Charles M. Vest, who was president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1990 until 2004, died Thursday at the age of 72. Vest, who after he left MIT became president of the National Academy of Engineering, had been fighting pancreatic cancer. Vest was widely credited with a highly successful presidency, and with being an eloquent national advocate for science. While Vest led MIT, the institute launched a project (seen by many as the precursor of the massive open online course movement) in which all course materials were made available online and free. He also supported female professors at MIT who produced a report on the obstacles facing women at the institute, and Vest's endorsement led the institute to adopt many of their proposals. A full obituary from MIT may be found here.
The University of Colorado at Denver has placed Resa Cooper-Morning on leave from her job as cultural diversity coordinator in the ethnic studies department after a local news station reported that she was operating a phone sex business from her office. CBS4 broadcast information about her website promoting the business, and the university said it was taking the allegations "very seriously." Cooper-Morning declined to comment.
Yeshiva University this week announced plans for deep budget cuts, the continuation of cuts to faculty retirement accounts and the sale of some buildings owned by the university, The Jewish Daily Forward reported. Like many universities, Yeshiva lost a considerable share of its endowment after the economic downturn started in 2008. But Yeshiva also lost about $100 million due to investments with Bernard Madoff. And the university has been sued for millions by men who say that, as boys, they were abused at the university's high school -- and that officials ignored the problem. In October, Moody's Investors Service Moody's Investors Service downgraded the university's bond rating to Baa2 from Baa1, citing "the university's weak liquidity with a full draw on operating lines of credit, expected covenant breach on lines of credit, deep operating deficits driving negative cash flow, and uncertainty regarding the outcome of litigation."
The University of Texas Board of Regents -- after long hours behind closed doors Thursday to discuss the performance of Bill Powers as president of the flagship campus at Austin -- decided to keep him on, The Dallas Morning News reported. Powers is popular with students and faculty members, but he has clashed with board members who are close to Governor Rick Perry, a Republican. Francisco Cigarroa, chancellor of the UT system, said after the meeting that relations between Powers and the board have become "strained," but that Powers was working to improve them.
The Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education, a group of business and civic leaders who have backed Powers, issued this statement late Thursday: “Bill Powers is an outstanding higher education leader for Texas and for the country. That his job was ever in question is a sad indictment of the current state of affairs in Texas, in which the undue influence of the governor’s office trumps common sense and good governance. It is our hope that moving forward all of the Board of Regents will support President Powers and focus on strengthening the entire system for the benefit of all Texans, without some of the board members disrupting the flagship."
Meanwhile, the Board of Regents at Texas A&M University is facing its own controversy. The board is scheduled to vote Saturday on an interim president for the flagship campus. Chancellor John Sharp has reportedly nominated Mark Hussey, the system's vice chancellor and A&M's dean for the College of Agriculture and Life Science, for the position, and Hussey has faculty support, The Bryan-College Station Eagle reported. But Governor Perry is reportedly pressing regents (all of whom he has appointed) to instead pick Guy Diedrich, the system's vice chancellor for strategic initiatives, and a friend of Perry's.
The Graduate Student Organizing Committee at New York University late Wednesday announced that eligible graduate teaching assistants had voted overwhelmingly this week to form a union. GSOC, part of the United Auto Workers, reached a deal with NYU last month in which an election could go forward and the university would halt legal efforts to block an election, and would recognize the results of the vote. The move will make NYU the only private university with unionized teaching assistants. A pro-union outcome had been widely expected. The election was supervised by the American Arbitration Association.
NYU released a statement this morning saying: "We were glad to come to a joint agreement with the UAW on going forward with a prompt election and maintaining neutrality during the voting. We congratulate the graduate students and the UAW on the vote. The university will now enter what we expect to be productive negotiations with the union."
Activists are questioning proposed new rules on protests at Cooper Union and the City University of New York, The New York Times reported. In both cases, the institutions have in the past faced long-term protests. University officials say that the proposed rules allow for the orderly functioning of campuses, without diminishing the ability of students and others to express critical views. Critics say that the rules go too far.
The college commission of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools took several institutions off of probationary or warning status at its meeting this week, including the University of Virginia, Fisk and Florida A&M Universities, and Greensboro College. UVa had faced scrutiny from the accreditor because of an effort by a cadre of trustees in summer 2012 to dump President Teresa A. Sullivan. SACS' president, Belle Wheelan, said the university had presented evidence that it had changed its governance policies to ensure that a small minority of the board could not bring about change in leadership. "The board has right to fire president -- in fact, it has the responsibility to do so in some cases. But it is the board that has that right, not a minority of the board -- that was the issue with them," Wheelan said.
Fisk, which has faced significant financial problems that most visibly led it to sell its high-profile art collection, came off probation because the SACS commission was persuaded that its new president had raised sufficient money and had it "heading in the right direction," Wheelan said. Florida A&M, which has undergone enormous turmoil and turnover in the face of a fatal hazing scandal, was taken off probation even though most of its top officials are serving on an interim basis, Wheelan said. Greensboro has resolved many of its financial troubles, the agency determined.
SACS placed or continued another set of institutions on warning status at the meeting, including several because of financial issues (Newberry College, Allen University, Midcontinent University), Norfolk State University (financial and governance issues), Hampden-Sydney College (failure to have sufficient representation of full-time faculty), and Erskine College. (Note: This article has been updated from an earlier version.)
The University of Texas Board of Regents has scheduled a closed-door discussion Thursday of the employment status of Bill Powers as president of the flagship campus at Austin, The Texas Tribune reported. What the discussion means is unclear. Regents with close ties to Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, have been pushing for the ouster of Powers, but he has strong support among many students, alumni and faculty members.
Florida International University announced Monday night that university police "have arrested three individuals, including two current students," on charges that "range from dealing in stolen property to theft and burglary." The charges relate to an effort "to gain unauthorized access to exams and sell them to students." An investigation "has revealed that one class in the current semester is impacted with a limited number of students involved," the university said. Florida International's statement said that because the investigation is ongoing, few details can be released at this time. The statement said that "FIU will pursue all avenues to ensure that everyone who is involved is held accountable."
Since the NCAA prohibited "hostile and abusive" mascots in 2006, many colleges have moved away from Native American mascots and nicknames. Despite tensions at a few campuses, most institutions have adjusted and moved on.