Quick Takes: Costs of Remedial Ed, Colleges Assess Ike Damage, Harvard's Endowment Hits $36.9B, Mich. State Strips Mugabe of Degree, Oshkosh Is 'Fair Trade' Institution, Journal Lets Readers Vote, Hebrew U. Moves to Bar Professor-Student Sex

September 15, 2008
  • Colleges and taxpayers spend between $2.3 billion and $2.9 billion on remedial education, according to a report being released today. The Associated Press reported that the report, "Diploma to Nowhere," criticizes the American educational system for allowing so many high school students to graduate without being aware that they can't do college-level work. The report is being issued by Strong American Schools, part of the bipartisan Ed in '08 campaign to make education more of an issue in this year's elections.
  • Colleges in Galveston are beginning to assess damage from Hurricane Ike. The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston remained on "emergency status" on Sunday, with many facilities lacking full power. Texas A&M University at Galveston will remain closed today as officials begin to assess damage. For colleges in the Houston area, the news was largely better. Many campuses will remain closed today, as work crews clear debris and deal with water damage in some buildings, but there have not been reports of massive damage. Some colleges that have posted information include the University of Houston and Rice University.
  • While it's been a tough year for many on Wall Street, Harvard University's endowment grew by $2 billion this year. On Friday, the nation's wealthiest university announced that its endowment earned a return of 8.6 percent in the fiscal year that ended June 30, leaving the total at $36.9 billion. While last year's return was higher, 23.0 percent, Harvard will likely enjoy a better return this year than most other institutions. Generally, wealthier institutions -- by virtue of their ability to sustain risk and to have access to more investment opportunities -- earn much higher returns than do other institutions. To get a sense of how much Harvard's endowment dwarfs those of the rest of higher education, consider this fact: As of last year, only 76 colleges had an endowment worth at least $1 billion, and Harvard's endowment grew by $2 billion in a poor year for investors.
  • Michigan State University's board voted Friday to strip Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe, of the honorary degree he received in 1990, The Lansing State Journal reported. Mugabe was once widely admired, but has been increasingly criticized worldwide as a tyrant. As criticism has grown, students and others have pushed universities that once honored him with honorary degrees to rescind them. Wilbert Gwashavanhu, political counselor at Zimbabwe's embassy to the United States, told the Associated Press: "If they want to revoke that honorary degree, he probably doesn't even remember it.... He has worked for his country. He's a national hero."
  • The University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh has become the first college in the United States to be designated a "fair trade university" by pledging to meet certain standards for the farmers and other workers that produce goods and services used at the institution. About 70 European universities have the designation.
  • These days many journals can't afford much in the way of cover art. With support from the American Sociological Association, the journal Social Psychology Quarterly features photography on the cover -- and the publication is having an online vote on the image it should select for a March 2009 photo essay on "gendered fandom." The choices are both photographs of women who disparage the New York Yankees, but the images are otherwise different. Gary Alan Fine, a professor of sociology at Northwestern University and editor of the journal, said that this is the first time it has had a reader vote. Fine said that he hopes the process will help "invest" readers in the journal, and to make it "a journal for readers," adding that "I am attempting, as best I can, to reconceptualize scholarly publishing, slowly but with commitment."
  • Hebrew University of Jerusalem is moving to bar sexual relationships between professors and students they teach, Haaretz reported. The move follows the arrest of a professor charged with telling students they had to have sex with him to obtain stipends. Many other sexual harassment complaints surfaced after the arrest.
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