AACU President to Step Down in 2016

Carol Geary Schneider, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, announced this week that she will step down next June. The association, which includes 1,300 member institutions across a broad range of higher education, is the primary group with a focus on liberal education. Geary Schneider has led the association since 1998. Among other projects, she shepherded the creation of the Liberal Education and America's Promise (LEAP) Challenge, an advocacy and research campaign. In a written statement to announce her departure, Geary Schneider said LEAP "represents our shared view of the best way to make liberal education both empowering for every student and renewing for our society at large."

Study: Sacked Alabama-Birmingham Football Program Made Money

A new study says that the University of Alabama at Birmingham's decision to cut its football program for financial reasons was "ill-advised," as the program was actually making money for the university, and that surpluses are expected to increase over the next few years. The study also criticized the university's elimination of the rifle and bowling teams, saying that the sports at least broke even.

"We find that the three sports in question did not cost the university anywhere near the $3.75 million indicated on UAB's accounting statements," wrote Dan Rascher and Andy Schwarz, authors of the study and partners at OSKR, an economic analysis firm. "Instead, after making the sort of adjustments suggested by the economics literature, we conclude that the three sports were effectively break-even to slightly positive. Football and bowling showed a modest positive return for 2013-14, the last year for which complete data was available. Rifle showed a deficit, but the three-sport balance was positive to the tune of $75,000."

OSKR was originally hired by the university to conduct the study, but their work was canceled over conflict of interest concerns. Rascher and Schwarz were consultants for the plaintiffs in Ed O'Bannon's lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which paved the way for colleges to offer full cost-of-attendance scholarships. The university had cited the expense of providing full cost of attendance as one of the reasons to shutter the program. The firm's study was completed through funds provided by boosters, CBS News reported. The university has since hired another firm to conduct a separate study of the decision.

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Divestment Protest Sit-In in Tufts President's Office

Tufts University students on Wednesday took over the office of President Anthony Monaco and said that they would stay until the university sells its holdings in fossil fuel companies, The Boston Globe reported. While the university has said it will talk with the students, it has not moved toward divestment. The university noted that it has taken a number of steps to make Tufts more environmentally sustainable. Students are posting photographs of themselves in the president's office.



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LSU Prepares Financial Exigency Plan

The Louisiana State University System is drafting a plan to declare financial exigency, The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported. Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican, has proposed massive cuts for higher education and the Legislature's various versions of his budget have added to the cuts, which now appear to total more than 80 percent of state funds for LSU. While various plans have circulated to restore some of the money, those plans haven't advanced, which has prompted the financial exigency plan. Under financial exigency, it is generally easier for a university to make deep cuts. And because such statements mean that the survival of an institution is in danger, the American Association of University Professors permits layoffs to include tenured professors.

F. King Alexander, president and chancellor of LSU, said that declaring financial exigency would send a terrible message about the state of the institution. “You'll never get any more faculty,” he said.

New presidents or provosts: Bowdoin BYU-Idaho Franklin Hawaii Liberty National Louis Shippensburg Touro-Nevada

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  • Raymond W. Alden III, vice president for international affairs at Northern Illinois University, has been named provost of Touro University Nevada's Henderson campus.

Promising Results for New Approach to Remedial Math

Since 2012, community colleges in Texas have experimented with an alternative approach to remedial math that the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin has developed. Rather than focusing on algebra, the New Mathways Project emphasizes practical math skills and basic quantitative literacy and statistics.

The program is showing promising returns, according to a new study from MDRC, a nonprofit education research group. As of last fall, 20 community colleges in the state offer at least one of the alternative courses. And 30 percent of students in the program completed both their remedial and college-level math courses in the first year, according to the study.

Boston U English Language Lecturers Vote for Union

Part-time lecturers at Boston University’s Center for English Language and Orientation Programs voted 23 to 2 to join a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union, they announced Wednesday. Some 750 other Boston University adjuncts voted to form a union affiliated with SEIU in February. The university did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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Iowa Bill Sparks Faculty Ire

A bill considered by the Education Committee of the Iowa State Senate riled faculty members this week, after it was shared on the American Association of University Professors’ Academe blog. The bill -- which Rudy Fichtenbaum, professor of economics at Wright State University and AAUP president, called “the most outrageous proposal I have heard from a legislator anywhere” -- would have required that any professor at a public institution teach at least one course per semester and be rated by student evaluations such that if “a professor fails to attain a minimum threshold of performance based on the student evaluations used to assess the professor’s teaching effectiveness, in accordance with the criteria and rating system adopted by the board, the institution shall terminate the professor’s employment regardless of tenure status or contract.”

Additionally, the bill said, “The names of the five professors who rank lowest on their institution’s evaluation for the semester, but who scored above the minimum threshold of performance, shall be published on the institution’s Internet site and the student body shall be offered an opportunity to vote on the question of whether any of the five professors will be retained as employees of the institution.” The professor with the fewest votes would have been subject to termination, regardless of tenure status.

After receiving a substantial number of emails from outraged faculty members, Inside Higher Ed determined that the bill had died in committee -- six weeks ago.

Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat who is chair of the Iowa State Senate Education Committee and a professor of economics at Iowa State University, said via email that the bill “demonstrates little understanding of higher education and even less caring.” Fortunately, he added, “cooler heads have prevailed.” 

Senator Mark Chelgren, a Republican who was the bill’s sponsor, did not immediately return a request for comment.


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Anti-Faculty Union Language Struck From Ohio Bill

Language that would have greatly restricted the right of faculty members at public institutions in Ohio to form unions has been removed from a 3,000-page budget bill before the state House Finance Committee. Faculty members and unions across the state panned the provision after its insertion last week, calling it a fly-by-night attack on collective bargaining. State Representative Tim Brown, a Republican who’d been lobbying against the language, told Bowling Green's Sentinel-Tribune that the language was “slipped in” and deserved “a fair and proper vetting outside the budget process.”

John McNay, chair of the history department at the University of Cincinnati’s Blue Ash campus and president of the Ohio conference of the American Association of University Professors, said via email that he and other faculty members are “very pleased that the House Finance Committee listened to our concerns.”

“We want the Ohio legislature to begin to look at the real problems that are increasing costs for our students,” such as escalating spending on noninstructional services and salaries, McNay said. “We are not the problem. We can be part of the solution if they will work with us.”

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State budget projections for higher education look bleak thanks to Medicaid costs

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Medicaid costs will lead to a bleak decade for state spending on higher education, a new study predicts.


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