Ten days after a Florida grand jury indicted the president of Northwest Florida State College for misconduct and perjury, the college fired him Tuesday. The community college's Board of Trustees voted 4 to 3, with one abstention, to dismiss President James C. (Bob) Richburg, who has been caught up in a controversy involving state appropriations directed the college's way by a key legislator whom the college then hired. A college news release Tuesday said trustees were divided between those who believed "the board needed to move forward with new leadership and that their vote was not a reflection or judgment on Dr. Richburg's current legal issues, and others who wanted the board to "take more time to consider its options and alternatives such as suspension or asking for Richburg's resignation." The trustees selected Jill White, the college's senior vice president, to replace Richburg on an interim basis.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Researchers and medical faculty members should decline all gifts from medical companies and should refuse to publish or present material that is ghostwritten for such companies, says a report from the Institute of Medicine. The recommendations -- which arrive at a time of heightened scrutiny of such conflicts -- also suggest broader reporting requirements of researchers' ties to companies, without barring all such ties. Researchers should disclose ties not only to their employers but to other medical organizations, the institute urges. Relying too much on researchers telling only employers results in inconsistent requirements, the institute says, while leaving key players in the dark about possible conflicts.
Add Hunter College to the list of institutions (which now stands at 14), all led by women, that have received seven-figure anonymous gifts focused on financial aid. The Associated Press reported that Hunter received the $5 million gift in the fall, but only with recent publicity realized that it was part of a larger trend.
The U.S. Education Department announced Tuesday that it was sending about $1.3 billion to five states as some of the initial distributions from the State Stabilization Fund, which is designed to help governments backfill cuts they've made to their elementary, secondary and higher education systems. The states and the amounts they are to receive are Maine ($130 million), Minnesota ($547 million), Mississippi ($321 million), Oregon ($382 million) and Utah ($321 million).
The ailing national economy led Moody's Investors Service to downgrade 12 of the colleges and nonprofit groups whose debt it rated in the first quarter of 2009, and upgrade none, the ratings agency said in a report Monday. The report, which looked broadly at what Moody's calls "public finance," which includes municipalities and states as well as hospitals and other non-corporate entities, said that the general downward trend of its revisions of credit ratings "were attributable to the broad economic, rather than issuer-specific, conditions." In other words, the colleges and universities whose credit ratings Moody's downgraded suffered that fate more because of the larger financial picture than because their specific situations were so terrible.
The Commonfund Institute on Monday announced that it is currently projecting a 2.8 percent increase in the Higher Education Price Index -- an inflation rate for colleges and universities -- for fiscal 2009. The figure will continue to be refined. Commonfund also announced that it is revising the way it calculates the rate so that all data are aligned with a July-June academic fiscal year. Until now, different calendars have sometimes been used for some of the spending that goes into the rate, resulting in the rate at times appearing too high or too low.
Providence College has denied student groups permission to have Tom Tancredo, a former member of Congress who is an outspoken proponent of tough enforcement of immigration laws, speak on campus, The Providence Journal reported. A spokeswoman for the college noted that the request came late, and that one of the requests came from a group -- Youth for Western Civilization -- that is not recognized by the college. (The group has started to appear, with some controversy, at campuses this year.) The spokeswoman also said that Tancredo's views conflicted with those of the Roman Catholic Church, with which the college is affiliated. The spokeswoman said that if a request for Tancredo to speak were to come, in a timely way, in the future, the college would try to arrange for multiple perspectives on immigration to be heard at the same time. Tancredo is still headed to Rhode Island, but will speak off campus.
As of Monday, American higher education was not feeling a direct impact from the worries internationally about swine flu -- but colleges are preparing and trying to educate students about risks. Yale University sent this information to all students, urging them to seek medical attention if they experience any flu-like symptoms. LeMoyne College has stockpiled Tylenol and face masks, but has not experienced any outbreak, News 9 reported. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, more students than normal are seeking treatment for the flu, and officials attribute the increase to worries about swine flu, but no cases have turned up, the Associated Press reported. The American College Health Association has posted links to relevant information for college officials.
Part of the Bologna Process involves the standardization of three-year undergraduate degrees across Europe -- prompting debates in the United States about how three-year degrees should be viewed in graduate admissions. A new survey of U.S. graduate schools by the Institute of International Education finds that 53 percent of respondents have official graduate admissions policies regarding three-year, "Bologna-compliant" degrees, while 47 percent do not. Among those institutions that do have policies, 33 percent view them as equivalent to U.S. undergraduate degrees, 14 percent say they're not equivalent, 35 percent say the determination varies by department or field, and 18 percent say "other" (with most of those saying "other" explaining that faculty usually make the determination on a case-by-case basis).
Northern Illinois University last week gave a special alumni honor to the Sereno Family -- two brothers and four sisters who came from modest means, earned their undergraduate degrees at the institution, and went on to earn Ph.D.'s from top programs and to pursue academic careers. The siblings (in order of graduation) and their current academic homes and disciplines are: Martin (psychology, University College London), Paul (paleontology, University of Chicago), Joan (linguistics, University of Kansas), Margaret (psychology, University of Oregon), Anne (neurobiology, University of Texas Medical School at Houston and Rice University) and Sara (psychology, University of Glasgow). The Chicago Tribune ran a profile on the family.