Robert Barchi, the new president of Rutgers University, already under fire for athletic scandals, is now receiving scrutiny for his corporate ties. The Record reported that he is paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to serve on the advisory boards of two private companies that do business with Rutgers. The Rutgers board approved the arrangement and Barchi said he does not involve himself in university decisions involving the two companies. But some ethics experts said that the arrangements still raised issues about conflicts of interest.
Students have ended a long-term occupation of the president's office at Cooper Union, reaching an agreement with the administration. The occupation was designed to protest the decision to start charging tuition at what for many years had been a free institution. Cooper Union officials have said that they have no financial alternative. A joint statement of the administration and the protesting students did not indicate that tuition would be abandoned. However it said that "a working group will be established promptly to undertake a good faith effort to seek an alternative to tuition that will sustain the institution’s long-term financial viability and strengthen its academic excellence." Further, the administration pledged to add student representation to the board, to create a community space for students and to grant amnesty for violating Cooper Union policies during the occupation. In the future, "occupiers and all present at this meeting commit to complying with, and cooperating with the enforcement of, all laws and Cooper Union policies," said the agreement that ended the occupation.
The Yuba Community College District, in California, has decided to leave the federal student loan program to eliminate a risk its students could lose access to Pell Grants, The Sacramento Bee reported. Only 275 of the district's 15,000 students borrowed last year, but the district's default rate, if repeated for three years, could subject Yuba to sanctions that might affect access to federal and state aid programs relied on by many students. Others, however, say that the college is over-reacting and that there is little risk of it losing aid eligibility.
A dominant theme at this year’s annual meeting of college business officers is finding creative sources of capital or revenue that institutions can use to invest -- often by outsourcing existing functions.
University of California regents appear to want to shake up the system with their choice of Janet Napolitano as the next system president, The Los Angeles Times reported. The university system -- unlike some others -- has not typically sought out non-academics for senior positions. Napolitano is currently secretary of homeland security and previously was governor of Arizona. Patrick Callan, president of the Higher Education Policy Institute, in San Jose, called Napolitano's hiring "a radical departure" for the university system, which he called "a very insular place in the way it looks for leadership."
Faculty groups sometimes question appointments of non-academics to presidencies. But Robert Powell, the faculty representative to the Board of Regents -- who had the opportunity to talk with Napolitano during the search process -- endorsed the selection. He noted that she supported public higher education in Arizona, has a strong record managing complex government organizations and is committed to transparency. Further, he said in a statement that she indicated strong support for the faculty. "She has deep respect for the faculty and she will listen to what we say," Powell said. "She knows that, as the core of what makes UC great, the faculty must have an environment in which they can thrive as scholars and teachers. And she is ready to engage the many challenges that face us all, such as meeting master plan obligations, promoting our research mission, diversifying our faculty and student body, and insisting on unparalleled academic excellence."
Not all faculty members agree, Christopher Newfield, professor of American culture at the University of California at Santa Barbara, outlined several objections, and rejected the idea that success in a political career necessarily made someone qualified to lead a university. "[A]lthough Ms. Napolitano appears to be a very senior manager with lots of political experience, she is unqualified to be a university president," Newfield wrote on his blog. "This would be obvious were the direction of appointment reversed: no mayor or city council would appoint a dean of Engineering as chief of the LAPD. None would justify such a choice by explaining, in the words of Regent Selection Chair Sherry Lansing, that the engineering dean will be a great police chief because she 'has earned trust at the highest, most critical levels of our country's [engineering profession].' "
Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, will become the next president of the University of California System, The Los Angeles Times reported. The choice is unexpected because Napolitano, formerly governor of Arizona, is not an academic. But the Times reported that board members believe her Cabinet experience will help the system dealing with the federal government on many research issues.
In her current position, she has spoken about the importance of science and technology in promoting national interests. She published a Views piece in Inside Higher Ed in 2011 on this theme, adapted from a lecture she gave at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee has signed legislation that could require Bryant University to reimburse the town of Smithfield for police and fire department service, The Providence Journal reported. The legislation requires that university and town officials try to negotiate an agreement. If they fail to reach a deal, the town can start charging the university on March 1. Bryant, like many private colleges, said it does not object to discussing ways to compensate the town, but that it is inappropriate for a state government to force a private, nonprofit college to pay its locality. The university, which urged Governor Chafee to veto the legislation, said it will negotiate with the town but may also consider litigation against the law.
Graham Spanier, the former president of Pennsylvania State University, filed papers Thursday indicating that he will sue Louis Freeh, former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, for defamation, The Centre Daily Times reported. The charges concern the report Freeh and his consulting group did for Penn State about the Jerry Sandusky scandal. The report was highly critical of Spanier and other top Penn State administrators. Freeh declined to comment on the Spanier suit.