Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, June 10, 2010 - 3:00am

LAS VEGAS -- First it was the National Association of Trade and Technical Schools. Then the Career College Association. Now, amid increasing debate about how to better reflect what its members herald as their embrace of innovation and independence from government, the primary lobbying group for for-profit higher education has a new name: the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities. The group, which will be known as APSCU (not to be confused with APLU, the acronym for the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, the new name for the major association of public research universities), announced the change after a vote of its board at the start of its annual meeting, which began here Wednesday.

Thursday, June 10, 2010 - 3:00am

Marquette University announced Wednesday that it has reached a "mutually acceptable resolution” with Jodi O’Brien, a scholar who was offered the job of dean of arts and sciences, only to have the offer rescinded -- a move that has angered many faculty members. O'Brien is a lesbian and some of her writing is about lesbian sexuality -- facts about which she was frank during the interview process. Marquette declined to reveal details of the settlement. But a statement from the Rev. Robert A. Wild, the president, said: “We deeply regret the upset and unwanted attention that we caused this outstanding teacher and scholar, and we are grateful for the graciousness with which she has handled this matter in the weeks since the decision was announced.” Father Wild said his decision to rescind the contract reflected his judgment for the university on issues arising from aspects of O’Brien’s writings as they pertained to the university’s mission and identity. “To be sure, the university recognizes that, as is true of many judgment calls, different individuals and institutions could reasonably reach a different conclusion, even in the context of leadership positions,” he added.

O'Brien issued her own statement Wednesday night: "Throughout the recent settlement talks my intent has been to be responsive and respectful to the members of the Marquette community and the Milwaukee area residents who have shown such tremendous support for me. I have received hundreds of messages, including many from local Catholics, expressing dismay at the university's decision to suddenly cancel my hire. This support has inspired me to work toward an agreement that acknowledges the pain and damage to the Marquette community as well as to myself. I accepted the position of dean with the sense of a mandate to cultivate mutual understanding and respect among the many different voices that make up the Marquette community and the local and regional environments. Hopefully this work will be carried out through the terms of the resolution. I appreciate the responsiveness of the Marquette representatives to suggestions regarding a legacy of community betterment, including research and education regarding issues of gender and sexuality. I look forward to watching that progress unfold."

Thursday, June 10, 2010 - 3:00am

Wayne State University announced Wednesday that it will maintain its Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity Award, to honor journalists, despite the controversy over anti-Israel statements that led Thomas -- a Wayne State alumna -- to retire, The Detroit Free Press reported. A university statement said that Wayne State "strongly condemns" her "wholly inappropriate comments" but that the controversy shouldn't detract from her "many years of exemplary service."

Thursday, June 10, 2010 - 3:00am

At California State University at Los Angeles, budget cuts have the library closing at 8 every night, leaving many students without their preferred space to study. So, with finals week approaching, students created their own library. The Los Angeles Times reported that they set up tables for laptops, a copy machine and printer, and a coffee machine at a gathering spot outside the library. The "People's Library" has been available until midnight -- and students say it is both serving a practical need and drawing attention to the need for more money for the library budget. University officials initially expressed worries about safety issues, but then helped students with electrical cords and other matters.

Thursday, June 10, 2010 - 3:00am

The National Federation of the Blind is expanding its challenge to the Law School Admissions Council's online system for law school admissions, with a suit against the council and four California law schools that use its applications. The suit charges that the system is not accessible to blind applicants, and thus violates both state and federal anti-bias laws. The Law School Admissions Council has said in the past that its members do not discriminate against blind applicants and want the admissions system to be as functional as possible for all groups, but that some of the changes sought by the blind advocacy group are complicated to carry out.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - 3:00am

University of California officials are contemplating a widescale boycott of the Nature Publishing Group because of concerns over ever-rising prices of the publisher's journals, according to a letter sent to UC faculty members last week. The letter from the California Digital Library, which is part of the university's Office of the President, says that Nature has said that it will increase by 400 percent the price of the systemwide license it charges UC for access to its 67 journals in 2011. The letter warns that unless Nature sticks to its current licensing agreement, the university's faculty will encourage the system's libraries not only to "suspend their online subscriptions entirely," but also urge professors to decline to participate in the publishing group's peer review process, resign from editorial boards, stop placing job ads in its journals, and "cease to submit papers" to them, among other things.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - 3:00am

Claremont School of Theology will announce today that it will add training for Muslims and Jews to its curriculum this fall, making it the first "truly multi-faith American seminary," the Los Angeles Times reports. The Times article quotes religion experts praising the decision as a "creative, bold move" that reflects the growing interdisciplinarity in religion as in other fields, but it also notes that the California seminary's shift has strained its relationship with the United Methodist Church, which cut off funding for the institution in January, citing a "substantial reorientation of the institution's mission."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - 3:00am

The American Association of University Professors, which holds its annual meeting this week in Washington, will present its Alexander Meiklejohn Award for Academic Freedom to Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, for her outspoken defense last year of the right of Roman Catholic colleges to have a range of speakers on their campuses. McGuire devoted her commencement address last year to the controversy over President Obama's visit to the University of Notre Dame to give the commencement address there. Anti-abortion groups organized protests and urged Notre Dame to withdraw the invitation because Obama favors legal abortion rights. In her talk, which she adapted to an essay that was published on Inside Higher Ed, McGuire said that this kind of "religious vigilantism" was an affront to academic freedom and to the open traditions of Catholic higher education.

The Meiklejohn award -- last given in 2003 -- goes to academic administrators who have made major defenses of academic freedom. The AAUP citation for McGuire states: "President McGuire has a reputation for speaking out on topics other college presidents will not touch. She understood clearly that the drama that unfolded last year on the Notre Dame campus would affect the future of all Catholic colleges. She spoke out when others did not. Her passion for justice, for the salutary benefits of open and rigorous debate, for what is simply right did not allow her to keep silent. Her voice has provided inspiration, encouragement and guidance to the leaders of Catholic colleges and universities across the country and, in fact, to all those in the academy who must resist the forces of censorship and repression."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - 3:00am

The Institute for Higher Education Policy is today releasing a report, "A Portrait of Low-Income Young Adults in Education," with data showing the education gaps between those young adults in poverty and those who are more affluent. Over all in 2008, 44 percent of young adults in the United States were from a low-income background -- and they had low levels of educational attainment, with levels even lower for black, Latino and Native Americans.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - 3:00am

There may be hope for a key research team in philosophy at Britain's Middlesex University. Times Higher Education reported that the program -- whose elimination has outraged scholars nationwide -- may be relocated to Kingston University.

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