The University of Cambridge is considering changes in the procedures for dismissing professors, and the changes have some worried about a loss of academic freedom, The Guardian reported. Long-standing rules allow for dismissals of professors only for "conduct of an immoral, scandalous or disgraceful nature, incompatible with the duties of the office or employment." The proposed revisions would allow for dismissal for "gross misconduct," which would include "unreasonable refusal to carry out a reasonable instruction."
Higher Education Quick Takes
A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the University of Wyoming to let William Ayers speak on the campus today -- and to reverse a decision to bar him from appearing. The university originally cited political controversy over Ayers, a University of Illinois at Chicago education professor who is controversial because of his one-time role as a leader of the Weather Underground. During the court hearings on a suit challenging the university's decision, officials cited security concerns, but the judge said that did not justify the decision. The Casper Star-Tribune reported that Judge William Downes said: "This court is of age to remember the Weather Underground. When his group was bombing the Capitol in 1971, I was serving in the uniform of my country. Like many veterans, when I hear that name, I can scarcely swallow the bile of my contempt for it. But Mr. Ayers is a citizen of the United States who wishes to speak, and he need not offer any more justification than that."
Via e-mail, Ayers told Inside HIgher Ed he was not surprised by the ruling. "The university put forward a pitiful and transparently dishonest case. They must have known they had no chance, but now they claim they were motivated only by protecting public safety as they wink at their donors."
The university issued a statement that it would "fully comply with the court's order and will provide appropriate security."
A new nonprofit group -- Professors Without Borders -- announced itself Monday, with the goal of sending faculty members abroad to promote public health and sustainability, and to build infrastructure that will help developing and disadvantaged nations. The idea grew out of the Fulbright New Century Scholars Program. A first on-the-ground project will take place in August in Thailand, and work is also being explored in Haiti and other nations.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Association of American Universities have issued a new handbook with detailed legal resources to help colleges recruit and retain faculty members and students in science fields. The handbook notes legal challenges to some forms of affirmative action, but suggests that many practices that promote diversity are on solid legal ground.
Faculty members at Bates Technical College, in Washington State, have voted no confidence in the college's leaders, The Seattle Times reported. The vote followed the issuing of layoff notices to 45 faculty members. Faculty leaders say that the layoff notices are inappropriate at a time of surging enrollments. Lyle Quasim, the president, defended the layoff notices, saying that he didn't expect that many people to lose their jobs, but that union contracts required him to give the notices now to have the option of eliminating jobs later.
The Newfoundland and Labrador government announced Monday that the College of the North Atlantic had overpaid employees working at its branch in Qatar by about $5 million, CBC News reported. The government also announced that it was accepting the resignation of Jean Madill as president of the college.
Internet sites that obsess over college admissions were abuzz Monday with a rumor about a Facebook posting claiming to be about someone admitted to Harvard University whose admission had been revoked following some rude comments on his Facebook page. The rumor spread from one site to another to another, even many of those posting it noting things that gave them doubts about the veracity of the story. Inside Higher Ed called Harvard, where a spokesman assured us that the rumor is "not true."
Legal scholars and bloggers are increasingly debating whether law school is a worthwhile investment to make, the Chicago Tribune reported. Many are discussing the idea of a "bubble" similar to the one that devastated the subprime mortgage market. Here's how the article summarized the theory, as suggested by Christine Hurt, a University of Illinois law professor: "Double-digit tuition increases in the last 25 years have priced law schools out of reach for many. Yet the promise of a career at a big law firm with its six-figure paychecks kept boosting enrollment. Easy credit allowed more students to finance their law degrees. All of a sudden law firms lay off droves of attorneys and limit the number of new hires, leaving graduates out of work with more than $100,000 in loans to repay."
The U.S. Education Department on Friday announced the formal (if still tentative) resuscitation of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, which advises the education secretary on accreditation issues and grants federal recognition to accreditors. Congress killed the last iteration of the panel in the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act, but planned for its re-creation in different form, with appointees by both branches of Congress as well as the Education Department. The panel now has not met since 2008, but the department's announcement Friday said that the committee would meet in mid-September -- if the House of Representatives makes its appointments to the panel, to which Education Secretary Arne Duncan and the U.S. Senate have already made theirs.
San Francisco State University had issued a "clarification" of its handling of a December protest that essentially admits that the university broke a deal that an administrator made with students, but the university isn't honoring the deal, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The students made a deal with an assistant dean that they would face no more than $50 in fines if they accepted the idea of university sanctions. Subsequently, the university fined each student $744 -- and told them they would be forced to leave if they didn't pay. The students have been complaining about the apparent change of punishments, and on Friday the university issued a statement indicating that the assistant dean now remembered the promise he made about the $50 fines. The university still isn't reducing the fines to $50, but it is now allowing the students access to an appeals process.