Quick Takes: New Measure of What Students Learn, Ominous RFP, Noose and Blackface Incidents, Opposition to Community College Measure, Hiring Surge at Michigan, Accusations From the Past, Oxford's Leader to Leave

November 16, 2007
  • The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development is preparing a new way to compare what students in higher education learn all over the world. The Economist reported that the basis for the rankings would be actual surveys of what students know. The first rankings are not expected until 2010. Many experts who have been aware of OECD discussions on the topic have been skeptical of the organization's ability to develop meaningful worldwide comparisons.
  • A number of blogs have picked up on Eric Alterman's blog entry in which he suggests that a University of Maryland University College faculty meeting might just indicate that the U.S. is planning to invade Iran and Syria. Alterman wrote about a letter he received from a UMUC faculty member about a faculty meeting of all of the Europe-based professors who teach at UMUC. The professor reported to Alterman that the Pentagon had asked UMUC to bid on educational programs it might offer to soldiers in Syria or Iran (as part of a larger proposal for providing education throughout the Middle East). UMUC has for decades been a major player in distance education (even before the Internet variety) and is known for the programs it provides to soldiers all over the world. A spokesman for UMUC confirmed to Inside Higher Ed that the institution was responding to a request for proposals for education training in a number of countries, including Syria and Iran. The spokesman said that, in the past, UMUC has applied for similar contracts and that while the university does follow troops into war zones, the RFP doesn't necessarily mean an invasion of Iran or Syria is on the way. The spokesman noted that UMUC has provided education to groups as small as those who work in an American embassy. Of course, there is no U.S. embassy in Iran.
  • Incidents involving symbols that are racially charged continue on campuses, angering black and other minority students. The editor of the student newspaper at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College was fired after he taped a noose to the ceiling of the paper's offices -- something he says he did as a joke to encourage the reporters to finish their articles, The Star Tribune reported. Nooses have also appeared and caused controversy at California State University at Fullerton, Central Michigan University and North Carolina State University. At Hudson Valley Community College, officials investigated a possible noose that turned out to be a case of a student bored in class just playing with the cord of window blinds, and leaving the cord in a way that others viewed as a noose, The Albany Times-Union reported. Meanwhile students held rallies at the State University of New York at Geneseo and at Yale University to protest parties at which some students dressed in blackface.
  • The University of California Board of Regents voted Thursday to oppose Proposition 92, a measure going before voters that supporters say would assure sufficient funding for California's community colleges while minimizing tuition increases. The Board of Regents said the measure could hurt the university by cutting into the discretionary funds available to the state to appropriate to the university.
  • The University of Michigan on Thursday announced plans to spend $30 million to hire 100 tenure-track faculty members -- with a focus on encouraging interdisciplinary work by hiring clusters of faculty members who could collaborate on research projects that cross disciplinary lines.
  • A woman urged trustees of St. Louis Community College to fire Larry Stukenholtz as music director at the college's Meramec campus, saying that he had sexually abused her nine years ago when she was a student at a high school where he taught, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The woman presented a deposition from the head of the high school saying that an investigation had found that Stukenholtz has "inappropriate sexual relations with a former student" and that he would have been fired if he had not resigned. A college spokeswoman said that the institution was working to "collect all the facts" and that officials viewed the matter "seriously." Stukenholtz told the Post-Dispatch that he could not comment until the review is done but that "the college is backing me completely."
  • John Hood, the vice chancellor (or presidential equivalent) of the University of Oxford, announced Thursday that he would not seek to stay in office after his five-year term ends in September 2009. In a statement, Hood said that he believes that "five years is the right period." Hood was known at Oxford as someone pushing to modernize the university, but many of his proposed reforms were controversial. Professors last year voted down governance changes that would have taken some power from them and given it to an American-style board.
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