Mitch Daniels Signs Letter on 'Innovation Deficit' After All

A July letter to President Obama and Congress calling for steps to close the "innovation deficit" now includes a new signatory: Purdue University President Mitch Daniels. The letter was signed by scores of university presidents, and its emphasis on federal funding for research and technology made joining the push an easy call for most higher ed leaders. But faculty members at Purdue -- an institution whose academic strengths in the sciences mean its professors depend on federal support -- noted that Daniels didn't sign. In his pre-Purdue political career, Daniels was known as a budget hawk and he has repeatedly raised concerns about the size of the federal deficit. He explained that he didn't sign the letter because of "its complete omission of any recognition of the severe fiscal condition in which the nation finds itself."

Now, however, he has signed. He explained in a statement that he only recently learned that the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities -- the two groups that coordinated the July letter -- last year released a statement noting their broad concerns about the federal budget deficits. Said Daniels: "I regret that I was unaware of last year’s excellent letter. If it had been attached, restated or incorporated by reference, I would gladly have signed the more recent letter. Now that I have confirmed with the APLU president that last year’s stance remains in effect, I am in full support of the AAU and APLU efforts."

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Cal Lutheran Plans to Merge With Seminary

The board of California Lutheran University has approved a plan for the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary to become part of the university. The seminary, which would maintain its campus in Berkeley, has been free-standing. Both institutions are affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The plan still needs to be approved by the accreditor of the institutions, the Western Association of Colleges and Schools.

Court Reduces Damages Against Central Florida

A Florida appeals court has reduced -- from $10 million to $200,000 -- the amount the University of Central Florida must pay to the family of a football player who died after drills in 2008, the Associated Press reported. The ruling concerned the extent to which the university has immunity from various types of lawsuits. The appeals court also denied a request by the university's athletics division for a new trial.

U. of Sioux Falls Seeks Naming Rights Sponsor, Not More

The University of Sioux Falls on Monday denied that it is looking for a corporate sponsor to brand everything from its sports complex to its letterhead, saying the surprising news was a result of vague language taken out of context.

President Mark Benedetto said he was contacted by a reporter for the Sioux Falls Business Journal who asked to interview him about the ongoing development of the university’s sports complex. Since the university had recently severed ties with Sanford Health, which previously owned the naming rights, Benedetto said he saw an opportunity to plug the university’s hunt for a new sponsor. He was therefore surprised when an article in the weekly's parent publication, The Argus Leader, titled “USF's search for corporate partner is a delicate quest,” suggested the university “would integrate its business partner into many facets of the organization.”

On Monday, Benedetto acknowledged that the language he used in the interview is partly to blame for the mixup. “It was my mistake to use the term ‘corporate sponsor,’ ” he said. In conversations with potential investors, Benedetto said he uses the term because he feels it is more sellable than “naming rights sponsor.”

When the university does find an appropriate sponsor to put its name on the sports complex, Benedetto said its logo could appear only on fliers and tickets for athletic events. “It never was my intention to put a corporate logo on a business card,” he said.

The previous naming rights contract, signed when the sports complex was “basically a cornfield,” fetched the university $3.2 million eight years ago, Benedetto said. He estimated the university has invested more than $20 million into the complex since, and said he hoped the new contract would attract a multimillion-dollar deal. As part of the negotiations, Benedetto said the Baptist-affiliated university would seek a sponsor that fits its mission. He added that the the university has already turned down sponsors deemed inappropriate.

The liberal arts university, which enrolls about 1,500 students, is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. Students are not required to sign a statement of faith, but campus pastor Dennis Thum said the university always places its faith first when considering how the institution should be governed.

“As a Christian college, we identify that as the most important part of our identity,” Thum said. “We do not want to compromise our Christian integrity.” 

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Westfield State President Faces Scrutiny on Spending

Evan Dobelle, who left the University of Hawaii's presidency amid criticism of his spending decisions, is facing questions about his expenses as president of Westfield State University, The Boston Globe reported. Westfield State's foundation closed his credit card account -- intended for modest expenses to help him raise money -- after he charged $8,000 for a four-night stay at the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok and $883 in clothing at the men's clothing store Louis Boston. Other expenses receiving scrutiny were charged to the credit card of Dobelle's assistant. During 68 months as president, the Globe reported, Dobelle has traveled out of state 76 times. Sometimes, those trips combined university business and pleasure. For instance, he flew to San Francisco for the university and then went to Bohemian Grove, the male-only retreat that is popular among moguls.

Dobelle has acknowledged some mistakes in spending, but he has argued that many of the charges were designed to raise the profile of Westfield State and to attract either donors, or attention, or international students. He said, for example, that he would not have impressed Thai educators by staying someplace more modest than the Mandarin Oriental. He noted many projects that are booming at Westfield State, which he said is now "the hottest college in New England."


Why Purdue President Didn't Sign 'Innovation Deficit' Letter

The presidents of 165 universities in July issued a joint letter calling on President Obama and Congress to adopt policies to promote research and to deal with an "innovation deficit" created by inadequate support for investments in science and technology. The letter -- organized by the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities -- was part of an effort by those organizations and many universities to encourage more support for federal research and technology programs. Some faculty members at Purdue University, which is strong in science and technology and where many programs rely on federal support, noticed that their president didn't sign the letter, The Journal and Courier reported. Mitch Daniels, the president, released a statement to the newspaper explaining why he didn't sign: "I have been and will continue to be an advocate of major federal investments in research, particularly basic research," Daniels said. "I will say nothing negative about this letter, but, like many other presidents, I abstained from signing it, in my case, because of its complete omission of any recognition of the severe fiscal condition in which the nation finds itself."

Moody's Offers Downbeat Analysis of Public Colleges

Public colleges and universities saw their revenue growth fall by more than half and their median expenses grow at almost double the rate of inflation in 2012, Moody's Investors Service said in a report Wednesday. The analysis, which examined median financial data, showed that revenues for public institutions grew by 1.7 percent, down from 4.8 percent in 2011, and that expenses grew at 3.3 percent, a combination that the ratings agency called "unsustainable." "Future expense reductions will likely need to be more significant and include re-evaluation of existing business models to maintain long-term financial health," a Moody's analyst said in the report.

A second report from the service, about median financial data for private colleges and universities, found a slightly more positive picture, as operating margins remained in the 4-5 percent range. "Governing boards and management teams continue to exhibit fiscal stewardship of private colleges and universities by holding median operating margins relatively constant over the last five years even as revenue declined," a Moody's official said.

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$55 Million Gift for Chapman U. Law School

Chapman University on Wednesday announced a $55 million gift for its law school. The gift is believed to be the second largest ever for a law school.


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Obama Plans Bus Tour to Talk About College Pricing

President Obama is planning a New York State bus tour next week to Binghamton, Buffalo and Syracuse (plus a trip to northern Pennsylvania) to talk about college tuitions and costs, the Associated Press reported. The president has promised to offer ideas about how to make college more affordable.



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