Quick Takes: Double Dippers, Conservative Split at Texas A

November 24, 2008
  • The University of California plans to review the pay arrangements of hundreds of double dippers -- retirees who are collecting their pensions while also having been rehired into jobs, in some cases at salaries that are higher than they received before retiring, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The paper reviewed a university database and reported that it found "widespread violations" of guidelines that limit retired workers to no more than one year of post-retirement employment and generally only for part-time work. At least 440 people were identified as violating the one-year limit and 181 were found to be working full time.
  • John Fike has resigned as faculty adviser to the Young Conservatives chapter at Texas A&M University at College Station after student members put up posters attacking four professors at the university who had signed a petition defending William Ayers, the one-time Weather Underground leader who is now an education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, The Bryan/College Station Eagle reported. Fike said he was "ashamed beyond words" at the attack on colleagues. The posters suggest that the A&M professors who signed the petition back his Weather Underground views. The petition actually defends his work as an education professor and criticizes the way Republicans attacked him during the presidential campaign. Student leaders of the Young Conservatives responded to Fike's resignations by questioning whether he really is conservative, and one alleged that he had an Obama sign outside his house.
  • New England College is suing Drew University, saying that it stole faculty members and students from its poetry master's program, recreating it at the New Jersey institution, The Concord Monitor reported. Six faculty members have left New England for Drew and many students have followed. The legal issue is whether the former program director at New England planned the Drew program while still on New England's payroll. Drew officials declined to comment.
  • U.S. News & World Report on Friday announced a new, worldwide set of university rankings -- which is really a repackaging of the international rankings produced this year in the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings. In some cases, U.S. News is arranging the rankings in different ways, but Robert Morse, director of rankings at the magazine, said that all data and the methodology were straight from the Times Higher's rankings project, which is affiliated with the British publication about higher education. Asked if his magazine was just paying for reprint rights, Morse declined to discuss financial arrangements. But he said that it made sense for the magazine to look beyond the United States. "There is worldwide competition for the best faculty, best students and best research grants and researchers," he said. He also said that, in the future, U.S. News may be involved in the methodology. Lloyd Thacker, founder of the Education Conservancy and a leading critic of U.S. News rankings, said of the magazine's latest project: "The expansion of a business model that has profited at the expense of education is not surprising. This could challenge leaders to distinguish American higher education by providing better indicators of quality and by helping us think beyond ranking."
  • You don't have to be a Wall Street analyst to know that the volatility and general downward turn of the financial markets are going to have a painful impact on college and university endowments. But a report released Friday by the credit ratings agency Moody's lays out the potential short-term and longer-term effects of the investment losses -- and the picture, while this side of disastrous, is not pretty. The report, "Recent Steep Investment Losses Highlights Risks and Resilience of U.S. Higher Education and Not-for-Profit Ratings," anticipates that the average college endowment will have lost 5-7 percent for the fiscal year that ended June 30, and another 15-30 percent in the first four months of the 2009 fiscal year. The ratings agency projects that most colleges are unlikely to face significant downgrades in their longterm credit ratings because of their endowment losses (unless the downturn in the markets is protracted), but lays out a series of short-term and longer-term problems that could hurt institutions. Ultimately, Moody's says it expects most institutions to cut their expenditures and capital investments enough to withstand the reduced endowment spending that is likely to result.
  • The Bush administration has been placing some of its political appointees in permanent federal jobs involving science despite the apparent lack of scientific background of some of the officials, infuriating science leaders, The Washington Post reported. James McCarthy, a Harvard University oceanographer and president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, told the Post: "It's ludicrous to have people who do not have a scientific background, who are not trained and skilled in the ways of science, make decisions that involve resources, that involve facilities in the scientific infrastructure. You'd just like to think people have more respect for the institution of government than to leave wreckage behind with these appointments."
  • Authorities are investigating how seven members of a fraternity at New England College received burn marks seven inches long on their chests in an apparent incident of using animal branding techniques for hazing, The Concord Monitor reported. Students found to have inflicted the burns could be charged with felony assault.
  • Bob Jones University has issued a formal apology for its past racist policies, such as refusing to admit black students until 1971 and banning interracial dating until 2000. While the university's statement noted that segregation was "sadly was a common practice of both public and private universities" in the years up until the civil rights movement, it went on to say that the university "conformed to the culture rather than provide a clear Christian counterpoint to it." The university added: "In so doing, we failed to accurately represent the Lord and to fulfill the commandment to love others as ourselves. For these failures we are profoundly sorry. Though no known antagonism toward minorities or expressions of racism on a personal level have ever been tolerated on our campus, we allowed institutional policies to remain in place that were racially hurtful." Some alumni and students -- organized into a group called Please Reconcile -- have been encouraging the university to make such a statement.
  • Saturday's football game between Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was the last time that the state rivals played for the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk, a trophy awarded to the winner each year, the Associated Press reported. Citing the National Collegiate Athletic Association's ban on the use of American Indian symbols, the universities are retiring the trophy and will replace it with a new object next year.
  • Thirty-two Americans were named Rhodes Scholars on Saturday. One of the recipients -- Myron Rolle of Florida State University -- is the first prominent college football player so honored in nearly 25 years. While a few elite universities were for many years considered to have a virtual lock on the awards, a broader range of colleges have seen students win in recent years. This year's groups includes the first winners ever from Augsburg College and Santa Clara University, and the first winners from Virginia Military Institute and Drake University in 42 and 82 years, respectively. The scholars receive all expenses to cover two or three years of study at the University of Oxford.
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