Senior Harvard University officials -- especially then-president Lawrence Summers -- repeatedly ignored warnings that the university's investment strategies were placing far too much cash (needed for short-term spending) in risky investments, The Boston Globe reported. The placement of the cash in risky investments has been a key reason why Harvard, which even after investment losses is by far the wealthiest university in the world, has been forced to make many cuts in the last year; such cash reserves, had the advice been followed, would have been easily accessible. Summers declined to comment for the article, but a friend of his familiar with the Harvard investment strategy noted that conditions changed after Summers left the presidency and that the university had the time to change its strategy prior to last year's Wall Street collapse.
Higher Education Quick Takes
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.
The latest data from the American College Health Association suggest some good news on the spread of H1N1. Of campuses being tracked by the association, 90 percent reported new cases of H1N1 or similar illnesses. That is down from 95 percent the week before. All but seven states reported significant declines in disease activity from Nov. 14 through Nov. 20. More information about the association's tracking of H1N1 may be found here.
Legislation in India to allow foreign universities to create branches in the country, and to create a system for regulating them, has been delayed, The Calcutta Telegraph reported. The legislation, rather than moving forward, will be reviewed to resolve differences among various government agencies. The newspaper characterized the review as placing the bill "into cold storage." Universities in the United States and elsewhere, many of which have been hoping to enter the market in India, have been watching the bill and hoping for its passage.
Florida Gulf Coast University has suspended Patrick Davis as associate professor of counseling amid allegations that he has an inappropriate relationship with a student, The Naples Daily News reported. Two other professors requested an investigation into Davis, charging that he was having a romantic relationship with one of his graduate students, was the father of her child, and had changed her grades. The newspaper found gift registries suggesting wedding plans for Davis and the student, who has not been identified. Davis was not quoted in the article. But an August report on NBC2 about the allegations quoted Davis as sending an e-mail to the university in which he said that the charges were "unfounded and untrue" and "I must say that the avid interest in my personal life seems a bit unbalanced."