The season for many college football teams ended last weekend, which meant the start of the season that follows: firing time for many coaches. Monday brought the dismissals of head coaches at the Universities of Notre Dame and Virginia, following closely on the heels of dismissals or resignations of their peers at Marshall University, the University of Akron, and the University of Louisville, among others. While the changes are mostly about X's and O's, and the coaches' relative lack of success in winning football games, they are also about $$'s. Notre Dame will pay Weis as much as $18 million to buy out the rest of his 10-year contract (though other news reports have described that figure as exaggerated), while Virginia will spend $4.5 million to rid itself of Al Groh.
Higher Education Quick Takes
La Salle University has agreed to pay $7.5 million to cover the lifetime costs of caring for a former football player who suffered brain trauma in a 2005 game, the Associated Press reported. The family of Preston Plevretes had sued the Philadelphia-area university, alleging that it allowed him to play even though he had endured a concussion in a practice weeks earlier; the university had argued that the brain injury resulted entirely from the second blow. The settlement, which did not include any admission of wrongdoing by La Salle, came on the day a trial was to begin in the case. Brain injuries from football have been the focus of increasing attention this fall, in the wake of a National Football League-sponsored study that suggests a greater risk at all playing levels than previously acknowledged. La Salle officials said in a statement Monday that "[f]rom the time of Preston’s injury, the university community, led by those who know Preston and his family, have been hoping and praying for his recovery. That hasn’t changed."
A new study examines an unusual situation within economics: Writing more papers can be linked with higher salaries for professors but also with lower reputations. Writing about the work, Daniel Hamermesh of the University of Texas at Austin, and co-author of the study, says: "The question is why writing more (essentially ignored) papers has opposite effects on reputation and salary? Are university administrators ignorant, rewarding something visible that in fact reduces the scholar’s quality, as measured by his/her colleagues? We tested lots of explanations for the anomaly, but none described it well." The paper was published by the National Bureau for Economic Research and the other author is Gerard Pfann of Maastricht University.
About 150 students who said that they had more than 10,000 student signatures on petitions jammed a City Council meeting in Pittsburgh Monday, opposing a plan by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl to add a 1 percent tax on tuition, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The mayor says that the funds are needed for city services, while students and colleges say it is an inappropriate way to raise money. Many of the students said that they were bothered by the tax plan's implication that students hurt the city. Rotimi M. Abimbola, student president at Carnegie Mellon University, said: "We really, really need to dispel this myth that students are a burden to the city." Many colleges nationwide are watching the debate in Pittsburgh with concern that the tax idea, if enacted, will spread.
Joanne Burrows, president of Clarke College, recently received five $100 bills in the mail and an unusual letter of apology, The Telegraph Herald reported. The anonymous letter writer confessed to having stolen a portable radio from a faculty lounge at the Iowa college 55 years ago, and expressed the hope of making amends for the "foolish act."
Five Rice University faculty members -- two of them department chairs and three of them holding endowed chairs -- have published an op-ed in The Houston Chronicle sharply criticizing the merger talks between Rice and the Baylor College of Medicine, saying that the risks would be too great for Rice. The article notes that the medical school (which is independent of Baylor University) relies for its revenue on funds associated with patient care and biomedical research -- and that these revenue streams are vulnerable to shifts in the economy or the health care system. These concerns are exacerbated, the faculty members say, because the medical college is "on shaky financial footing and its current situation is not financially tenable." The faculty members conclude: "We aspire to stand among the world’s greatest universities. Can this vision be attained more quickly by diverting our course and merging with BCM, or will Rice simply become a medical school with a small, and possibly impoverished, university attached? Nobody knows for sure, but we firmly believe that merging poses an unacceptable risk to Rice University." A Rice Web site offers analysis of why the university is negotiating for the merger.
"Spheres," by York Hoeller, has won the 2010 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music. Hoeller is professor emeritus of music composition at the Cologne University of Music. Grawemeyer awards, worth $200,000 each, are awarded each year in in the fields of music, political science, psychology, education and religion.
The median salary of academic librarians in the Association of Research Libraries in the United States increased by 3.8 percent in 2008-9, to $63,673, but that gain didn't match inflation of 5.6 percent for the year, according to a new report by the association. In Canada, the median salary increase was smaller, but it nearly matched inflation.
The U.S. Education Department's inspector general issued a generally positive assessment last week of the department's ability to help colleges make the transition to the government's direct student loan program. The report found that the department's Federal Student Aid office expanded its capacity sufficiently as the competing Federal Family Education Loan Program struggled last year and that the department "appears to have access to sufficient resources to assist schools with the transition to the Direct Loan program" going forward. The audit report says that the department will lean heavily on contractors during the transition, though, and that the department will have to monitor the situation closely "to reduce related performance risk."
In Montana, students at two-year colleges borrow more per year than do students at four-year public colleges and universities, The Missoulian reported. The article noted that tuition rates are 30 percent higher at the four-year colleges. A key reason for the discrepancy is that the two-year college students are more likely than their four-year counterparts to have family obligations and to have full-time jobs (or to have had full-time jobs before starting college). The non-college expenses these students face are motivating the borrowing.