Quick Takes: Obama and Clinton on Affirmative Action, Va. Tech Remembers, Faculty Duties Debated at Texas Tech, Indiana Governor Wants Free Community College, Guidance on Lobbying, Pros and Cons of Loan Bill, CUNY Union Faulted, Queen's U. Chief Quits
Submitted by Scott Jaschik on April 17, 2008 - 4:00am
Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton expressed support for affirmative action in higher education in their Pennsylvania primary debate Wednesday night, but with broader definitions of who should benefit. Obama reiterated his view that economic factors -- not just race and ethnicity -- should count. Obama said that "the basic principle that should guide discussions not just on affirmative action but how we are admitting young people to college generally is, how do we make sure that we're providing ladders of opportunity for people?" Asked about minority children like his own, who grow up in relatively advantaged circumstances, Obama said: "So if they look at my child and they say, you know, Malia and Sasha, they've had a pretty good deal, then that shouldn't be factored in. On the other hand, if there's a young white person who has been working hard, struggling, and has overcome great odds, that's something that should be taken into account. So I still believe in affirmative action as a means of overcoming both historic and potentially current discrimination, but I think that it can't be a quota system and it can't be something that is simply applied without looking at the whole person, whether that person is black or white or Hispanic, male or female." Clinton, asked if she supported such a view, said: "I think we've got to have affirmative action generally to try to give more opportunities to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds -- whoever they are." But she then shifted away from affirmative action to list of her education positions. "That's why I'm a strong supporter of early childhood education and universal pre-kindergarten," Clinton said. "That's why I'm against No Child Left Behind as it is currently operating.... That's why I'm in favor of much more college aid, not these outrageous predatory student loan rates that are charging people I've met, across Pennsylvania, 20, 25, 28 percent interest rates. Let's make college affordable again. See, I think we have to look at what we're trying to achieve here somewhat differently. We do have a real gap. We have a gap in achievement. We have a gap in income. But we don't have a potential gap."
Thousands gathered at Virginia Tech Wednesday to honor the memory of those killed a year earlier. Charles W. Steger, the university's president, said: "It is our hope that the remembrances of each victim will provide families, and a community that still grieves with them, a cherished glimpse of the loved ones who will remain forever in our hearts." Details on the day's events are available here.
Texas Tech University's leading professors are objecting to the institution's plans to increase enrollment dramatically -- and especially to the suggestion from university officials that this can be accomplished in part by having professors shift time from research to teaching, The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported. A letter from professors said that the best students are attracted by the high quality research being conducted. Texas Tech appears to want to attract students with "a bargain basement price," rather than quality, they said. Further, they suggested that the university is already "digging deeper into the barrel" to keep enrollment at current levels. The chancellor, Kent Hance, told the newspaper he strongly supported research and quality. He said that the professors who complained had been misinformed by "one or two faculty members who ... tried to stir people up."
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels on Wednesday proposed that all high school graduates in the state be guaranteed two free years of higher education at Ivy Tech Community College or an equivalent scholarship to attend another college or university in the state. (Current tuition at Ivy Tech is about $3,000 a year.) The governor did not detail how he would pay for the effort, but said that it would probably be available for students from families with incomes up to the state's median of about $54,000.
The American Council on Education has published guidance for colleges on new House and Senate rules on lobbying activities -- noting that many of the new rules are more restrictive than previous regulations, and that the rules in many instances do not treat public and private colleges in the same way. The rules cover such issues as paying for lunch with federal officials and their staffs, covering expenses for a member of Congress receiving an honorary degree, and providing tickets to athletic events. In most cases, there is not a simple yes or no answer on whether something is legal. Ada Meloy, general counsel for the ACE, said that it was particularly important for colleges to review regulations with faculty members who work with Congress on certain issues -- and who may find themselves covered by lobbying regulations without realizing it. She noted that well intentioned actions can sometimes be problematic, and that professors who move from public to private higher education may be surprised to find themselves facing new restrictions on how they interact with government officials.
With the U.S. House of Representatives expected to vote today on legislation designed to ensure the continued availability of loans for college students, higher education officials and the Bush administration offered their (conflicting) views of the House bill, a parallel measure in the Senate, and the extent to which the situation in the loan market calls for the aggressive actions called for in the measures. The Career College Association, which represents for-profit colleges that have seen significant numbers of their students lose access to loans, urged lawmakers to act right now, insisting that the credit crisis in the student loan market has already hit, and hit hard. "Our students are on the leading edge of the crisis, the canaries in the coal mine," Harris Miller, the group's president, said in a letter to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. "Without decisive action now, what lies ahead is a train wreck for all but the most affluent students." The group expressed significant frustration at others in higher education who have played down the crisis. The American Association of State Colleges and Universities, meanwhile, urged leading senators and representatives to slow down, arguing against certain provisions contained in the bill (like expanding current limits on the amount of federal loan funds students can borrow) and suggesting that other potential steps (like one to let the Education Department act as a “secondary market” to buy federal student loans) should take effect “only if the capital markets are slow to return to a state of normalcy.” The Bush administration, meanwhile, issued a “statement of administrative policy” that generally supported the bill, though it expressed concern that some provisions could harm career colleges. (Also Wednesday, the Education Department said in the Federal Register that it planned an emergency survey of colleges to find out whether their students were having trouble getting access to federal loans.)
A federal magistrate has ruled that the Professional Staff Congress, the faculty union of the City University of New York, violated the rights of some faculty members by making it too difficult for them to pay only partial dues and to calculate the required dues. The ruling concerns employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement who wish not to pay for anything the union does that is not strictly related to collective bargaining. The CUNY union was found to have made such employees restate their objections each year, which was found to be unfair to these employees. In addition, some of the union’s spending was found to be inappropriately included in categories that would be covered by the collective bargaining contract. A spokeswoman for the union said that it has already changed procedures to comply with the ruling.
Karen Hitchcock, the former president of the State University of New York at Albany, announced Wednesday that she would not seek a second term as president of Queen’s University, in Canada, and that she would leave office this month. Her announcement came days after The Globe and Mail reported that a committee reviewing her possible reappointment was divided — and that many students and professors believed Hitchcock had not been visible enough on campus.