Many American colleges, citing the violence tied to drug gangs in parts of Mexico, are skipping summer programs there, The New York Times reported. While the violence is very real in parts of the country, some academic experts believe that -- depending on where the programs would be in the country -- the caution may be excessive. Geoffrey E. Braswell, an associate anthropology professor at the University of California at San Diego who plans to lead students on a visit to central Mexico in the fall, told the Times: "To make an analogy, I would not have considered taking students to Mississippi during the early 1960s or to Chicago during the 1968 Democratic convention, but other parts of the U.S. were of course safe for travel. Mexico is that way.”
Higher Education Quick Takes
The United Methodist Church has lifted sanctions and will restore funds to the Claremont School of Theology, the Los Angeles Times reported. Methodist leaders had been concerned that the theology school's recently announced programs for non-Christian clergy suggested a move away from a traditional mission of training Methodists. But Claremont officials agreed to use church funds only on programs focused on Methodist teachings, and said that they would have a separate structure for the programs about and for members of other faiths.
Noting the widespread shortage of nurses, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has issued a report, "Charting Nursing's Future," with numerous recommendations on how states and education groups could increase the supply of nurses. Among the recommendations: Allow master's and doctoral students in nursing to serve as "nursing faculty interns" to relieve some of the pressure on the limited supply for nursing faculty members; allow the use of simulation for some clinical hours and the use of distance education and technology to provide more of the curriculum for nursing students, and the creation of new stipends to encourage nurses to earn master's and doctoral degrees so they could teach. Additionally, in a recommendation that is likely to be controversial with some community college educators, the report calls for a requirement that all associate degree nurses receive a bachelor's degree within 10 years of graduation.
A program to waive application fees for college for one week in Indiana attracted more applications, but also created many problems for colleges, The Herald-Times reported. Many of those who started applications didn't finish them and didn't seem serious about the process, so the colleges and universities reported losing not only the application fee revenue but additional time trying to figure out which applications were serious.
BP has committed to spending up to $500 million on research related to the environmental disaster in the Gulf, but many environmental scientists are questioning how those funds will be used. The Los Angeles Times reported that federal officials told the company to involve the governors of affected states in deciding where the grants should go -- and those governors, not surprisingly, want all the money to go to universities in their states. Jörg Imberger, director of the Center for Water Research at the University of Western Australia and one of six scientists recruited by BP to help determine which projects receive funds, told the Times he didn't think the governors should be involved. "I think it's rather unfortunate; everyone is trying to point-score through politics," he said. "To be honest, what does a governor know about this? Their mandate is to bring money into their town or their state."
A worldwide analysis by Nature of the salaries of men and women in academic science has found that men’s salaries were 18 to 40 percent higher in countries for which there were significant sample sizes -- Australia, Britain, Canada, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Spain and the United States. The general pattern was for salary gaps to grow over the course of careers, with men's salaries starting to gain relative to women in the three-to-five year period after the start of a career in Europe and after six years in North America.
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."
The president of the Louisiana State University System on Thursday warned that the budget may be cut by 23 percent next year when federal stimulus funds run out, WAFB News reported. Cuts of that magnitude could include the elimination of academic programs and layoffs of tenure-track and tenured faculty members, he said.
An analysis by USA Today has found that college towns experienced more economic growth during the economic downturn that did many other localities. College towns -- despite cuts in college budgets -- continued to attract students, faculty members and research grants (with some additional funds coming from stimulus programs), the article noted.
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.