The scandal over admissions at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign -- in which the politically connected received preference, many times over the objections of admissions officials -- is following its provost to California. Linda Katehi, the provost, was recently named the next chancellor of the University of California at Davis, and now legislators want to know what role -- if any -- she played in admissions, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. Katehi declined to comment to a California reporter on the situation last week, leading to a demand from one lawmaker that she respond to "corruption charges." While the legislator was not aware of it at the time, Katehi had distributed a note to some at Davis indicating that she was not involved in the scandal. "I want to be clear to you and others at UC Davis that I was not involved in the admissions decisions," she wrote. "The so-called 'Category I' admissions process was not part of the regular admissions system and was handled at a higher level in the institution," she wrote, adding that she supported "transparent" admissions systems. State Sen. Leland Yee, who is pushing for more state oversight of the University of California, was not impressed with her answer, and told the newspaper: "It's interesting that she says, 'It's above my pay grade,' and that's that.... Is she going to continue this 'see no evil, hear no evil,' approach, and just cover up what may be going on?"
Higher Education Quick Takes
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to consider an appeal of a dispute over the circumstances in which bankruptcy plans that include student loans can include a lower level of repayment than would have been the case under normal circumstances. The court is considering the case of Francisco J. Espinosa, whose repayment plan was seen as too lax by United Student Aid Funds. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit sided with Espinosa, but other circuits have been more favorable to lenders in similar situations.
Monday was the deadline for colleges to sign up for the new Post-9/11 GI Bill's Yellow Ribbon Program, which allows colleges to enter into matching agreements with the federal government to cover any difference between the base GI Bill benefit and total tuition and fees. The Department of Veteran Affairs' final list is not yet posted, but a preliminary list is -- and so far the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities counts 361 private, nonprofit colleges as participating, and knows of 55 more -- including Harvard University -- that have announced plans to participate but don't yet show up in the official count. Scores of for-profit colleges have also signed agreements; the VA expects the final list of participating colleges to be published by Monday, June 22.
Canada's Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council issued a statement Monday indicating that it has accepted assurances from York University that an upcoming controversial conference that received a grant from the agency is largely unchanged from when the council awarded the funds. The council "accepted their assurance that planning for the conference is proceeding in a manner consistent with provisions of the Grant Holder’s Guide for the program," said the statement -- but that is not ending the controversy. Faculty leaders in Canada say that the additional questioning about the conference shouldn't have taken place at all. The conference is called “Israel/ Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace,” and many of the papers to be given at the conference promote the idea of the "one-state solution" in which Israel and Palestinian areas would be combined into a single, secular state – an idea many in Israel view as equivalent to giving up their right to exist as a nation. Many of the papers also compare the current situation in Israel with that of apartheid-era South Africa. The additional inquiry by the social science council came after Gary Goodyear, minister of state for science and technology, asked for reconsideration of the grant for the conference -- and faculty groups see that request and the council's additional questioning as an inappropriate case of political meddling. The Canadian Association of University Teachers issued a letter to the council Friday saying it was "deeply troubled" that the council complied with the minister's request for an additional review. The letter, to the president of the council, said: "At the very least, you owe an apology to the conference organizers for your failure to protect the integrity of the granting process of SSHRC. You need publicly to assure the Canadian academic community that your bowing to political pressure will not happen again. If you cannot or will not do this, we question your fitness to continue in your present position."
Babies who are breastfed are more likely to enroll in college later, a new study has found. The research -- discussed in an article by Reuters -- was based on 126 children from 59 families -- and compared siblings who were breastfed as infants to siblings who were fed from bottles. The study found that breastfed infants earned better grades in high school and then went on to college at higher rates. By focusing on siblings, the researchers hoped to isolate the role of breastfeeding, assuming that the siblings were raised in similar socioeconomic circumstances. The lead researchers were Joseph Sabia of American University and Daniel Rees of the University of Colorado at Denver and their findings are published in the Journal of Human Capital,
The rates at which college students engage in binge drinking and drunk driving and die in alcohol-related incidents are all on the rise, according to data being released today in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported that drinking-related accidental deaths among 18- to 24-year-old students have been edging up -- from 1,440 in 1998 to 1,825 in 2005. Further, they found that the proportion of students who reported recent binge drinking increased from 42 percent to 45 percent, and that the proportion who admitted to drinking and driving in the past year increased from 26.5 percent to 29 percent.
Several student groups have issued a statement to jointly back the open access movement in which scholarly research is shared online and free. Some journals and researchers are moving to this model on their own, and others have been forced to do so by federal requirements. Some in Congress, with backing from publishers, are trying to end those requirements. The student statement argues for open access as the best way to share knowledge. "Scholarly knowledge is part of the common wealth of humanity," says the statement. "Unfortunately, not everyone has access to the scholarly literature, despite advances in communications technology. The high cost of academic journals restricts access to knowledge; in some fields, prices can reach $20,000 for a single journal subscription or $30 for an individual article. Despite these high prices, authors of scholarly articles are not paid for their work. The profits from these publications go solely to the publishers of the journals. A vast amount of research is funded from public sources – yet taxpayers are locked out by the cost of access." The statement was endorsed by the American Medical Student Association, Student PIRGs, Students for Free Culture, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, the California Institute of Technology Graduate Student Council and the Trinity University Association of Student Representatives.
The Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges on Thursday declared a state of financial emergency, citing cuts in state funding. The move makes it easier for the community colleges in the state to terminate tenure-track or tenured faculty members. A spokeswoman for the state board noted that no college has indicated that it will use that authority at this time. The Washington State branch of the American Federation of Teachers issued a statement denouncing the board's action as one that is not needed. Sandra Schroeder, AFT Washington president, said in the statement: “The financial emergency declaration is an unnecessary blunt object that will allow college presidents an easy way to resolve their bad management decisions on the backs of faculty and will impact the students’ success in achieving their degrees.”
John T. Casteen III announced Friday that he will retire next year from the presidency of the University of Virginia, having then served 20 years in the position -- an unusually long period for presidents of public flagships these days. Under Casteen, Virginia has pushed to diversify its student body and new financial aid programs have specifically led to increased enrollment of low-income students. Casteen -- frequently noting the mixed record of Virginia lawmakers in providing adequate financial support for higher education -- has also been a highly successful fund raiser, and is currently leading a $3 billion campaign.
The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas is receiving a $100 million gift from former Texas Gov. Bill Clements, The Dallas Morning News reported. Not only is the gift a large one for this period of economic uncertainty, but there are no restrictions on the use of the gift -- and gifts of that size rarely come without any stipulations.