Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, August 30, 2010 - 3:00am

Iran is focusing on the humanities in a new crackdown on the country's universities, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty reported. New limits will be placed on the number of students permitted to study the humanities, consistent with worries expressed by Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that nearly two-thirds of Iranian university students are seeking degrees in the humanities. He said that the humanities promote "skepticism and doubt in religious principles and beliefs."

Friday, August 27, 2010 - 3:00am

Wells College this week announced plans to eliminate several majors and five faculty positions by the 2011-12 academic year, AuburnPub.com reported. French and religion will both be eliminated as majors, and while courses will still be offered, they will be taught by adjuncts, and tenured faculty lines will be eliminated. Music will be eliminated as a concentration in the performing arts major. Faculty have been concerned for several months about the college's financial situation and plans to cut programs and positions.

Friday, August 27, 2010 - 3:00am

Lambuth University, a financially struggling private college in Tennessee, has announced that it has a "major financial commitment" to enable it to start to make payroll and to serve its students, The Jackson Sun reported. The university has been negotiating with private investors -- first to be purchased, and then for partnerships to grow online courses. The commitments apparently reflect the latter model, but the university has not released details or even identified the partner that is providing the money.

Friday, August 27, 2010 - 3:00am

Faculty groups are urging the University of Louisiana Board of Supervisors to reject a proposal, on the agenda for a meeting today, to modify tenure protections for faculty members. The proposals come at a time that the state is preparing for major budget cuts and university administrators are calling for maximum flexibility in responding to those cuts. But faculty groups say that in the name of flexibility, the proposal would gut tenure protections. A letter from the Louisiana Conference of the American Association of University Professors notes, for example, that the plan would appear to let tenured professors be dismissed not only when programs are completely eliminated due to financial exigency (the status quo) but because programs are reduced in size. That would be a huge shift, the letter notes, calling the idea "a slap in the face of all faculty throughout academia."

Friday, August 27, 2010 - 3:00am

The New School announced Thursday that its next president will be David E. Van Zandt, the law dean at Northwestern University. Van Zandt will take over at the end of the year from Bob Kerrey, who in May announced his plans to leave the presidency. Kerrey's announcement came amid growing student and faculty unrest -- including sit-ins and votes of no confidence over a range of issues. Van Zandt has generally been credited with a strong performance as dean at Northwestern, attracting top faculty talent and also introducing new programs. But he has been criticized by some law professors nationally for pushing to end American Bar Association requirements that law schools have tenure systems. Van Zandt has argued that he is not opposed to tenure, but does not believe it is appropriate for the accreditor to have it as a requirement.

Friday, August 27, 2010 - 3:00am

Officials at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said Thursday that a continuing inquiry into its football program had uncovered evidence of "possible academic misconduct" by a former undergraduate tutor and an as-yet-undetermined number of players. At a hastily called news conference last night, Chancellor Holden Thorp, clearly troubled by the burgeoning evidence of troubles in the Tar Heel sports program, said that the extent of the academic wrongdoing remained unclear. But he promised a thorough investigation by a team of faculty members and administrators. "Academic achievement and fairness are at the heart of the University of North Carolina and the Department of Athletics," said Thorp. "We are treating this issue with the seriousness that you would expect. It's a privilege to put on the North Carolina uniform and to represent this University, and it's our job to make sure that the people who do so have earned that privilege."

Friday, August 27, 2010 - 3:00am

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) announced Thursday that he plans to host a Chicago forum on for-profit higher education on Tuesday. Speakers will include two former for-profit students, the presidents of two public institutions, and executives from Career Education Corporation, Devry, Inc. and Kaplan University. The forum will consider "whether some for-profit colleges are exploiting rather than educating Illinois students" and include discussion of the industry's growth, reliance on the federal financial aid program and the value of the sector's degrees and certificates.

Durbin has been the most vocal member on the issue who is not on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee. Earlier this summer, he delivered a speech questioning the for-profit college business model. He was one of a half-dozen Democrats to sign onto a June letter asking the Government Accountability Office to initiate a wide-ranging investigation of the sector, and he wrote to the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs earlier this month asking for information on how federal tuition assistance for current and former members of the military is being spent at for-profits.

Friday, August 27, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of California has appointed an official to manage the costs associated with the home of Mark G. Yudof, president of the university, The New York Times reported. The move followed reports of hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses and the involvement of senior university officials in disputes over his previous rented home.

Friday, August 27, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of Notre Dame has responded to a suit by a fired tenured professor by detailing the reasons it dismissed Oliver M. Collins as an engineering professor, The South Bend Tribune reported. While Collins said he was fired inappropriately, the university says that he used more than $190,000 in grant funds on unauthorized equipment, including digital cameras used to take pornographic pictures.

Friday, August 27, 2010 - 3:00am

Baker College incorrectly identified when as many as 20 percent of its distance education students began and stopped participating in their online classes, errors that resulted in ineligible students receiving nearly $10,000 in federal financial aid funds, the Education Department's inspector general said in an audit this week. The audit -- the conclusions of which Baker officials strongly disputed -- criticized the college's record keeping and said that of 100 randomly selected students (who received a total of $257,000 in federal aid), department officials were unable to find evidence that 22 of them had been enrolled in their courses long enough to qualify for their full allotment of financial assistance.

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