The economic collapse of the last year has left many wondering why more economists didn't warn of the looming disaster. An article in The Huffington Post suggests that the problem is the increasingly close relationship between academic economists and the Federal Reserve, which is alleged to have made the professors reluctant to question what the Fed was saying. The article notes the many research contracts the Fed awards to professors and the dominance of the Fed on certain editorial boards. "One critical way the Fed exerts control on academic economists is through its relationships with the field's gatekeepers. For instance, at the Journal of Monetary Economics, a must-publish venue for rising economists, more than half of the editorial board members are currently on the Fed payroll -- and the rest have been in the past," the article says. The editor of the journal is quoted calling the idea of control "a silly one" and saying that it had published work critical of the Fed.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Seventy-three percent of the 204 colleges participating in a study by the American College Health Association of the spread of H1N1 are reporting new cases in the last week. Rates of H1N1 on campus were the highest in the Southeast and Midwest. Details on the tracking research may be found here.
Howard University announced Wednesday several responses to student protests last week, but student leaders said that the university wasn't going far enough to deal with their concerns about inadequate services, The Washington Post reported. The university agreed to expand the hours that the financial aid office is open and to start a recycling program. But -- citing the expenses involved -- Howard officials said that they would not provide wireless Internet access or 24-hour access to a library.
California is suing Gerald Buckberg, a medical professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, charging that he and other officers of a charity he created used it to support their own research and business activities, the Los Angeles Times reported. The state is seeking both to recover funds from the charity and to disband it. The suit charges violations of a state law barring the use of charity funds to benefit founders or directors of the charity. As an example of a violation, the suit says that the charity gave Buckberg money to create an education DVD, the rights to which are owned by the professor's company. The charity also donated funds to UCLA for an endowed chair for whcih Buckberg (unsuccessfully) applied. Buckberg did not respond to calls seeking comment.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has already been accused of meddling with the leadership at Texas A&M University, his alma mater. Now the governor has given an interview in which he suggests that the flagship Texas A&M campus will soon restore the bonfire tradition that ended 10 years ago, after the collapse of the pre-bonfire construction killed 12. The Texas Monthly reported that in an interview about the bonfire, Perry said: "It's really going to be interesting when bonfire is reintroduced on the campus again, and it will be. I will not be surprised if it happens by 2011, maybe even 2010. I think bonfire will be back on campus. The kids will have the experience again.” Perry apparently didn't check in with the university on this issue. The Houston Chronicle reported that R. Bowen Loftin, interim president at A&M, issued a statement saying that there were no plans to restore the event. “I don't hear the students rising up and demanding it," he said. "To have [the bonfire accident] happen to you one time is something that you can get past. If you did it again, and it happened again, you have no way to excuse yourself.”
British academics are debating the practice of awarding points toward students' grades just for showing up, The Times Higher reported. Some professors say that the practice encourages attendance, while critics see it as bribing students to do what should be expected of them.
Rutgers University faculty members have voted to agree to delays in salary increases, with the goal of assuring that the university can avoid layoffs and significant cuts that would have been necessary without the savings from not having to add salary funds, The Star-Ledger reported. The faculty union, affiliated with the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers, demanded certain concessions in the deal. Among them: No across-the-board increases in teaching loads.
Academe's own version of the inflation rate, the Higher Education Price Index, fell to 2.3 percent in 2009, down sharply from the 5 percent rate in 2008, the Commonfund Institute announced today. The price index is designed to be a more accurate reflection of colleges' and universities' costs than is the broad Consumer Price Index, because it uses products and services that are more typical of what postsecondary institutions purchase in a given year. The Commonfund Institute added two features to the index this year, aligning HEPI with the July to June fiscal year that most colleges use and for the first time providing regional figures, which ranged from 3.4 percent in the New England region to 2.0 percent in the East South Central and South Atlantic regions.
Pearson on Tuesday formally unveiled its new test of English skills for those seeking an education in the United States or at colleges elsewhere with instruction in English. The new test has been in the works for some time, with strong support from the Graduate Management Admission Council, which represents M.B.A. programs and has been dissatisfied with the Test of English as Foreign Language, which is run by the Educational Testing Service. Pearson said that hundreds of institutions worldwide are ready or getting ready to accept the new test, called the Pearson Test of English Academic. Sixty-two of the business schools in GMAC so far plan to allow applicants from non-English speaking nations to use the Pearson test. ETS was already facing growing competition from the International English Language Testing System, known by its acronym, IELTS and co-sponsored by the English testing entity of the University of Cambridge, and British and Australian organizations that encourage international education. A statement from ETS Tuesday said: "The addition of a new testing program reflects the growing and robust nature of the global English learning marketplace.... The key to any program's success depends on university acceptance. With 7,000 participating universities and colleges worldwide, TOEFL remains the leading choice of admissions officials due to its exceptional reliability and quality."
The Brookings Institution and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas announced Tuesday that they would collaborate to bring a branch of the Washington-based think tank to casino central to study the problems and issues of the West. The joint venture, the Brookings Mountain West Initiative, will be financed by private funds and modeled on the think tank's Metropolitan Policy Program.