The University of Texas at Austin announced late Monday that it would pass up a lucrative invitation to join the Pacific-10 Conference and remain in the Big 12 Conference. The decision, which surprised many commentators who had predicted just hours earlier that Texas' move to the Pac-10 was "imminent," reportedly came after the Big 12's commissioner, Dan Beebe, made a last-ditch proposal that would more than double the revenues that each member of the league derives annually and let individual members (notably Texas) create their own independent television networks for their teams. (As has been the case throughout the latest round of conference shenanigans, Orangebloods.com, an online publication that covers the University of Texas' sports programs, had the most detailed and accurate information about the goings-on.) The Big 12 had been all but left for dead after the University of Nebraska left for the Big Ten Conference and the University of Colorado at Boulder bolted for the Pac-10. But the additional money that Beebe's plan would carve out for the colleges -- perhaps more than the intense pressure placed on them by lawmakers in Texas and Kansas university leaders who would have been left behind in a severely weakened Big 12 -- appears to have helped persuade UT to stay in the Big 12 and keep the Midwestern league alive.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Catholic University of America has selected John Garvey, the dean of Boston College's law school, as its next president, choosing him over the other finalist, H. James Towey, the controversial president of Pennsylvania's Saint Vincent College. The selection of Garvey, which was reported by The Washington Post and confirmed early Tuesday by a university spokesman, would make him the third lay president at Catholic, with the last serving from 1978 to 1982. Garvey taught law at the Universities of Kentucky, Michigan and Notre Dame before going to Boston College, where he has been a popular and well-respected dean. Sources confirmed that Towey -- who headed President George W. Bush's Office of Faith-Based Initiatives and has had a rocky tenure, marked by significant conflict with the faculty, at Saint Vincent -- was the other finalist.
The University of Waterloo said Monday that it would suspend its football team from competition in the 2010-11 academic year because of rampant steroid use by team members. The university's statement said that it had ordered teamwide drug testing after reports that police were investigating a player for trafficking in steroids. Canwest News Service reported that as many as nine players tested positive for using performance enhancing drugs. An official of Canadian Interuniversity Sport, the country's college sports governing body, called the situation "the most significant doping issue" in its history.
Eric Balderas, a sophomore at Harvard University, is facing deportation to Mexico, the country that he and his family left when he was 4, without the legal authority to come to the United States, The Boston Globe reported. Balderas was detained by authorities while trying to fly back to Boston from San Antonio, where he graduated from high school (as valedictorian) and where he had been visiting his mother.
A new group, Students for Academic Choice, is trying to become a voice in policy debates, saying that it represents students in for-profit higher education. But an Associated Press article notes its close links to the main lobby for the for-profit institutions, which leads some to question the student group's independence. The Career College Association, the institutional lobby, helped the students establish a website, draft bylaws and hold an election of officers. "I'm skeptical of the organic nature of the group given that it is completely toeing the association's line," Christine Lindstrom, higher education program director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, told the AP. But Harris Miller, president of the CCA, said: "This will be, I think, as this organization grows and gets legs, an effective antidote to those people who hang on a few disgruntled students or former students and somehow think it's typical of the student reality."
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.
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.