Michigan State University has announced that it will phase out the burning of coal in its campus power plant by the end of 2016. Currently the plant burns natural gas, biomass and coal. But the university said that it was dropping coal because of its commitment to sustainability. Changing energy costs and new federal emission rules make the change financially viable as well, the university statement said.
The Lumina Foundation today released its sixth annual report on the national college completion push it has helped lead. The foundation said 40 percent of working-age Americans held a two- or four-year degree in 2013, a modest improvement from the previous year's rate of 39.4 percent. Lumina's goal is for 60 percent of adults to hold a credential by 2025. Large attainment gaps persist by race, found the report, which breaks the gaps down by city and state.
The American Enterprise Institute's Center on Higher Education Reform today released two new reports on competency-based education, which follow a report the center released in January. The first paper uses results from a survey of hiring managers at companies around the country to learn about employers' perceptions of the emerging form of higher education. The survey found that while employers' overall awareness of competency-based education is low, those that do know about it have a favorable view.
The center's second paper seeks to describe best practices for the assessments that competency-based programs use. The report argues that the credibility of this form of higher education hinges on the quality of those assessments.
M. D. Anderson Cancer Center violated professional norms as well as its own policies regarding academic freedom and tenure in failing to renew two long-term professors. That’s the upshot of a report out today from the American Association of University Professors on the nonrenewal of Kapil Mehta and Zhengxin Wang from 2012-13. Like all professors at M. D. Anderson, Mehta and Wang were employed on a seven-year “term tenure” contract, and were not renewed after having each been granted tenure in previous cycles. Both received unanimous faculty recommendations for their tenure renewals, but they were denied at the institutional level and never provided reasons why in writing, according to the report. Their appeals -- to the same office that denied them tenure in the first place -- were rejected.
The A.A.U.P. expressed significant concern about the idea of temporary tenure, which it called a contradiction in terms, last year in an article on the cases in Inside Higher Ed. In its full investigative report, A.A.U.P. says that University of Texas-affiliated cancer center -- like many other research institutions -- is facing decreased funding opportunities and so putting greater pressure on the faculty to do more with less. But M. D. Anderson is unusual and in violation of the principles of tenure in making its faculty reapply for tenure every seven years under the guise of accountability, the report says. It’s also unusual in that it didn’t follow its own procedures for transparency regarding the two tenure decisions. A.A.U.P.’s report also suggests procedural irregularities in the review of a third, pretenure professor who was demoted to a classified position. The investigating committee noted additional concerns about shared governance and the overall climate for academic freedom at M. D. Anderson, especially under President Ronald DePinho, who began in 2011.
Mehta is finishing out the end of his term at M. D. Anderson and pursuing other opportunities. He said the A.A.U.P. investigation so far hasn’t changed his situation but he hopes it will prevent other scholars from being treated similarly in the future. Wang found a faculty position at Clark Atlanta University.
Via email, an M. D. Anderson spokesman said the institution had "many serious issues" with the report, especially its focus on DePinho, who did not initiate the term tenure policy, which has been in effect for decades. The spokesman also questioned A.A.U.P.'s assertions that both professors hadn't been given reasons for their tenure denial, since the provost told Mehta in writing that he'd been denied because he was not expected to meet his funding target. In an official letter of response to A.A.U.P., M. D. Anderson said its current tenure renewal rate remains high, at 97.7 percent.
Peter Diamandopoulos, who was president of Adelphi University from 1985 to 1997, died last week, The New York Times reported. Diamandopoulos was forced from office after the New York State Board of Regents removed most of the university's trustees, finding that they did not exercise oversight as his salary increased to unreasonable levels and the university's finances fell apart. It was highly unusual for the state board to take such action with regard to a private college. Diamandopoulos was a friend and ally of John Silber, the late Boston University president, and talked of turning Adelphi into a more academically rigorous institution, but many faculty members and others questioned his vision and his record at carrying it out.
Brown University on Tuesday released the final report of its sexual assault task force, which recommends that the university adopt a new "unified policy" that defines gender-based harassment, sexual violence, relationship and interpersonal violence, and stalking as "prohibited conduct." Among the dozen other recommendations, the task force also urged the university to centralize all university processes dealing with sexual assault in a recently created Title IX office. The university hired its first Title IX officer last week. The task force's report comes after a much-criticized sexual assault investigation that involved a botched drug test and prompted more than 400 students to protest on campus.