Middlebury College, long known for its excellence in foreign languages, is forming a partnership with K12, an education company, to offer language instruction online at the pre-college level, The New York Times reported. Middlebury hopes that the new venture will help more high school students learn languages, and will provide the college with more revenue. The Times article did not quote Middlebury faculty members. But Philip G. Altbach, the Monan professor of higher education at Boston College, told the Times: “I have problems with the whole thing, particularly for a place like Middlebury, which has a reputation as one of the best liberal-arts colleges in the country, and for doing a very good job with languages. They should protect that brand. They are not known for online programs, and to jump in to the deep end of the swimming pool, with a for-profit, is in my view dangerous.”
Higher Education Quick Takes
Controversy is growing over an invitation by the foundation of California State University at Stanislaus to Sarah Palin. Jerry Brown, the attorney general of California, is starting an investigation into the foundation and whether it is appropriate for it to use funds to bring the former vice presidential candidate to campus, the Los Angeles Times reported. Meanwhile, students say they have found in a trash bin shredded documents -- which the university failed to turn over to legislative committees -- about the visit. Brown said his inquiry would include the issue of the documents' authenticity and -- if they are real -- how they ended up in the trash.
Michigan State University announced Tuesday that it is ending the practice of offering retiree health benefits to new employees, starting July 1, The Lansing State Journal reported. Current employees will continue to be covered. The announcement said that that Michigan State's current liability from those benefits is about $1 billion and "is expected to double every 15 years through 2040 if unabated."
Anthony Morgan has resigned from the Utah Board of Regents to object to legislative action authorizing a new engineering program at Weber State University that did not receive approval from the regents, as state procedures would normally require, The Salt Lake Tribune required. "If local legislative interests are not restrained, either by self discipline or by legislative leadership or by you, we could easily have a higher education system where the establishment and distribution of academic programs is designed by local political interests rather than academic and economic criteria," he said in his resignation letter.
The University of California at Berkeley has released a consultant's report recommending $75 million in savings through better management, including streamlined business systems and the elimination of "redundant" management positions, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. Berkeley officials commissioned the report -- and say they will try to carry out its recommendations -- in response to large cuts in state support (that far exceed the projected savings).
The University of Wyoming, which called off a talk by William Ayers, the one-time Weather Underground leader who is now a leading education researcher, is facing new criticism over the move. While Ayers has been canceled before, Wyoming officials were frank about their concerns over political fallout from a visit (as opposed to claiming security or scheduling problems). As a result, a Colorado lawyer, David Lane (also the lawyer for Ward Churchill), announced that he will sue the university for free speech violations unless it invites Ayers, the Associated Press reported. The suit would be filed on behalf of a student who wanted to see him talk on campus.
A former student has sued Brown University, charging that he was expelled over a false rape allegation made by a fellow student whose father was a major donor, the Associated Press reported. The student says that while Brown kicked him out, they never viewed the rape allegations as credible enough to merit reporting them to the police. Brown is contesting the allegations and pushing to have the case dismissed. The AP reported that the judge appeared frustrated with some of the quality of some of the evidence presented, but also indicated that he was troubled by Brown's failure to report the allegations to police.
Japanese enrollments in the United States are in decline, The Washington Post reported. Many students say that they prefer to stay home, and many employers say that they seek more "harmony" by hiring those educated in Japan, who are believed to be harder workers than those educated in the United States.
Efforts to build China's academic stature may be hindered by widespread plagiarism, the Associated Press reported. The article noted that experts blame weak punishments and a system that seems to value the quantity of work produced over the quality. One ghostwriter is quoted saying: "My opinion is that writing papers for someone else is not wrong.... There will always be a time when one needs help from others. Even our great leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping needed help writing."
Faculty members have voted no confidence in Provost Gary Olson, The Idaho State Journal reported. Olson wasn't available for comment about the vote. He has been the chief proponent of a reorganization plan that would merge many of the university's colleges, a move he maintains would save money. Many faculty members either dispute the estimated savings or say that the plan would increase administrative oversight in ways that would not help the university.