Members of the University and College Union again voted Wednesday to boycott Israeli universities, but leaders of the union -- the largest for British academe -- said that the vote would be void due to legal questions about whether the organization can take such a stance, The Guardian reported. British faculty unions have been voting on and off for such boycotts for several years now, creating some conflict with American academic organizations that have opposed boycotts as violating academic freedom.
Higher Education Quick Takes
With Louisiana State University facing deep budget cuts, the Louisiana State University Press could face reductions so severe that they would endanger its ability to continue. University officials have said that they want to save the LSU Press, but that they face limited, undesirable choices unless the state comes up with more money. This week two major humanities organizations wrote to the state's governor, Bobby Jindal, urging him to make sure the press survives. Catherine Porter, president of the Modern Language Association, wrote that "we value the excellent publications issued by LSU Press. These include outstanding works of fiction and poetry by the likes of John Kennedy Toole and Claudia Emerson — both winners of the Pulitzer Prize. The press is also highly regarded for publishing scrupulous scholarship on Southern literature and history and on African American culture, among other fields." Arnita A. Jones, executive director of the American Historical Association, wrote that the press has "for almost 75 years" been "one of the most significant publishers in the fields of Southern history and its loss would be a severe blow to our understanding of the past."
The Justice Department's antitrust division is investigating the purchase by Blackboard of Angel Learning, one of its rivals in the course management industry. Such inquiries do not mean that the government plans to challenge the purchase, only that it is conducting an investigation. Blackboard revealed the inquiry in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, in which it indicated that it is cooperating with requests for information.
It would be "absurd" for the State of California to alter its Constitution to strip the University of California of its relative independence from state regulation, university officials said in a formal response to legislation introduced this week by several legislators. In criticizing the legislation introduced by State Sen. Leland Yee and colleagues, UC officials essentially argue that the state, given its many problems, is in no position to take over a university that, despite its own recent travails, remains "the pride of California and the envy of the world." Typical of the combative if not hostile tone of the missive, the university says: "California might have trouble marketing its bonds in the current fiscal crisis, but UC has a triple-A rating. The state budget may have fallen over a cliff, but UC has managed its resources prudently in a tough environment. It has been able to preserve its world class status -- a thrumming engine of educational opportunity, scientific advance and economic stimulus -- even as it has absorbed a steady onslaught of cuts dictated from Sacramento.... By contrast, consider what state control has meant for California's once world class, but now declining, K-12 public education effort. As Arne Duncan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, observed during a recent visit: 'Honestly, I think California has lost its way, and I think the long-term consequences of that are very troubling.' "
Having just brought the curtain down on a series of negotiations over possible changes to federal rules governing higher education, the U.S. Education Department is starting a new round of deliberations -- and this time, the Obama administration is putting its stamp on the process by exploring several accountability issues related to for-profit higher education. In a notice published in the Federal Register Tuesday, the department said its officials expected one rule making panel to examine possible rules to carry out changes Congress made to the Higher Education Act last summer related to the eligibility of foreign medical and nursing schools to participate in U.S. financial aid programs. But in addition to that set of issues, on which the department is required to regulate, said Daniel Madzelan, acting assistant secretary for postsecondary education, it will also explore a set of priorities that the "new team in town" -- the Obama administration -- is interested in pursuing. Several of those, Madzelan said, are "accountability measures to ensure that the institutions that are participating in our Title IV programs are complying with basic statutory requirements." Foremost among them is whether the federal government's current approach to regulating incentive compensation for college recruiters (which provides a series of "safe harbors" that protect colleges that meet them) is sufficiently rigorous; federal reviews of the compensation plans at several institutions since the safe harbor approach took effect early this decade, Madzelan said, have found that they comply with federal rules but led department officials to ask, "Is this really the kind of thing we want to have happen?" The department might also consider fleshing out regulations that require for-profit institutions to show that they are providing students with "gainful employment," Madzelan said. "We've never put any meat on those bones." Harris Miller, president of the Career College Association, said he could not tell if department officials seemed to be planning to toughen their scrutiny of his member colleges. "There have been no changes in the law" that would invite the department's examination, Miller said. "We know what the rules are, and our schools are supposed to be following them. We preach to our schools all the time the importance of following the regulations, and we look forward to participating in the department's process."
A fledgling group designed to represent the interests but also certify the work of international student recruiters took more formal shape Tuesday. The American International Recruitment Council announced at the annual conference of NAFSA: Association of International Educators that its members had adopted a set of standards for certifying reputable international recruiting agents and that it would pilot the process in the second half of this year, with the aim of starting it in early 2010. The new group hopes to bring credibility to an industry that uses a practice -- paying recruiters to help colleges enroll foreign students -- that troubles some college officials.
Several states are cutting back the payments they make to help residents pay back student loans they took out to enter high-demand fields such as teaching and nursing, The New York Times reported. The loan forgiveness programs are typically sponsored by state lending agencies and nonprofit organizations in the student loan industry whose ability to finance the programs is impaired by the industry's shrinking revenues, the newspaper reported.
As legislators in California took steps to toughen their regulation of one of the state's two major university systems, they are poised to strengthen their ability to regulate the other, according to newspapers in the state. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that leading lawmakers plan to introduce legislation today that would strip the University of California of its cherished immunity from regulation by the Legislature, saying they have had enough of controversies over salaries and perks paid to top administrators and what they describe as the resistance to public disclosure and accountability. UC leaders have been acting "absolutely above the law," State Sen. Leland Yee told the newspaper. The proposed amendment to the Constitution would, if passed by the Legislature, require approval of a majority of the state's voters. The California State University System is already subject to the Legislature's actions, and on Tuesday the state Senate -- as if as a signal to the University of California -- approved a bill that would bar Cal State trustees from raising top administrators' salaries or giving them bonuses in years when state funds for the institutions have been cut, the Associated Press reported.
Israel's Supreme Court on Monday ruled that the country's military could continue to use non-security related criteria to deny visas to Palestinians seeking to enroll at Israeli universities, but that students denied visas have the right to a court hearing, The Jerusalem Post reported. The decision not to reject the criteria angered Israeli university leaders, who said that non-security related criteria -- such as the kind of degree and whether there are alternatives to study in Israel -- violated their academic freedom as well as the education rights of Palestinians. Human rights groups also condemned the court for upholding the criteria. Although the court declined to reject the criteria, it did say that those who are denied visas are entitled to a court review.
William Ayers, the one-time Weather Underground leader who has become a leading education researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has again been barred from Canada. Over the years, Ayers has visited Canada many times, but was turned away in January when he was trying to go to the University of Toronto to give an invited talk. Now he has been rejected in his attempt to go to Ottawa for a talk that was to have been given Monday at the Canadian Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, The Ottawa Citizen reported.