Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, October 29, 2010 - 3:00am

The post-racial society does exist … on Facebook. This according to researchers at Harvard University and the University of California at Los Angeles, who found that shared racial background is not an important factor for students when deciding whom to connect with on the popular social networking site. The paper, which appears in the current issue of the American Journal of Sociology, bases its finding not just on whether students extended or accepted friendship requests from students of another race, but whether they were tagging those students in photo albums on Facebook — an act that implies not only a deeper level of virtual connection, but also that the students hung out in real life, too, the researchers say. Although the sample is limited to a single college class at a top-tier university, the researchers say the findings demonstrate that “past research might have exaggerated the role of race in social relationships,” according to a UCLA news release. Based on the rate at which students from prep-school backgrounds tended to connect on Facebook, the authors note that socioeconomic class could be a far more salient factor.

Friday, October 29, 2010 - 3:00am

A new report by Jobs for the Future outlines how the Hidalgo Independent School District, which serves an economically depressed area along the Texas-Mexico border, was able to graduate more than 95 percent of its most recent high school graduating class with college credit. About two-thirds of its graduating seniors earned at least a full semester of college credit. The school district opened the Hidalgo Early College High School in 2005 with help from the University of Texas System and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Unlike many early college high schools that serve less than 400 students, the Hidalgo model serves all of the 900+ high-schoolers in the district. The high school has strong partnerships with South Texas College and Texas State Technical College, so that students can transfer onward to earn a postsecondary credential. John Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Texas High School Project, said of the project, “Hidalgo [Independent School District] shows that obstacles impeding high school and postsecondary success can be overcome. The success of early college high schools is being replicated in districts throughout Texas. We need to create more Hidalgos in our country, more districts where the lessons of early college are spread to all students.”

Friday, October 29, 2010 - 3:00am

The State University of New York at Binghamton said Thursday that it had agreed to pay $1.2 million in a settlement that will lead to the departure of its suspended men's basketball coach, Kevin Broadus. The coach was in the thick of a basketball controversy last fall that focused on the admission of academically underprepared athletes and numerous high-profile arrests of players, and Broadus was put on paid leave for his role, which included accusations that he pushed for the admission of players with poor academic credentials and known behavioral problems. But a decision by the National Collegiate Athletic Association this month to end its investigation into possible wrongdoing by Binghamton led Broadus's lawyer to insist that his client had been maligned, and the university's interim president, C. Peter Magrath, said in announcing the settlement Thursday that the university wanted to move on. Broadus will receive about $820,000 to buy out his remaining contract and about $380,000 from the SUNY system to cover the coach's legal fees.

Friday, October 29, 2010 - 3:00am

An Ohio University journalism professor, who was nearly denied tenure over harassment allegations, should be reprimanded for his behavior, a faculty committee has recommended. Bill Reader was granted tenure by Ohio’s president over the objections of his department director and dean, but the charges that imperiled Reader’s tenure case were separately evaluated by his college’s Professional Ethics Committee. Evidence suggests Reader engaged in nonviolent threats of retaliation following a tenure vote that narrowly ended in his favor, the full committee found. Of the committee’s six members, five also agreed Reader engaged in acts of intimidation and verbal harassment of his colleagues. Reprimands are reserved for “moderately serious” offenses, and are less severe than censure or disciplinary action, according to the university’s faculty handbook. In an e-mail to Inside Higher Ed Thursday, Reader said "I maintain my innocence and will appeal if necessary.”

Thursday, October 28, 2010 - 3:00am

A senior administrator who was fired when a new president took over at her Minnesota university was ineligible for unemployment benefits because her job was a "major policy-making or advisory position" in the unclassified portion of the state's work force, a state appeals court has ruled. The Court of Appeals of Minnesota overturned a lower court's ruling that Cathleen Brannen qualified for unemployment benefits when she was fired as vice president for administration and finance at Metropolitan State University in 2009, because the institution's new president wanted her own person in the job. In concluding that Brannen did not have a policy making or advisory authority, as required by state law to qualify for unemployment, the lower court erroneously examined whether she had such a role in the entire Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, of which Metro State is a part, the appeals court said. At Metro State itself, "[s]he reported directly to the president.... The new president of the university chose to terminate Brannen without cause solely for the purpose of hiring a person with whom the president might enjoy a better working relationship. That fact alone suggests that giving trustworthy advice to the president was a significant part of Brannen's former position."

Thursday, October 28, 2010 - 3:00am

An administrator at Wesley College, in Delaware, accidentally shared an e-mail message intended for academic advisors -- with information about students doing poorly -- with every student on the campus, The News-Journal reported. The e-mail concerned students at risk of failing, describing one this way: "The hole she has dug is deeper than the mine shaft in Chile." The college has apologized to all of the students whose academic failings were shared with the campus.

Thursday, October 28, 2010 - 3:00am

Mark Yudof, president of the University of California, has released a formal proposal to change retirement benefits for employees in the system, The Sacramento Bee reported. Yudof and other system officials have been saying for some time that the university's retirement system faces a massive deficit that requires changes to assure its solvency. Yudof's proposal would raise the minimum age to be eligible for retirement, for those hired after July 1, 2013, to 55 (from the current 50). The age for maximum pension benefits would go up to 65 (from 60). In addition, there would be reductions in the health care costs current employees would have covered by the university.

Thursday, October 28, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of Iowa, like a number of other colleges and universities, has been trying to limit excessive student drinking on Thursdays by scheduling more classes on Fridays. But as The Iowa City Press-Citizen reported, that's easier said than done. After a brief increase in the number of Friday classes, there are now only 1,255 of them at the university, compared to 1,974 on Mondays, the day with the next fewest classes. Faculty members said that they avoid scheduling Friday classes because many students won't attend.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - 3:00am

A New Jersey appeals court has ruled that legal clinics run by Rutgers University are covered by the state's open records law, The Star-Ledger reported. Rutgers, backed by other legal clinics affiliated with law schools, argued that the unique nature of law clinics should create an exception. But the appeals court disagreed. "It is uncontested that the clinic is affiliated with and part of the law school," the ruling said. "The clinic was created and is funded in part by the law school. Clinic attorneys are hired as part of the faculty of the law school and are retained or discharged by the law school. For purposes of [open records law], the clinic is indistinguishable from any other academic program offered by the law school."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - 3:00am

The former director of auxiliary services at La Salle University, Stephen Greb, turned himself in to authorities Tuesday to face charges of theft, forgery and tampering that allegedly allowed him to funnel more than $5 million in university money to a fake company he set up, the Associated Press reported. La Salle fired him in June.

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