Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - 3:00am

A state judge on Monday declined to block an academic reorganization of the University of Toledo, The Toledo Blade reported. President Lloyd Jacobs wants to reorganize the colleges in the university, but the American Association of University Professors charged that a lack of consultation violated the university's contract with the faculty.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - 3:00am

Universities in several countries are adding programs in Islamic finance, Bloomberg reported. Businesses have a shortage of experts on the subject -- and so graduates of the programs are in demand. Among the institutions with programs: International Islamic University of Malaysia and La Trobe University, in Australia.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of California Board of Regents voted Monday to cut retirement health benefits to deal with massive deficits in the fund that is supposed to pay for them, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The standard retirement age will move to 65 from 60 and the early retirement age to 55 from 50 -- delaying the age at which people can receive various levels of benefits. The university system will gradually reduce its share of retiree health costs from 89 percent to 70 percent, and will impose a two-tier system in which new employees will receive a less generous package. The changes have faced the most criticism from low-wage employees at the university, and unions representing some of those employees still must approve changes in their contracts to reflect the new policy. University officials have said that they have no choice but to adopt these changes to keep the retirement fund solvent.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 3:00am

An evenly divided U.S. Supreme Court on Monday affirmed a lower court's decision on the pricing of products made outside the United States -- a ruling that textbook companies had urged the justices to endorse. The 4-4 ruling, from which Associate Justice Elena Kagan had recused herself, came in a legal fight between Omega, the watch manufacturer, and Costco, the wholesale chain store, over the sale of imported versions of products at prices lower than Omega charges for its own U.S.-made products. Textbook companies had feared -- and librarians and advocates for students had hoped -- that a ruling for Costco could open the way to the flooding of the U.S. market with the less-fancy editions that textbook companies have produced for students in poorer countries. The court's split ruling means that it has much less weight than a decision with a clear majority in favor, and leaves many of the issues to be decided another day.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 3:00am

A federal judge has allowed four top officials at the University of California at Davis to be sued for violations of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, rejecting their claims that they are immune from such litigation, The Sacramento Bee reported. The decision does not weigh in on the merits of the suit -- now in its seventh year -- by three former women's wrestlers. The judge ruled, however, that freedom from "purposeful discrimination in education" was a clear constitutional right in the period in which the women sued, so the officials are not immune and a trial may go forward. The university is continuing to contest the suit.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 3:00am

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to consider an appeal of a ruling by New York State's highest court upholding the use of eminent domain to obtain certain properties for a new Columbia University campus in West Harlem. The Supreme Court's refusal to consider the case ends years of legal fights over Columbia's expansion plans.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 3:00am

A new study of students at the University of Northern Iowa and Southeastern Oklahoma University has found that about one-third of students said that they had been untruthful on faculty evaluations they submit at the end of courses, The Des Moines Register reported. While students admitted to fudging the truth both to bolster professors they liked and to bring down those they disliked, the latter kind of fabrication was more common.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 3:00am

Authorities at Denmark's Aalborg University have reprimanded a professor who, with three other men and one woman, staged and filmed orgies -- in which the men wore the robes of monks while having sex with the woman -- in a university machine room, The Copenhagen Post reported. The rector stressed that no judgment was being made about the activity, only about the use of university facilities. "What consenting people get up to in their spare time is none of my business," said Finn Kjærsdam. "But we're responsible for all university facilities, and we cannot and will not have things like that going on here."

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 3:00am

A federal judge has ruled that Martin Gaskell, an astronomer formerly at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, has the right to sue the University of Kentucky over a job offer he didn't get after search committee members focused on his criticism of evolutionary theory, The Louisville Courier-Journal reported. Gaskell was the leading candidate for the job before discussion on the search committee turned to his views on evolution, according to court documents. Gaskell says he lost the job due to illegal religious discrimination because of his religious views as a Christian. But university officials have argued that one's views on evolution are relevant in hiring for scientific positions.

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON – Things stayed mostly cordial Friday during a Q&A session between a top Education Department official, at times on the defensive, and a roomful of for-profit college officials, investors and advocates.

On the final day of a symposium sponsored by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities here, James Kvaal, the relatively new deputy undersecretary of education, made a brief speech before fielding questions regarding the Obama administration's "gainful employment" rules, accusations of hostility against for-profit colleges, and complaints of unfair expectations. Kvaal took no detours from the administration's public stances -- expressing an appreciation both for the important role for-profit institutions play and, “at the same time,” for the added responsibility they bear to ensure that their graduates achieve gainful employment, especially when riddled with debt.

Kvaal disputed an assertion that the Obama administration is hostile toward the for-profit sector. When asked why for-profits face an “apples-to-apples comparison” to other institutions when they serve a disproportionate number of low-income and non-traditional students, Kvaal maintained that they cannot be excepted from quality standards and could serve students better.

When Kvaal said he thought the program integrity rules -- the regulations unrelated to gainful employment -- were “pretty clear across the board,” several people snickered or shook their heads. Kvall then urged them to submit questions or comments so the department can clarify any uncertainty. In his opening speech, Kvaal said that not all for-profit institutions are bad, and that the sector is important because of its diversity of programs and institutions, capacity for innovation and growth, and services for non-traditional students.

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