The student union of the University of British Columbia has filed a complaint with the United Nations, seeking to have it declare that tuition increases in Canada violate the country's commitment to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The complaint states that Canada and British Columbia are not attempting to comply with the covenant, a United Nations treaty. Among its provisions is the following statement about higher education: "Higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education." While the complaint has attracted considerable press attention in Canada, Maclean's reported that some students are upset about the effort and are pushing for its reconsideration. It is unlikely that American students could try to file a similar complaint: While President Carter signed the covenant, the U.S. Senate never ratified the treaty.
Higher Education Quick Takes
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.
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.
President Obama on Tuesday created a new Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, and named two university presidents to lead it. Amy Gutmann of the University of Pennsylvania will be chair and James W. Wagner of Emory University will be the vice chair. “As our nation invests in science and innovation and pursues advances in biomedical research and health care, it’s imperative that we do so in a responsible manner," said Obama in a statement. "This new Commission will develop its recommendations through practical and policy-related analyses."
An anti-evolution group -- backed by the actor Kirk Cameron -- has been spending time this week handing out copies of The Origin of Species that feature an introduction that undercuts Darwin's analysis. Cameron helped with the effort at the University of California at Los Angeles, but some students there challenged him, questioning whether the project was deceptive and whether there was scientific validity for his views. And this being a college campus, students filmed the discussion and posted it online.
The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation announced a $20 million plan this week to bolster college going and success in its home state of Idaho. Foundation officials plan to distribute $11 million -- in $1 million increments to 11 colleges in the state -- for scholarships, $6 million to the Idaho Education Network to increase access to relevant data, and $3 million to bolster the state's piece of the national KnowHow2Go campaign, that helps inform students about their postsecondary possibilities.
Mario Rocha, a freshman on a scholarship at George Washington University, is the subject of a profile in The Washington Post -- and this isn't your standard "frosh adjusts to college" story. Rocha was wrongly convicted of first degree murder and spent 10 years behind bars before his appeal won his freedom and he was able to pursue a higher education.
Responding to claims that police used excessive force to quell campus protests Friday, the University of California at Berkeley will conduct an investigation of the events, university officials announced Monday. The probe will be conducted by the Campus Police Review Board, which includes representatives of students, faculty and staff. The campus police department has already begun conducting its own internal review of the events, including the use of force, officials said. The protest began after 40 people, mostly Berkeley students, occupied a campus building in response to budget cuts and a 32 percent tuition hike recently approved by California’s Board of Regents. The daylong protest in the building drew hundreds more outside, who had confrontations with law enforcement that were widely covered by national media and broadcast on YouTube. Authorities arrested 41 people in connection with the protests.
A foundation charged by federal authorities with illegally providing assistance to Iran has also been making grants for years to universities, The New York Times reported. The grants -- to support study and teaching on Persian language and culture -- went to Columbia, Harvard, Portland State and Rutgers Universities.