Harvard University plans to announce this week that it is creating an endowed visiting professorship in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies, and that it believes that its chair will be the first of its kind in American higher education, The New York Times reported. (In 2003, the University of Maryland at College Park announced a planned bequest to endow such a chair, so Maryland may have bragging rights on the first announced plans.) The Harvard chair will be named for F.O. Matthiessen, a Harvard literary scholar whom -- as described by a draft press release quoted by the Times -- was "an unusual example of a gay man who lived his sexuality as an ‘open secret’ in the mid-twentieth century,” and who “leapt to his death from the window of a Boston hotel room” in 1950, despondent over the death of his partner.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The Division III Centennial Conference announced an agreement Monday to reduce expenses on athletics programs. Under the plan, new limits will be set on the size of travel squads for 14 sports, the start of competition will be moved back, and some championship tournaments will be shortened. In addition, the conference plans to work with others in Division III to cut expenses that officials believe may not be needed, such as microphones for football officials.
The Education Department on Monday announced the appointment of William J. Taggart as chief operating officer of the agency's federal student aid office. The aid office was the federal government's first "performance based organization," which gives it more flexibility than most units in the department, as well as accountability measures. Taggart has 24 years of business management experience, most recently as president and chief executive officer of Veritas One Consulting, based in North Carolina.
E. Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State University, has resigned as a board member of Massey Energy, a company that critics say engages in environmentally destructive practices to assist in coal mining. The announcement from Massey noted Gee's "responsibilities" leading Ohio State and thanked him for his service on the board on which he has served nearly nine years. Several environmental groups have been urging Gee to leave the board, saying that he is effectively endorsing the company's practices. Ohio Citizen Action organized several public campaigns to influence Gee, including having thousands of children write to Gee with messages expressing concern about mountain coal mining. Gee has not commented on his decision, but has said that he believed the company was acting legally and that he was helping to bring about positive change as a board member. The Columbus Dispatch reported that Gee owns about 28,000 shares of company stock and was paid $219,261 last year for his work on the board, to which he was re-elected last month.
Non-tenure track faculty members at Michigan State University have voted to unionize, 240-113. The new bargaining unit, affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, will cover both full-time and part-time professors who are off the tenure track.
Smith, Mount Holyoke and Hampshire Colleges plan to merge their public safety departments, The Republican reported. The move is expected to save money while also giving all three colleges the ability to have more security officers on site for major events, minimizing the need to pay overtime for such security coverage.
Layoffs and job eliminations continue to grow. Northland College, in Wisconsin, announced that 13 faculty and staff members were losing their positions. The faculty jobs eliminated involve five non-tenured professors, who will not have their contracts renewed after the coming academic year, The Daily Press reported. The University of Redlands announced layoffs of 29 non-teaching employees, and a pay freeze for all employees, The Press-Enterprise reported. Officials cited declines in endowment value and in gifts.
Tensions are growing between Australia and India over a series of attacks on Indian students studying in Australia, Reuters reported. The attacks have attracted major media attention in India. In one recent incident, four Indian students in Melbourne were attacked with screwdrivers by a gang. In a sign of the anger in India over the attacks, Amitabh Bachchan, a leading Bollywood actor, announced on his blog Saturday that he would be turning down an honorary doctorate recently offered by the Queensland University of Technology, saying that despite his respect for the university, he could not accept the honor in the context of the "most unfortunate and violent" attacks that have taken place.
Ronald Takaki, a long-time professor of ethnic studies at the University of California at Berkeley and a pioneer in the field, died last week at the age of 70. For years, Takaki fought multiple sclerosis. Takaki was best known for his work in Asian American history and was the author of numerous books, including Strangers From a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans. But Takaki's work extended beyond Asian Americans. At Berkeley, he led efforts to create the first ethnic studies doctoral program in the United States. In 1966, when he was teaching at the University of California at Los Angeles, he taught the University of California system's first course on black history.
A six-month investigation by The Columbus Dispatch has found that colleges and universities use "wildly different legal interpretations" of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act to deny access to information about athletics programs. The newspaper sent colleges with big-time athletics programs similar requests for information and found wide variation in what institutions provided, with FERPA commonly cited to avoid providing information commonly released by other institutions. Even within the same state, the newspaper found inconsistent interpretations. The newspaper also interviewed James Buckley, the one-time U.S. senator who wrote the law, and found that he was "stunned" at the way athletics programs are citing the measure to keep information secret.