Quick Takes: UC Plans to Bolster Aid, Free Speech and Ohio Trustees, Layoffs at Oxford Press, Teaching Integrity to Grad Students, Joint Degrees (Internationally), Idaho Reversal on Gender-Neutral Housing, Canadian Protest Over Ayers, Vanderbilt Honored

January 23, 2009
  • Many of its peers among elite public and private universities have already adopted financial aid plans that ensure a minimum level of aid for students from families beneath a certain income level. But given its size and the large numbers of low-income students it enrolls, compared to many other highly selective institutions, the prospect of the University of California ensuring enough scholarship and grant assistance to fully cover the systemwide price of students from families with incomes below the California median of $60,000 is still a big deal. The university's president, Mark G. Yudof, announced Thursday that he would take such a proposal to the UC Board of Regents at its meeting next month. "Despite having a robust financial aid program and enrolling more low-income students than any other top research university, UC must be able to counter effectively the perception that our costs, especially our fee charges, make us financially inaccessible to students of modest means," Yudof said. "The proposal's goal is to make sure lower-income families no longer need to worry about how they will cover UC's basic student fees." Also on Thursday, one of the system's most selective campuses, UCLA, announced that it would seek to raise $500 million for financial support for students. The plan is designed to raise $300 million for fellowships and $200 million for scholarships.
  • Amid criticism from local and national quarters -- criticism that Ohio University officials said was premature -- a committee of the institution's Board of Trustees on Thursday substantially revised a draft "statement of expectations" for the board's own members that had been viewed as potentially gagging dissent and shielding university officials from scrutiny. The draft policy, which the board was reportedly supposed to take up at Thursday's meeting, called for individual trustees to direct "concerns about university operations" to the university's president and said board members should "publicly support" decisions once consensus on an issue is reached. The policy came under attack from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (which said the guidelines would render the trustees "nothing more than potted plants") and from The Post, Ohio's student newspaper, whose editorial said: "The board wants to put on a public mask that hides the sometimes-ugly realities of running a university. It expects students and taxpayers to believe that this board and the administrators it hires are the arbiters of good decisions, and it refuses to answer to those who question that authority." At Thursday's meeting, the policy's drafters insisted that they had never intended to interfere with members' right to speak their minds, and the board's governance committee went "virtually word by word" through the policy, said Sallly Linder, a university spokeswoman. "Everybody agreed to change any language in it that seemed an attempt in any way to result in the quashing of free speech," Linder said, noting that the board would consider the revised policy, when it is redrafted, at its April meeting.
  • About 60 people are losing jobs in the American division of the Oxford University Press, Publishers Weekly reported. Press officials said that they were cutting costs, but trying to avoid any major scaling back of publishing operations.
  • The Council of Graduate Schools, with support from the U.S. Office of Research Integrity, has started a program -- the Project for Scholarly Integrity -- to teach graduate students about issues related to academic integrity. Selected graduate schools will receive grants to start programs to deal with such topics as conflicts of interest, plagiarism, human subjects and laboratory management.
  • A new report, "Joint and Double Degree Programs in the Transatlantic Context," finds that European institutions are about twice as likely as U.S. institutions to offer at least one joint degree, and the main motivations for offering them are to help internationalize a campus and raise international visibility and prestige. Joint or dual degree programs are most popular in business and engineering. The report, conducted by the Institute of International Education and Freie Universität Berlin, is based on a survey of 180 universities in the United States and the European Union.
  • Steven Daley-Laursen, interim president of the University of Idaho, has halted plans by the residential life staff to allow mixed-gender suites in university housing, The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reported. In a statement, he said he wasn't comfortable with students of different genders sharing the same bathroom, as they would have under the plan.
  • The Canadian Association of University Teachers is protesting the government's refusal to admit William Ayers to the country to speak at an academic conference. Ayers, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, became a flash point in last year's presidential election when Republicans attempted to link Barack Obama to the former Weather Underground leader. "It is wrong for the Government of Canada to decide which scholars universities can invite to their campuses. Too often, in recent years, this has been practice of the Bush administration in the United States – a practice we and our American counterpart – the American Association of University Professors – have denounced. It is with shame that we now find our government is behaving in the same manner," said a letter from the Canadian faculty group to Stephen Harper, the prime minster.
  • Fortune has named Vanderbilt University the 98th best company to have as an employer -- an honor that the university notes makes Vanderbilt the first university to crack the top 100 list.
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