Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 26, 2012

Civic leaders in El Paso are furious at Francisco Cigarroa, chancellor of the University of Texas System, for calling off a planned boxing event in the University of Texas at El Paso's Sun Bowl, the Associated Press reported. Cigarroa said he acted based on a "higher than normal" risk assessment; he did not provide details on the risk. El Paso leaders said that they feared the chancellor's actions would scare people away from El Paso based on the belief that some sort of spillover violence from Mexico was likely -- which they said was not the case.

April 26, 2012

The University of Pennsylvania has placed Doug E. Lynch, vice dean of its Graduate School on Education, on leave following the discovery that he claimed to have a doctorate that he did not earn, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Penn officials first told the newspaper that the institution became aware of the problem several months ago and took "appropriate sanctions," while leaving Lynch in his role. After The Inquirer called Penn's president, Amy Gutmann, for comment, the university announced that Lynch had been placed on "administrative leave." Lynch declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the education school at Penn said that Lynch said he was unaware that he had not finished his doctorate requirements. "He mistakenly believed that it was complete," she said.

April 26, 2012

William G. Durden, president of Dickinson College, used a ceremony this week to award a posthumous honorary degree to the college's first black female graduate as a way to apologize to her family. Esther Popel Shaw graduated in 1919, and she encouraged her daughter, Patricia Shaw Iversen, to enroll there in the 1940s. DIckinson admitted Iversen, but would not let her live on campus. She then opted to attend Howard University. “There was an injustice committed by the college leadership decades ago against this family,” said Durden. “This action was plain wrong by any humane or moral standard. I wish to acknowledge publicly this wrong and apologize to the family members present on behalf of Dickinson College.”

April 26, 2012

Twelve Native American tribes and three University of California at San Diego professors are fighting in court over the remains of two people who may have lived nearly 10,000 years ago, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The tribes cite federal laws that provide for the transfer of remains for traditional burials. But the professors argue that there is no evidence that the remains have a connection to the tribes, and that the remains should be preserved for research.

 

April 26, 2012

Marion Barry, the former Washington mayor who is now on the City Council, is facing criticism for comments he made at a council hearing on the budget of the University of the District of Columbia. The Washington Post reported that Barry was urging the university to train more black nurses. The controversy concerns his rationale: “[I]f you go to the hospital now, you’ll find a number of immigrants who are nurses, particularly from the Philippines,” said Barry, who has previously been faulted for comments about Asians. “And no offense, but let’s grow our own teachers, let’s grow our own nurses, and so that we don’t have to go scrounging in our community clinics and other kinds of places, having to hire people from somewhere else.” The National Federation of Filipino American Associations blasted Barry’s remarks as “racist” and “bigoted.”

April 26, 2012

As President Obama continued his barnstorming tour to campuses in key election swing states calling for Congress to stop the interest rate on federally subsidized student loans from doubling, several bills were introduced to do just that, including one from House Republicans. The key difference among the bills is how they would pay for an extension of the 3.4 percent interest rate, estimated to cost about $6 billion in the first year. A bill from Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, would pay for the extension by changing a tax loophole for so-called S corporations. A House version announced by Representative George Miller, a California Democrat, would cut oil subsidies, and a version from House Republicans, introduced by Illinois Republican Judy Biggert, would cut money from a portion of the health care law used for disease prevention and public health.

The bill represents a reversal for House Republicans, who had previously said they weren't interested in a short-term extension. Future debate is likely to center around what will be cut to pay for the extension, without which student loan rates will increase July 1.

April 26, 2012

The University of Florida is backing off a controversial plan that would have stripped most of the research functions from its computer science department. Bernie Machen, the university's president, issued a statement Wednesday in which he said that new plans were being developed to preserve the department's research role -- the elimination of which outraged many students, faculty members and alumni. The cuts are part of large reductions at the university, resulting from state appropriations cuts. Referring to the computer science proposal, Machen wrote: "As many of you know, the proposal has been met with overwhelming negative response, much of which I believe has been based on misunderstanding." At the same time, he said that some faculty members had come forward with proposals that would meet budget goals and also preserve the research mission in the computer science program. While work is needed to further develop those plans, Machen said that the previous proposal would be "set aside."

April 26, 2012

Sophia, an online learning platform recently acquired by Capella Education Co., on Wednesday released 25,000 free tutorials aimed at college and high school students. The for-profit Capella plans this summer to introduce "Sophia Pathways for College Credit," a souped-up version through which students' competency in subject areas, beginning with college algebra, will be assessed for the granting of Capella credits, company officials said. "It's a low-cost path to getting college credit," said Steve Anastasi, Sophia's interim CEO.

Anastasi describes the open platform as a "social teaching and learning environment" in which teachers, most of them not affiliated with Sophia or Capella, create online tutorials on a variety of subjects that will soon be organized by the learning preferences of students. The crowdsourced content is ranked and given an "academic seal" by self-identified academic experts, who themselves are rated by students. A Capella spokesman said Sophia would be a "sandbox" for experiments on open course content, as well as a resource for Capella students and professors.

 

 

April 25, 2012

Internet2, the higher education technology consortium, on Tuesday announced new master agreements with 16 companies in what the consortium is calling a major step toward eliminating the “transaction costs” that have made campus-based technology deployments unduly expensive for universities and vendors alike. Instead of negotiating individual contracts, Internet2’s 221 member colleges essentially will be able to opt in to a licensing agreement the consortium negotiated with more than a dozen providers of cloud computing services, including Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Desire2Learn.

The agreements are part of Internet2’s Net+ Services project, which it unveiled last year. The goal of the project is to work with technology companies to tailor versions of their cloud-computing services to match the needs of colleges and universities, then enable institutions to buy licenses for those services through Internet2, rather than negotiating with companies on an individual basis -- a tedious, redundant exercise that was driving up the cost of doing business for everyone involved, says Shelton Waggener, the CIO of the University of California at Berkeley.

Internet2’s negotiations on behalf of its members do not merely constitute a group discount deal, but a “new operating paradigm for delivering services to higher education,” says Waggener. Campus technology budget makers “cannot trim [their] way to success,” he says. “It’s about creating models that allow us to keep the dollars in the classroom and the labs and not spend them on lawyers for contracts or shipping costs or wasted capacity.”

April 25, 2012

A faculty-administration agreement has cleared the way for a faculty union (including both tenure track and non-tenure-track faculty members) at the University of Oregon. The union -- organized jointly by the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers -- first submitted cards indicating that the professors wanted to unionize. The administration objected to the make-up of the bargaining unit, but negotiations resolved those differences, and the process of union certification is now expected to proceed. The new union is the result of a campaign by the AFT and the AAUP to jointly organize more faculty members at public research universities. Union organizers pledged to use collective bargaining to improve working conditions for all instructors in ways that would also improve the quality of education.

Robert Berdahl, interim president of the university, issued a statement in which he said that "we have acknowledged from the beginning that our faculty has the right to organize. We did not oppose the organization effort nor did we support it. We simply recognized the rights of those who chose this route." His statement added: "While the University of Oregon has a long history of working with collective bargaining units on our campus, a faculty union will present unique questions that must be addressed. This will be particularly true when we account for tenured and tenure-related faculty. For example, tenure-related issues typically involve peer review. The peer review process is an essential means by which universities have always assured the achievement of quality; it must remain central to how we evaluate faculty in the future, even with a union overlay."

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