Eastfield Collge, in Texas, will let students in its ceramics classes make crosses after all. The college has banned crosses, setting off charges of anti-Christian bias. The college said that the ban wasn't about religion, but about encouraging students to be creative in their work. But facing a threatened lawsuit, the college will allow crosses, The Dallas Morning News reported. Sexually or racially offensive ceramic work will still be banned.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The University of Montana may deal with state budget cuts by adopting a four-day week for classes and work schedules, The Missoulian reported. The idea is estimated to save $450,000, mostly on utility cost reductions, which also reflect the environmental gains from the approach. All class meetings would be Tuesday through Friday, with class times shifted to 90 minutes, and more classes at 8 a.m. The standard employee work day would be 10 hours. While some community colleges adopted similar schedules, primarily during the summer, and plenty of individuals operate this way, the idea would be unusual at a research university.
Oregon's normally tax-skeptical voters on Tuesday approved two tax increases that will limit further cuts to state support for education, The Oregonian reported. The measures raise taxes on wealthy individuals and on corporations. Because the current state budget was built on the assumption that the additional tax revenue would materialize, a defeat would have led to major new rounds of budget cuts.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pleased higher education leaders this month by proposing that the state's Constitution be amended to ensure that the state's two major public university systems receive no less than 10 percent of the state's operating funds each year, with the additional funds coming from cuts in spending on prisons. Now the plan is getting tough criticism from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office. A new report from the office says that the plan "would unwisely constrain the state’s ability to allocate funding where it is most needed each year." The office doesn't come out against the idea of more higher education spending but notes that "the state already has the ability to shift funding among programs without this constitutional amendment." The University of California issued a statement denouncing the legislative analysis as "a business-as-usual approach," adding that "the road to economic recovery and a brighter future for California runs straight through its great public universities, and Californians can't stand by and let them wither for lack of adequate support from the state they serve."
Pro-gun organizations have angered many educators in the last year with bills that would end bans on carrying concealed weapons on campus. Higher education leaders have generally replied that colleges have enough problems without gun-wielding students or, even worse, drunk, gun-wielding students. An Arizona lawmaker, however, has proposed legislation that would lift the ban on concealed weapons on public colleges and university faculty members -- but only for faculty members who have permits. The Arizona Republic reported that faculty members are monitoring and evaluating the legislation.
The financial scandal involving Alabama's community college system continues to grow. On Monday, authorities arrested Rick Rogers, the former president of Shelton State Community College, and Karen Van Luvender, the former dean of business services, The Tuscaloosa News reported. Each was charged with two counts of first-degree theft and two counts of first-degree theft by deception.
Two of the players on the men's basketball team at Polytechnic Institute of New York University are 25. So is the coach, Joshua Washington. A profile in New York magazine looks at what it's like to be the youngest head basketball coach in the country. "I grew a beard. I bought suits" and 50 new ties, he told the magazine."If I wear a polo with pants, I tuck it in like old people do. And, like, at a game against Purchase College, the ref called me Mister Washington instead of Coach Washington -- to make me sound older, I think. It takes a while with all the mister and coach stuff; it's weird hearing your friend's dad call you 'sir.' I'm sorta not allowed to be 25."
A leading figure in physics, Andrew Lange of the California Institute of Technology, killed himself last week, leaving many of his colleagues deeply saddened and confused. Last year, Lange won the prestigious Dan David Prize, worth $1 million, in astrophysics. While unrelated to Lange's death, concerns about suicide have been prominent at Caltech of late because of three student suicides in the last year. Following those deaths, the institute created a task force on mental health issues and has brought in extra counselors as needed. An outside consultant is also studying options for helping students who may face mental health difficulties. The campus counseling center was open over the weekend, following Lange's death.
Regents and senior administrators have come in for tough criticism at campus protests in the last year, with many students questioning their priorities. But some of the targets of that criticism are making it known that they will join forces with the protesters when they shift their attention to Sacramento at a planned rally March 4 designed to pressure state officials to provide more support for education at all levels. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that some university leaders are a little uncomfortable about joining forces with the students, but that most believe that the March 4 rally is important and is on issues on which students and administrators agree. Not everyone who has been protesting, however, is impressed. The blog Changing Universities called the regents' interest in joining the rally "a cynical publicity stunt."
What would Bill Gates fund? That's the question many in higher education want to know and his annual letter about his interests for his foundation offers some guidance. This year, one of his areas of interest is online learning. "So far technology has hardly changed formal education at all. But a lot of people, including me, think this is the next place where the Internet will surprise people in how it can improve things — especially in combination with face-to-face learning. With the escalating costs of education, an advance here would be very timely," he writes. He praises colleges and universities for putting lectures online, but argues that online learning also needs to include interactivity. He also expresses interest in identifying the best educational materials online and better organizing them.