny College is among the institutions already doing work in this area, sponsoring a survey and award to promote civility, and encouraging colleges to join the "Soapbox Alliance," a group of colleges and universities that refuse to let their facilities be used for closed political events.

Monday, February 21, 2011 - 3:00am

Holy Family University has suspended John O'Connor as head men's basketball coach while investigating allegations that he assaulted a player during a practice, The Philadelphia Daily News reported. O'Connor could not be reached for comment, but the local Fox News station ran video of the alleged assault and quoted the player's lawyer raising questions about whether the university acted soon enough after learning of the allegation.

Monday, February 21, 2011 - 3:00am

Mark Wattier, a longtime political science professor at Murray State University, has announced plans to retire amid a controversy over a comment he made about slavery when criticizing two black students who were late, the Associated Press reported. Wattier has admitted that he was wrong to reference slavery when talking to black students as he did, but his version differs from that made in a student complained. Wattier told the AP that he asked the students: "Do you know why you were late? There's a theory that a way to protest their master's treatment was for slaves to be late." But, according to the student complaint, he said: "It is part of your heritage. The slaves never showed up on time to their owners and were lashed for it. I just don't have the right to do that."

Friday, February 18, 2011 - 3:00am

DePaul University has dropped a requirement that all undergraduate applicants submit either SAT or ACT scores -- and the university says that it is the largest private institution to have made such a shift. The university cited the positive experiences of many colleges and universities that have dropped testing requirements, the correlation between test scores and family income and other factors. Applicants who opt not to submit test scores will be asked to complete some short response essays.

Friday, February 18, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, the College of Saint Rose's Jerry Mason breaks down the national debt and explains what your portion means to you. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, February 18, 2011 - 3:00am

After a brief break in months of protests, they resumed Thursday at the University of Puerto Rico, The New York Times reported. Students have been protesting a new fee that effectively doubles costs for them. Last week, the president of the university quit and there were a few days of relative calm on the main campus. But on Thursday, the Times reported, students were able to close down the humanities departments and most access to the social sciences building.

Friday, February 18, 2011 - 3:00am

A new report by Excelencia in Education asserts that institutions across the country can learn how to improve Latino student persistence and degree completion, especially during these challenging economic times, by mimicking the strategies of eight colleges and universities along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas. The highlighted institutions are El Paso Community College District, Laredo Community College, South Texas College, Texas Southmost College, Texas A&M International University, and the Universities of Texas at Brownsville, El Paso and Pan American. All of these are designated Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) by the federal government, meaning more than a quarter of their student population is Hispanic, and they rank among the top institutions in enrolling and graduating Latino students, both statewide and nationally. Some of their effective strategies include campus-based work-study programs, guaranteed need-based scholarships, and emergency loans and installment/payment plans for them. Excelencia officials note that, amid federal budget talks (including the possible trimming of the Pell Grant maximum and HSI grants), this report is meant to influence “federal policy makers addressing the broader growth of Hispanic students throughout higher education.”

Friday, February 18, 2011 - 3:00am

Proposals in Wisconsin and Ohio that would bar public colleges and university faculty members (and many other state employees) from engaging in collective bargaining are drawing numerous angry responses from faculty members and students. In Wisconsin on Thursday, students held walkouts and protests on most University of Wisconsin campuses. Here are local accounts of activities at Eau Claire, Milwaukee and River Falls. Also on Thursday, Cary Nelson of the American Association of University Professors issued a statement about the Ohio legislation, which he said should "be of grave concern to all faculty members--whether they are in a collective bargaining unit or not, whether they would choose personally to be involved in a union. The issue is self-determination: whether faculty members and other public sector employees should have the democratic right to choose their own collective destiny."

Friday, February 18, 2011 - 3:00am

The Idaho State Board of Education on Thursday suspended the Faculty Senate at Idaho State University, which voted no confidence last week in the university's president, Arthur Vailas, The Spokesman-Review reported. Officials of the board, which governs all public education in the state, said the decision was “the most reasonable action to take at this time" given what it characterized as the disconnect between the faculty and Vailas, for whom the board had recently expressed support. “The impasse between the leadership of the senate group and the administration has reached a point where the prospect of any kind of progress was simply non-existent. It’s time to start over.” The board directed Vailas to develop an interim faculty body, the newspaper reported.

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