The Education Department on Monday announced the appointment of William J. Taggart as chief operating officer of the agency's federal student aid office. The aid office was the federal government's first "performance based organization," which gives it more flexibility than most units in the department, as well as accountability measures. Taggart has 24 years of business management experience, most recently as president and chief executive officer of Veritas One Consulting, based in North Carolina.
Higher Education Quick Takes
E. Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State University, has resigned as a board member of Massey Energy, a company that critics say engages in environmentally destructive practices to assist in coal mining. The announcement from Massey noted Gee's "responsibilities" leading Ohio State and thanked him for his service on the board on which he has served nearly nine years. Several environmental groups have been urging Gee to leave the board, saying that he is effectively endorsing the company's practices. Ohio Citizen Action organized several public campaigns to influence Gee, including having thousands of children write to Gee with messages expressing concern about mountain coal mining. Gee has not commented on his decision, but has said that he believed the company was acting legally and that he was helping to bring about positive change as a board member. The Columbus Dispatch reported that Gee owns about 28,000 shares of company stock and was paid $219,261 last year for his work on the board, to which he was re-elected last month.
Non-tenure track faculty members at Michigan State University have voted to unionize, 240-113. The new bargaining unit, affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, will cover both full-time and part-time professors who are off the tenure track.
Smith, Mount Holyoke and Hampshire Colleges plan to merge their public safety departments, The Republican reported. The move is expected to save money while also giving all three colleges the ability to have more security officers on site for major events, minimizing the need to pay overtime for such security coverage.
Layoffs and job eliminations continue to grow. Northland College, in Wisconsin, announced that 13 faculty and staff members were losing their positions. The faculty jobs eliminated involve five non-tenured professors, who will not have their contracts renewed after the coming academic year, The Daily Press reported. The University of Redlands announced layoffs of 29 non-teaching employees, and a pay freeze for all employees, The Press-Enterprise reported. Officials cited declines in endowment value and in gifts.
Tensions are growing between Australia and India over a series of attacks on Indian students studying in Australia, Reuters reported. The attacks have attracted major media attention in India. In one recent incident, four Indian students in Melbourne were attacked with screwdrivers by a gang. In a sign of the anger in India over the attacks, Amitabh Bachchan, a leading Bollywood actor, announced on his blog Saturday that he would be turning down an honorary doctorate recently offered by the Queensland University of Technology, saying that despite his respect for the university, he could not accept the honor in the context of the "most unfortunate and violent" attacks that have taken place.
Ronald Takaki, a long-time professor of ethnic studies at the University of California at Berkeley and a pioneer in the field, died last week at the age of 70. For years, Takaki fought multiple sclerosis. Takaki was best known for his work in Asian American history and was the author of numerous books, including Strangers From a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans. But Takaki's work extended beyond Asian Americans. At Berkeley, he led efforts to create the first ethnic studies doctoral program in the United States. In 1966, when he was teaching at the University of California at Los Angeles, he taught the University of California system's first course on black history.
A six-month investigation by The Columbus Dispatch has found that colleges and universities use "wildly different legal interpretations" of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act to deny access to information about athletics programs. The newspaper sent colleges with big-time athletics programs similar requests for information and found wide variation in what institutions provided, with FERPA commonly cited to avoid providing information commonly released by other institutions. Even within the same state, the newspaper found inconsistent interpretations. The newspaper also interviewed James Buckley, the one-time U.S. senator who wrote the law, and found that he was "stunned" at the way athletics programs are citing the measure to keep information secret.
Women accounted for 57 percent of the bachelor's degrees and 62 percent of the associate degrees awarded in the 2006-7 academic year. That is one of the figures in "The Condition of Education 2009," the latest edition of an annual compilation of statistics released by the U.S. Education Department. Among the other higher education findings:
- The rate of college enrollment immediately after high school increased from 49 percent in 1972 to 67 percent by 1997, but has since fluctuated between 62 and 69 percent.
- About 58 percent of first-time students seeking a bachelor's degree or its equivalent and attending a four-year institution full time in 2000-01 completed a bachelor's degree or its equivalent at that institution within 6 years.
- The percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who had completed a bachelor's degree or higher increased from 17 to 29 percent between 1971 and 2000 and was 31 percent in 2008.
Miami Dade College took the first steps Thursday toward the equivalent of an enrollment cap, announcing that state budget cuts had forced it to cancel upcoming open houses because it doubted it would be able to admit students who had not already enrolled for the fall. The community college, one of the country's largest institutions, said it would be forced to eliminate hundreds of class sections, and that as many as 5,000 students would be unable to enroll and 30,000 may be unable to get the classes they need.