U.S. Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), a former physics professor who championed academic research and especially science education during eight terms in Congress, announced Wednesday that he would resign when his current term ends this year. Ehlers taught physics at the University of California at Berkeley and Michigan's Calvin College for more than 20 years before entering Congress in 1993. He has served on the House science and education committees during much of his tenure, and heads the STEMEd Caucus.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Baker University is eliminating five majors -- molecular bioscience, wildlife biology, computer information systems, physical education and political science. The Lawrence Journal-World reported that some courses will still be taught in these areas, and that eliminating these majors at the Kansas institution will save about $400,000.
Between 1995 and 2003, the median accumulated federal loans for doctorates increased from $14,927 to $44,743, according to a study in The Journal of Higher Education. The study examines the increase and various factors that contributed to it, and to some subsets of doctoral students seeing debt increase at faster levels than was the case for others.
Calvin College has become the first institution covered by a new rule of the American Philosophical Association of requiring any college that violates any part of the association's anti-bias policy to have job listings with the association flagged. The rule was adopted late last year in response to the concerns of many philosophers about having their association list jobs from institutions that do not hire gay professors. One aim of the policy, proponents said, was to then be able to lobby colleges to change their policies. Some philosophers are now trying to do just that with a petition urging the college to accept gay professors. "One might puzzle over a form of Christianity that is committed to the inequality of people, and in particular of job applicants for positions in philosophy. More disturbing, however, is the stigma Calvin College feels entitled to place upon those who are doubly exposed: as lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgendered in a society that has yet to accept them, and as people seeking jobs during difficult economic times," the petition says. "Obtaining academic positions in philosophy is never an easy task; doing so in the face of the current economic climate is nothing less than traumatic. That Calvin College would engage in a most egregious form of discrimination under these circumstances strikes us as not only deplorable but indeed as displaying a lack of basic human concern."
A spokesman for the college said he could not comment on the petition. The college requires faculty members to be in good standing with the Christian Reformed Church (or some similar churches), and Calvin's statement about sexual orientation states that all people should be treated with "respect" and "understanding," and that sexual orientation "seems usually to lie outside the scope of an individual's will." But the statement also says that sexual activity under church teachings is allowed only in heterosexual marriage. The philosophy association's anti-bias policy specifically states that it is not acceptable for colleges to say that they welcome gay people, but only if they are celibate.
Illinois has indicted Michael Vernon Warren, the former director of publications and copy services at Chicago State University, charging him with a scheme in which the university overpaid for copy machines and paper purchased from a company he owned, The Chicago Tribune reported. State higher education regulations bar most purchases from businesses owned by university employees. Warren told the Tribune: "I know what I was asked to do, and I don't think I did anything that was improper."
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a complaint with Fresno City College, charging that a health instructor is giving religious instruction with an anti-gay bias, in violation of the separation of church and state, the Associated Press reported. The instructor could not be reached for comment and the college says only that it is investigating. The ACLU's letter says that the instructor, Bradley Lopez, regularly uses the Bible as a text on health issues, called homosexuality an illness for which recommended treatments include counseling and hormones, cited the Bible to explain why abortion should be viewed as murder, and told students that abortion is the leading cause of death in the United States.
Many prospective students and their families lack the information they need to make informed choices about colleges, according to a report being issued today, "Planning for College: A Consumer Approach to the Higher Education Marketplace." The report examines the kinds of decisions families make and the information they need. The report notes that there are 118 different "529" plans, which promote saving for colleges by offering tax advantages to families, and that many do not know how to compare the plans; that information about the actual prices families pay (as opposed to sticker price) remains hard to figure out; and that there is relatively little information about such factors as price based on student-faculty ratios or graduation rates. The report was produced by MassINC, a think tank in Massachusetts.
The University of Georgia has fired an employee whose job was to monitor and report students and faculty members who violate university policy to illegally download copyrighted material. The Athens Banner-Herald reported that the official has been charged with extortion for telling a student he caught downloading that he would not report her in return for cash.
Kaplan University and the California Community Colleges system have entered into an arrangement that will allow students at the two-year institutions to take individual online courses through Kaplan at a steep discount to help them finish their associate degrees. Under the deal, which is designed in part to help students at the two-year colleges deal with reduced course availability because of budget cuts, Kaplan will offer individual courses at a 42 percent discount from what they would normally cost as part of a degree program. Students will receive textbooks and other instructional materials at no charge.
Eastern colleges seeking to increase their Latino enrollments are starting to add admissions materials and programs in Spanish, the Associated Press reported. Bryn Mawr College started a Spanish version of its Web site. And the University of Pennsylvania is conducting some college admissions sessions in Spanish. Officials said that these efforts are in large part about reaching the families of prospective students, who play an important part in students' college decisions.