Last December, NBC News producers approached officials at Goucher College, in Baltimore, asking serious questions about Leopold Munyakazi, a visiting French professor from Rwanda. The producers, accompanied by Rwandan prosecutors, claimed Munyakazi is wanted on charges that he was directly involved in the 1994 genocide in his home country and noted they were working together on a television “series about international war criminals who are living and working in the United States.” In response to the charges, Goucher suspended Munyakazi for the remainder of his time at the college -- without any evidence of wrongdoing. Many human rights officials and Munyakazi himself maintain his innocence, asserting that he is probably wanted because of controversial statements he has made about the 1994 conflict instead. The New York Observer reports that NBC is going ahead with the series on war criminals, entitled “The Wanted,” and it will debut July 20. An NBC press release notes the series will feature "an elite team with backgrounds in intelligence, unconventional warfare and investigative journalism" and that it will focus "on real operators, in search of real targets -- all in an effort to see individuals brought to justice." The press release makes no mention of Munyakazi in a list of suspects to be featured in the series. The Observer muses, “Presumably, NBC News is no longer working with Rwandan prosecutors to possibly arrest Mr. Munyakazi." An NBC spokeswoman did not return a request for comment about whether the series still had an interest in Munyakazi. Kristin Keener, Goucher spokeswoman, said NBC had not told the college if the series would run beyond the two episodes that have been publicly promoted, neither of which will supposedly investigate Munyakazi.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Two high-ranking nominees in the Obama administration have been confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Martha J. Kanter, under secretary of education, and Jane Oates, assistant secretary of labor for employment and training, gained the Senate's stamp of approval on June 19, giving them formal authority to dive into their duties. Oates, a longtime aide to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, was most recently New Jersey's commissioner of higher education; Kanter, who was chancellor of California's Foothill-De Anza Community College District, was sworn in Wednesday morning.
The leaders of some British universities found themselves sharing a little more information than expected when a journal published their views -- prior to the chance they had been promised to clear quotes and use of their names, The Times Higher reported. The journal Higher Education Quarterly has since removed the article from its Web site, but not before the Times Higher saved a copy. The newspaper quoted one vice chancellor as fearful of "the faintest hint of revolution." Further, this vice chancellor said: "We all know that education is a commodity that can be bought and sold, often at a very high price.... So universities are busy doing that - charging students a large amount of money to study in England because it is a popular destination. Branding and marketing take the front seat, and education is in the back."
Colleges in most states have, since a national change made in 2006, been granted the authority to spend endowment money from individual funds whose value has fallen below what it was when originally made. A new survey suggests that institutions have taken advantage of that additional flexibility. The study, by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, the National Association of College and University Business Officers, and the Commonfund Institute, finds that as of the end of 2008, 38 percent of survey participants' total endowment funds were "underwater," or now valued below the value of the original gift. While colleges previously were barred from spending an endowment fund to a level below the value of the original gift, the 2006 change -- the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act, which has been adopted in 38 states -- allows colleges to do so. Since the change, the survey found, 11.3 percent fewer colleges and universities have ceased discontinuing all distributions from "underwater" funds, and more are finding ways to use the money to support their institutions.
Colleges are making it more expensive for families to pay tuition bills with credit cards. USA Today reported that a growing number of colleges are adding fees to such payments, to offset the fees colleges must pay the credit card companies. Among the colleges that have adopted or are starting fees, the newspaper said: George Mason, Northwestern, and Wichita State Universities, and the Universities of Southern Maine and Virginia.
Lansing Community College appears to have set a new world record for the largest slab of fudge. The Lansing State Journal reported that the 5,500 pound slab created there beat the old record of 5,050 pounds. The Lansing fudge required 705 pounds of butter, 2,800 pounds of chocolate, and 305 gallons of sweetened, condensed milk. The fudge will now be sold, to benefit local charities, at $10 a pound.
The national economic downturn appears to be reversing the long-standing trend in which larger college endowments earn more than smaller endowments. Of course this year, the comparisons are about losses, not gains. The Wall Street Journal reported that in the fiscal year ending today, the five largest college and university endowments anticipate final losses in the 25-30 percent range. But examining data from Northern Trust Corp., which manages 90 endowments, the Journal found that the median loss for endowments for institutions with less than $100 million was only 16 percent.
A survey of private colleges has found that they are increasing tuition and fees by an average of 4.3 percent for 2009-10, the smallest increase in the survey since 1972-3, when the hike was similar. The survey results reflect 350 members of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. The College Board releases a more comprehensive analysis of changes in college costs in the fall. A NAICU spokesman said that the association's results are usually within two- or three-tenths of a percentage point of the College Board data. Last year, NAICU found a 5.7 percent increase and the College Board found a 5.9 percent increase for private colleges.
Wisconsin's budget bill, signed into law on Monday, gives collective bargaining rights to academic employees in the University of Wisconsin system, including tenured and tenure-track faculty members, part-time and full-time lecturers, adjuncts and others. The Wisconsin branch of the American Federation of Teachers lobbied for the law and is expected to now move ahead with organizing campaigns. Those drives would be campus-by-campus, and an AFT spokesman declined to say which institutions might be first. Also on Monday, the AFT announced that instructors and adjuncts at Western Michigan University voted, 207-29, to unionize with an AFT affiliate called the Professional Instructors Organization.
With the World Conference on Higher Education -- sponsored by the United National Scientific and Cultural Organization -- scheduled to open in Paris at the end of the week, regional pre-conferences are issuing recommendations for the body. Delegates from Arab nations on Friday issued a "Cairo Declaration" on their goals, with an emphasis on ways that higher education can promote peace and development. European delegations met this month as well and issued the "Bucharest Message" calling for an emphasis on access and equity. The U.S. delegation will be led by Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden and an adjunct at Northern Virginia Community College.