Quick Takes: Senate Signs Off on Pell Increase, SMU Faculty List Concerns, Arm-Twisting Alleged in Texas, Settlement in 'Yard Ape' Suit, Surveillance at Fresno State, A Coach's Explosion

February 15, 2007
  • As expected, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday gave its approval to the much-delayed budget plan for fiscal 2007, following the proposals put forth by Democratic leaders last month to increase the maximum Pell Grant by $260, to $4,310 -- the first increase in five years. The budget plan also provides additional funds for science agencies and has been widely praised by higher education officials.
  • The Faculty Senate at Southern Methodist University on Wednesday passed a resolution outlining concerns about plans to locate President Bush's library and a related institute on the campus, The Dallas Morning News reported. Professors want the university to deal with these concerns in final negotiations over the library. Most of the worries focus on the institute, which will report to Bush's foundation, not the university, and will seek to advance the president's philosophy. Many professors believe it is inappropriate to have an ideologically driven center as part of the university. The SMU Faculty Senate also endorsed a letter by the history department, recently published in The SMU Daily Campus, the student¬† newspaper, criticizing President Bush's executive order setting new limits on access to presidential documents. Many historians believe that those limits could hinder the work of scholars for decades to come and that they violate the laws governing presidential records.
  • Texans for Public Justice is accusing Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, of arm-twisting to get support for his higher education plans, the Associated Press reported. Perry has proposed a major infusion of funds for public higher education, but has linked funding to certain performance measures, such as how well graduating seniors perform on certain standardized tests or licensure exams. While college leaders are generally pleased with the budget numbers, many faculty leaders and minority organizations criticize the testing plan as one that will reward the institutions that are wealthy and may discourage colleges from enrolling low-income students. Texans for Public Justice is speaking out against the governor's lobbying after learning of an e-mail from a Perry aide to college regents and presidents, urging them to endorse the governor's proposals. Craig McDonald, director of the watchdog group, said that the e-mail "reads like an order to get on the bandwagon and sends a message that educators should only tell legislators what the governor wants them to hear." An aide to the governor told the AP that most college leaders back the governor's plan already.
  • A former administrator at Greenville Technical College, in South Carolina, has settled a suit she brought against the college, saying that its officials had violated an agreement and defamed her by talking about her use of the phrase "yard apes" to describe the children of Katrina victims, The Greenville News reported. A joint statement from Renee Holcombe and the college said that she had performed good work in her career at the college, but that after the comment, she "could not effectively continue." The statement said that the college's inquiry found that "she did not intend the statement to be derogatory," but also said that her choice of words "was unfortunate."
  • California State University at Fresno's Academic Senate has approved a plan to put surveillance cameras in some laboratories, but not in classrooms, and to permit undercover police investigations on campus, the AP reported.
  • The head football coach at the University of Colorado at Boulder did not appreciate a parent's letter suggesting that too much time was being demanded of players on the team. In a verbal explosion captured by ESPN (we recommend the video clip from this link), Dan Hawkins expressed his disgust at the suggestion and said anyone who disagreed should be playing intramurals.
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