The University of Winnipeg has put on hold for at least this academic year a plan to merge the departments of philosophy, classics and religious studies into a new humanities department, The Winnipeg Free Press reported. Many faculty members throughout Canada opposed the merger, and concerns remain about the state of the philosophy offerings. Winnipeg officials said they were holding off because of misconceptions about the plan. Students and faculty members angry over the merger plan have set up a Facebook group and an online petition.
Higher Education Quick Takes
What's a cause without a political action committee? With the college football bowl season at its apex, critics of the current method of crowning a nominal college football national champion -- the Bowl Championship Series -- have introduced what they call Playoff PAC, which they describe as a "federal political committee dedicated to establishing a competitive post-season championship for college football." The organization is sponsoring national television ads, aggregating other information and, ultimately, given its name, making political donations, with this stated goal: "Playoff PAC helps elect pro-reform political candidates, mobilizes public support, and provides a centralized source of pro-reform news, thought, and scholarship."
Two professors at the University of California at Irvine received envelopes Monday with the words "Black Death" written on them, and with an unidentified white powder in them, the Associated Press reported. Authorities are testing the white powder to determine what it is, and initial tests were negative for biohazards. The buildings where the two professors work -- one in sociology and the other in engineering -- were evacuated.
Cornell University, in the face of opposition from the Ivy League, has stopped including athletes in a financial aid enhancement announced a year ago. Under the program, selected groups of students who qualified for need-based aid and who were particularly desirable to the university -- including some athletes -- had the parental contributions in their aid packages reduced. "While we thought that including student-athletes with demonstrated need among those eligible for enhanced need-based aid awards meets Ivy League standards and practices, the league did not agree," said Simeon Moss, a spokesman for Cornell. The blog MetaEzra reported this week that the Ivy League was investigating the aid policy, apparently for concerns that it violated the Ivy ban on athletic scholarships. But Moss said that there was no investigation because the university has changed its aid rules. He added that Cornell was "committed to achieving competitive equity throughout the Ivy League." Some advocates for Cornell athletics have complained in recent years that because Harvard, Yale and Princeton Universities offer need-based aid to those from families at much higher incomes than can receive such aid at Cornell or other Ivies, those three institutions are effectively offering merit aid.
Following in the footsteps of its wealthy peers across the Atlantic, the University of Cambridge plans to raise £400 million (about $635 million) in its first-ever bond offering, the Times of London reported. University officials told the newspaper that they worried about the first major borrowing in its 800-year existence, but that a bond issue was the best way to raise needed money for two building projects.
Texas Tech University on Saturday released an affidavit from an athletic trainer saying that he was told by Mike Leach, recently fired as football coach, to lock Adam James, a player, in the dark after he suffered a concussion, The New York Times reported. The trainer said that Leach used graphic, profane language in telling him to lock James in a dark place and to make James "uncomfortable." While Leach did not respond to requests for comment on the affidavit, he previously told the Times that James was lazy.
The new year brings new limits on outside pay that senior officials at two teaching hospitals affiliated with Harvard University can accept, The New York Times reported. Senior officials of the hospitals will be required to limit pay to "a level befitting an academic role" and not more than $5,000 as day for serving as outside directors. The officials will also be banned from accepting stock. The limits follow a series of scandals over perceived conflicts of interest by biomedical researchers who have received federal support for work that relates to companies providing them with large sums of money.
Students at two Texas universities where bookstores have been part of an experiment to offer textbook rental options have generally had positive experiences with the option, The Dallas Morning News reported. Follett, which runs the bookstores, plans to expand the program from 7 colleges last semester to 22 colleges in the semester starting this month.
Kalamazoo College, founded in 1833 as a Baptist institution, long ago dropped its religious affiliation. But The Detroit News reported that one Baptist requirement remains and that state legislation is needed to change that. The college's charter requires that 15 percent of trustees be Baptists "in good standing." Because the charter was approved by the Michigan Legislature, Kalamazoo must -- even as a private college -- obtain legislative approval for the change, and is now starting the process to do so. A spokesman for the college said that it has, to date, tried to keep the 15 percent requirement, but that it may not have always succeeded.
The history department at Johns Hopkins University angered many of those applying for a faculty job in early modern European history last month by letting all 106 applicants for the coveted position know who had applied. An e-mail with an update on the status of the search didn't use the normal blind copy option, but included e-mail addresses for everyone. And this being a particularly good position, many of the applicants aren't publicly in a job search. Nothing Recedes Like Success, a history gossip blog, called the list "a Who's Who" of the field. A history jobs Wiki has several posts from those who received the e-mail. Among the comments: "Anyone who's 'secretly' on the market will be majorly P.O.'ed." "The first thing that struck me was that I knew a number of the emails: they're people I know personally! I'm googling the rest..." "I was sickened to see the list of e-mail addresses." William T. Rowe, history chair at Hopkins, said via e-mail that the department has sent an apology to everyone who applied for the job.