The drive by the American Federation of Teachers to unionize faculties in the University of Wisconsin continues to advance. Already this year, faculty members have voted to be represented by the AFT at the system's Superior and Eau Claire campuses. In the last month, petitions have been filed for union elections at the system's campuses at La Crosse, River Falls, Stevens Point and Stout, The Wisconsin State Journal reported.
Higher Education Quick Takes
A study released Wednesday found that 79 of the 152 medical schools in the United States have strong conflict of interest policies with regard to ties to the pharmaceutical industry. That figure is up from 45 last year. The analysis was conducted by the American Medical Student Association and the Pew Prescription Project, two groups that have pushed medical schools and hospitals to limit their ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
Colleges and universities periodically experience anti-Semitic vandalism at Hillel facilities or other places identifiable as Jewish, but it's the rare incident that is traced to a university administrator. But on Wednesday authorities announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Mark Zacharias, scholarship coordinator of the honors college at Indiana University at Bloomington, on charges that he used a rock to break the glass of an information board in the building housing Jewish studies at the university, WRTV News reported. Indiana University has seen several other incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism in the last week, but authorities have not linked Zacharias -- who has not commented -- to those events.
Deficit hawks in the U.S. Senate seeking to force their colleagues to offset the costs of extending the Bush-era tax cuts tried on Wednesday to kill off funds that help college financial aid offices cover the costs of providing federal grants to students. But in passing the tax bill, senators defeated the amendment by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to eliminate the "administrative cost allowance," which provides a $5 payment to participating colleges for each student who receives a Pell Grant for an award year. "Many schools -- particularly those serving the greatest numbers of low-income students -- depend on these funds to staff, train, and fund their financial aid office operations," Justin A. Draeger, president of the National Association for Student Financial Aid Administrators, said in a news release urging senators to reject the amendment. "Such cuts would have a dramatic negative effect on institutions' ability to serve students." The tax bill, as passed in the Senate, includes several provisions important to colleges.
The economic downturn of the last two years has challenged many colleges completing multi-year fund-raising campaigns -- especially those that announced ambitious targets prior to the sharp drops on Wall Street in the fall of 2008. But Columbia University on Wednesday announced that it is about to meet its $4 billion target (early) and that it is extending the effort and upping the target to $5 billion. The campaign was originally supposed to close at the end of 2011, but the university has already raised $3.9 billion. The campaign is now aiming for $5 billion by the end of 2013.
Reforms in the medical school curriculum may have a dramatic impact on the success rates of minority medical students, according to a new study in the journal Medical Education. The study examines the impact of an "integrated medical curriculum" -- in which courses focus more on problem-solving than on memorization -- at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Traditionally high failure rates for black and Latino medical students on the Step 1 licensing exam dropped dramatically for those who went through the new curriculum, the study found.
Presidents of the Patriot League, a conference of Northeastern and mid-Atlantic colleges with strong academic reputations, have decided to hold off for at least two years on any decision to offer athletic scholarships in football, The Express-Times reported. Those who have opposed scholarships have said that the additional spending is not appropriate right now, but football boosters at some campuses have been pushing hard for a change. While Daniel H. Weiss, president of Lafayette College, has opposed football scholarships, the chairman of the Friends of Lafayette Football on Wednesday denounced the decision, telling the Express-Times that the conference members' presidents "have no guts and offer no leadership."
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.
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.
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.