The University of Kansas is becoming the first public university -- following moves by all or parts of institutions such as Harvard and Stanford Universities and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- to make all faculty journal articles available free in digital form. Chancellor Robert Hemenway proposed the policy, which was endorsed by the Faculty Senate. The articles will be placed in KU ScholarWorks, a digital repository. Open access advocates see the creation of such repositories as a way to spread knowledge at a time that many journal subscriptions are too expensive for many academic institutions or individuals.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Brigham Young University on Friday ended its blocking of YouTube on the university network, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Students still must be careful about what they view on YouTube because the honor code requires that they avoid Internet material that is not "virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy," and plenty of the videos on YouTube would not meet that standard. But university officials said that the wealth of educational material on the site convinced them to stop blocking it.
The Oregon Senate and House have now passed (with gubernatorial approval expected) legislation to codify principles of the Faculty and College Excellence Campaign of the American Federation of Teachers, which aims to improve the working conditions of faculty members and to push colleges to hire more tenure-track professors. Under the Oregon legislation, public colleges and universities will be required to report on the make-up of their faculties -- something faculty groups say is essential for drawing attention to and changing hiring patterns. Further, some part timers will be able to gain eligibility for health insurance based on work at multiple colleges, not just one.
Colleges will soon be urged by the National Collegiate Athletic Association to test athletes for the sickle cell trait -- and eventually the colleges may be required to do so. That's because of the settlement of a lawsuit against Rice University and the NCAA by the family of a football player who died during a workout and whose sickle cell trait was linked to the death, the Associated Press reported. At the time of his death, Rice (like many universities) did not test for the trait. Most terms of the settlement are confidential, the AP said. But parties are going public about the sickle cell testing. The NCAA said that it couldn't agree to force colleges to do the testing because such a requirement would have to be proposed and adopted by a membership vote. But the NCAA agreed to recommend the testing, and Rice agreed to sponsor a proposal that the NCAA require such testing.
Dickinson College is introducing a new fellowship program to encourage public service and allow students to take a "gap year" (or years) between high school and college. Under the program, students apply as high school seniors and, if admitted, can defer enrollment for one to four academic years. For every year that they spend in public service, they earn a $10,000 credit toward expenses at the college. The students must work for 30-40 hours a week for 10-12 months to be eligible, although they may count work with other programs to encourage service, such as AmeriCorps. The credits do not limit other financial aid the students could receive from the college.
Pennsylvania State University and other "state-related" institutions in Pennsylvania -- Lincoln and Temple Universities and the University of Pittsburgh -- have long debated whether they are public institutions or not. They depend on state appropriations and favor in-state applicants, but they have more independence than the state-owned institutions, and periodically assert that they should not be treated as public institutions (such as when groups are seeking information from them under state open records laws). Now Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, is embracing that position, and proposing to exclude them from the federal stimulus funds intended to minimize state cuts to public higher education, The PIttsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The four institutions would collectively lose $40 million under this plan.
Newly released e-mail messages may mark a new low in the admissions scandal that just keeps growing at the University of Illinois. The Chicago Tribune reported that the e-mails show that the chancellor of the university's Urbana-Champaign campus, Richard Herman, pressured the law school to let in an applicant favored by the then-governor, Rod Blagojevich, in return for having the governor get jobs for five law graduates with less than stellar academic records. An e-mail from Herman to the then-dean of the law school, Heidi Hurd, who was apparently balking at admitting the applicant, said that the request came "straight from the G. My apologies. Larry has promised to work on jobs (5). What counts?" Hurd's response, which suggested why the university might need to take special steps to get these students jobs: "Only very high-paying jobs in law firms that are absolutely indifferent to whether the five have passed their law school classes or the Bar." The Tribune noted that law school rankings are based in part on job placement success, so a law school would have reason to worry if even poor academic performers couldn't get jobs. University officials declined to respond to the e-mails, telling the Tribune that their first response should be to a special state panel investigating admissions at the university.
Most college leaders lack robust risk assessment strategies, even though they ought to be on guard about a range of issues as diverse as political scandals and endowment losses, according to a report released Thursday. Of about 600 surveyed colleges, both public and private, only 23 percent said their governing boards monitored risk through regular formal reports, according to the United Educators and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. At a time when colleges are being advised to consider political and reputational risks as part of their overall strategy, only about 42 percent said they did so routinely. “It was really quite disturbing to us,” Janice Abraham, chief operating officer of United Educators, said of the results.
A federal grand jury in Arizona on Tuesday indicted 65 people on charges that they obtained more than $530,000 in student aid illegally -- by pretending to be students. According to the indictment, one woman recruited the rest of those indicted to play the part of "straw students," who would pretend to enroll, and would then receive financial aid. The woman who organized the system is charged with taking fees from every participant. The students pretended to enroll at Rio Salado College -- and it was officials there who first noticed apparent discrepancies and reported them to the U.S. Education Department. Linda Thor, president of the college, issued a statement in which she said: "I want to express how proud I am of the staff of our financial aid office for their stewardship of taxpayers’ funds. I commend them for being alert, vigilant, well-trained and cooperative.... We will not tolerate abuse of the system, and we will continue as a college to practice due diligence in processing all financial aid applications.”
A Senate appropriations subcommittee crafted a bill Wednesday that would increase spending on the National Science Foundation to $6.9 billion in the 2010 fiscal year, $426 million more than the agency is receiving this year but slightly less than would be allocated in parallel legislation in the House of Representatives. The Senate measure approved by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies includes $5.55 billion for research, $122 million for research equipment and facilities; and $857 million for the foundation's science education programs. It also would provide $878.8 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, $59.8 million above the 2009 level.