Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, June 25, 2010 - 3:00am

East-West University, which is facing a union drive by its adjuncts, is planning to offer them big raises. A spokesman confirmed that the university plans to offer adjuncts without a Ph.D. a 13 percent increase in the fall, and those with a Ph.D. a 20 percent increase. According to the spokesman, the raises have nothing to do with the union drive, but are the results of a faculty review of adjunct pay at other Chicago institutions -- and the realization that East-West had fallen behind. The university has been facing criticism for new policies that officially notified adjuncts that they had no work this summer and that they would need to interview with the chancellor to obtain teaching assignments in the fall. Organizers of the union, which aims to affiliate with the National Education Association, believe these shifts were designed to delay a union vote, but the university denies this. One union organizer called the planned raises "window dressing."

Thursday, June 24, 2010 - 3:00am

Financial considerations are driving talk of realignment among college sports conferences outside the high-profile Bowl Championship Series leagues, too -- but in different ways. The Associated Press reports that several Arkansas colleges that belong to the Division II Gulf South Conference are contemplating leaving and teaming up with Oklahoma institutions that are now in the Lone Star Conference. The Arkansas colleges are citing escalating travel costs within the Gulf South, which stretches east to Georgia.

Thursday, June 24, 2010 - 3:00am

A federal appeals court on Wednesday overturned a lower court's 2008 decision that shielded the Apollo Group, Inc., from a jury's $277 million verdict against it in a shareholder lawsuit. The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit essentially reinstated the jury's 2008 finding that a group of stockholders in the parent company of the University of Phoenix were harmed by the company's approach to disclosing information about a critical government report. Although the jury called for Apollo to pay $277.5 million in damages, a federal judge overturned that verdict in August 2008, ruling in Apollo's favor. But in its ruling Wednesday, which Apollo critiqued, the Ninth Circuit appeals panel said that the lower court judge had "erred" and that the damages award should stand.

Thursday, June 24, 2010 - 3:00am

The 80-hour maximum work week (based on a four-week average) wouldn't be changed under proposed rules for medical residents issued Wednesday by a committee of the Accrediting Council for Graduate Medical Education. The committee said that the maximum was not inherently dangerous to medical care, as some critics have charged. At the same time, however, the committee did propose other changes, including a limit of a 16-hour day for first-year residents and more detailed instructions on the direction that must be provided to first-year residents. The Association of American Medical Colleges issued a statement praising the new recommendations.

Thursday, June 24, 2010 - 3:00am

Scrutiny continues to grow of the corporate influence on continuing medical education. The New York Times reported that the University of Michigan, for example, will no longer accept any gifts from drug or medical device companies to pay for the courses doctors must take to keep their medical licenses. James O. Woolliscroft, dean of Michigan’s medical school, told the Times that faculty members “wanted education to be free from bias, to be based on the best evidence and a balanced view of the topic under discussion.”

Thursday, June 24, 2010 - 3:00am

Peter Erlinder, a professor at the William Mitchell College of Law, returned to his Minnesota home from Rwanda this week, after authorities there who had arrested him allowed him to leave, the Associated Press reported. Erlinder was in Rwanda to help defend an opposition presidential candidate. Erlinder spoke Wednesday about his experience, saying that it is possible that no one would have learned of his situation if he hadn't been able to summon a U.S. embassy official when he was arrested on May 28. He said that airline records indicated erroneously that he had left the country so nobody at the embassy knew he was still in Rwanda.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010 - 3:00am

Two business executives hired to restructure the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in the wake of the president's ouster have quit, The Kansas City Star reported. The executives were hired after the previous president was forced out amid allegations of excessive spending and compensation. One of the executives who quit questioned whether the institution was committed to making the changes it needs.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010 - 3:00am

An experimental City University of New York program designed to graduate community college students quickly has surpassed its goal of graduating at least half of its initial 1,000-student cohort in three years. City and university leaders gathered Tuesday to celebrate the 53 percent graduation rate achieved by the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), launched in 2007. The final graduation rate for the experimental project is expected to reach 56 percent by the fall, as more students earn their degree this summer. Participants in ASAP must attend class full-time, and they receive free tuition, books and transportation for staying enrolled. Additionally, these students take small courses grouped in blocks during the daytime and receive intense personal advising and tutoring. Last year, university officials accurately projected that their efforts would help them surpass their 50 percent graduation goal – a rate that is more than three times the national average for urban two-year institutions.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010 - 3:00am

The author Wendell Berry is withdrawing his personal papers from the University of Kentucky to protest several university policies, including the naming of a basketball dormitory in honor of the coal industry and an emphasis on becoming a top research university in a way that Berry believes will detract from the institution's traditional land grant mission, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported. In a letter obtained by the newspaper, Berry wrote: "The university's president and board have solemnized an alliance with the coal industry, in return for a large monetary 'gift,' granting to the benefactors, in effect, a co-sponsorship of the university's basketball team.... That — added to the 'Top 20' project and the president's exclusive 'focus' on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — puts an end to my willingness to be associated in any way officially with the university." A university spokesman said the institution was disappointed with the decision -- especially because it had purchased many of Berry's works to be in the same collection with the personal papers.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010 - 3:00am

A report by three outside experts on suicide has urged Cornell University to continue for now the barriers placed on bridges over gorges in the wake of six suicides in the last academic year. The barriers have been described as temporary, but the report says that it is "vital" to keep the barriers while longer-term changes are considered. The suicides have given the gorges "iconic status" as suicide sites, the report says, even though the rate of suicide over time at Cornell (not the cluster in the last year) has been consistent with national higher education data. "Most individuals who jump from iconic sites are ambivalent, act impulsively, [and] choose a specific site," the report says. So if these individuals are deterred from suicide at a particular time, they most often do not later kill themselves, meaning that the barriers have a "substantial probability" of saving lives. Susan Murphy, vice president for student and academic services, said in a statement: "The beauty of our landscape is vital to the identity of Cornell and Ithaca. I'm confident that we will find a way to balance our need to experience the natural beauty of the gorges with our concern for the safety of our most vulnerable students and community members."

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