Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, September 14, 2009 - 3:00am

Wesley College, in Delaware, has been punished by the National College Athletic Association’s Division III Committee on Infractions for major financial aid violations in its football program. An NCAA report released last week revealed that, during the 2006-7 academic year, Wesley “awarded financial aid packages to freshman football student-athletes that were clearly distinguishable from the aid packages awarded generally to all incoming freshman aid recipients at the institution.” In particular, incoming freshman football players were made aware of a financial aid appeals process that was not widely known among other freshmen. The policy, though not published, was considered a “word of mouth” phenomenon that football coaches made sure to note to their prospects. Only 43 percent of all incoming students in 2006 appealed their financial aid packages and received more aid, while 59 percent of incoming freshman football players appealed their packages and received more aid. Division III of the NCAA does not allow its member institution to award athletic scholarships. Still, the committee noted that “there was no evidence to suggest that the football coaches were deliberately attempting to circumvent NCAA rules.” Wesley has been placed on probation for two years and its athletic and financial aid staff must attend an NCAA rules seminar.

Monday, September 14, 2009 - 3:00am

Pyongyang University of Science and Technology will open this week as the first foreign-sponsored university in North Korea, AFP reported. The university is backed by a foundation in South Korea, which has spent more than $32 million on the project. Faculty members will be Koreans -- from North and South Korea, and ethnic Koreans who live elsewhere.

Friday, September 11, 2009 - 3:00am

A plan to increase charges at the University of California would result in students paying more than $10,000 annually by next fall in fees (which in every other state would be called tuition), an increase of 44 percent since the fall of 2008, the Los Angeles Times reported. The increases -- now under consideration by the Board of Regents -- are a response to deep cuts in state support.

Friday, September 11, 2009 - 3:00am

The American Council on Education announced a new round of grants to encourage colleges to offer flexibility to professors seeking to advance their careers while also handling family responsibilities. Among the winners: Bowdoin College, which will use the funds to continue its work to accommodate partners using half-time tenure-track positions, job sharing for academic couples, and a "research associate" title for partners seeking an institutional affiliation. Washington and Lee University will receive funds to provide more options for child care, offer technological alternatives to compensate for necessary time away from campus, and create a "culture of acceptance for flexible career trajectories." Information on all the awards may be found here.

Friday, September 11, 2009 - 3:00am

State and other policymakers should be wary of making decisions based upon college rankings, says a report issued Thursday by the Institute for Higher Education Policy. The report reviews the research about rankings, and notes that while many educators may look down on rankings, they have the potential to have significant impact on public policy.

Friday, September 11, 2009 - 3:00am

The U.S. government's top copyright official criticized the settlement between Google and copyright holders over the company's controversial Google Books project, saying the arrangement is "not a settlement at all" but an "end run around legislative process and prerogatives" that could "dramatically compromise the legal rights" of authors and publishers. "Allowing Google to continue to scan millions of books into the future, on a rolling schedule with no deadline, is tantamount to creating a private compulsory license through the judiciary," Marybeth Peters, register of copyrights in the U.S. Copyright Office, said in testimony before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Thursday. "This is not to say that a compulsory license or collective license for book digitization projects may or may not be an interesting idea. Rather, our point is that such decisions are the domain of Congress and must be weighed openly and deliberately, and with a clear sense of both the beneficiaries and the public objective." A federal judge is weighing arguments, including some from faculty and other academic groups, in deciding whether to approve the settlement announced in 2005. Thursday's hearing also included witnesses from Google, Amazon, the University of Chicago and the National Federation for the Blind; all of the testimony can be found here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009 - 3:00am

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.

Thursday, September 10, 2009 - 3:00am

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.”

Thursday, September 10, 2009 - 3:00am

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.

Thursday, September 10, 2009 - 3:00am

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.

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