Two former University of Illionois presidents, together with two former chancellors, have called for changes in the way trustees are appointed (so that the governor's power might be reduced) and for changes in the make-up of the current board, The News-Gazette reported. The letter said that too many of the current trustees -- who have been implicated in a scandal involving admissions preferences for the politically connected -- have "pursued personal interests and saw themselves accountable only to the governor." The former presidents and chancellors said that they wanted to draw attention to the fact that under previous trustees, there had not been similar preferences demanded or granted. Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune reported on testimony to a state panel investigating the admissions scandal that at least one trustee contacted university officials to make sure his relative got into the classes he wanted at the university.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Canada's University of Ottawa has acknowledged that 600 applicants to its law school were never considered for admission this year when their applications were overlooked, CBC News reported. Officials blamed the situation on human error. The applications will be reviewed now, and the university will offer admission to anyone who would have been admitted had they been reviewed at the standard time.
Kennesaw State University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, University of North Florida and Utah Valley University have been granted full membership in Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. These institutions were already working toward membership when the Division I Board of Directors approved a moratorium on new members in August 2007 and were allowed to continue onward in the process. The moratorium will expire in August 2011, at which point the Board of Directors plans to introduce new, tougher criteria for joining the division. Since the passage of the moratorium, athletic directors and presidents have expressed concern at the division’s ballooning membership, arguing that, with so many conferences, it may soon reach the point at which there would not be enough automatic bids to provide equal access to major championships. On the academic side, some argue that the division’s newest members, generally smaller and less wealthy than long-standing members, might not have the financial resources to guarantee that their students are performing at their best in the classroom as well as on the playing field.
Rutgers University's board will vote today to restore a luxury recruiting center -- with a full supply of plasma televisions -- after donors gave $5 million after the expense was cut from a $102 million renovation of the football stadium, The Star-Ledger reported. The funds were cut amid complaints about cost overruns on the stadium, at a time that the economic woes of New Jersey were forcing major cuts in other sports, not to mention academics at the university, and many faculty members were complaining about excess spending on football. A spokesman for a group opposing the elimination of sports besides football issued a statement: "What's more important: the reinstatement of the best and the brightst student athletes, or a recruiting lounge?"
Iranian authorities have arrested Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American social scientist, although the nature of the charges is unclear, the Associated Press reported. His family members have no information on where he was taken. Tajbakhsh was arrested in 2007 and released after four months in prison. This Web site, prepared by supporters in 2007, details his work as a scholar.
The Louisiana State University is eliminating 400 positions, 100 of them at the flagship campus in Baton Rouge, but the LSU Press will survive. The Advocate quoted LSU officials as saying that the cuts -- while significant -- are not as large as first feared. While the university press will not be eliminated, university officials said that its budget will be cut and that operations like the press need to take cuts to protect the jobs of faculty members. The press is well respected for its books on history and literature, and many scholars nationwide were concerned about the publishing arm being on the chopping block. In an e-mail to Inside Higher Ed, MaryKatherine Callaway, director of the press, said that she was pleased that the press will now be able to celebrate its 75th anniversary next year. "While we must definitely retool our entire operation in light of the budget cuts, we intend to implement a plan that will allow the press to thrive over the next 75 years," she said.
What amounts to good news for endowment managers these days wouldn't have been good news a few years ago. But Bloomberg reported that several colleges with large endowments are finding that their losses for the fiscal year just ended are slightly smaller than projected and several that expected the current fiscal year to produce more losses are now projecting a flat year. While the revised projections are welcome, they are not generally dramatic enough to lead colleges to reverse budget cuts they have adopted.
The Nevada Board of Regents on Friday ended David Ashley's presidency at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, returning him to the faculty, The Las Vegas Sun reported. Regents cited Ashley's lobbying of legislators, whom he told that UNLV was being disproportionately cut in the budget process. While Ashley said he was doing his job to protect the campus, and student leaders agreed, regents said that he undermined the unity of the state higher education system.
If all goes according to plan, Simon Fraser University, in British Columbia, will be the first Canadian member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Last week, the Division II Membership Committee accepted its application, kicking off a two-year candidacy period during which the institution must compete at least one year under provisional status before being accepted as a full member. At the earliest, Simon Fraser could gain full membership by the fall of 2012. To receive NCAA membership, Canadian institutions must be accredited by an American regional accrediting agency. Earlier this year, Division II officials said Simon Fraser was one of a handful of Canadian institutions that either were going through the process or were considering it, solely to qualify for NCAA membership. Stephen M. Jordan, chair of the Division II Presidents Council and president of Metropolitan State College of Denver, also hinted earlier this year that the University of British Columbia might be the next Canadian institution to join Division II.
President Obama is getting ready to unveil his plan to help community colleges improve the job skills of Americans. Writing in The Washington Post Sunday, Obama stressed the importance of community colleges. "In an economy where jobs requiring at least an associate's degree are projected to grow twice as fast as jobs requiring no college experience, it's never been more essential to continue education and training after high school. That's why we've set a goal of leading the world in college degrees by 2020. Part of this goal will be met by helping Americans better afford a college education. But part of it will also be strengthening our network of community colleges," Obama wrote, saying he would be talking about this issue during the week ahead. "We believe it's time to reform our community colleges so that they provide Americans of all ages a chance to learn the skills and knowledge necessary to compete for the jobs of the future.... We can reallocate funding to help them modernize their facilities, increase the quality of online courses and ultimately meet the goal of graduating 5 million more Americans from community colleges by 2020." While Obama did not provide details, a draft of the plan from the end of last month was discussed in Inside Higher Ed, and featured billions for job training, low-interest facilities loans and smaller sums to create free online courses. The likely setting for Obama to release his plan is Macomb Community College, in Michigan, where Obama will appear on Tuesday.