Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010 - 3:00am

A Brooklyn College alumnus has ended plans for a bequest because of his anger over a reading assignment for first-year students, The New York Daily News reported. The book in question is How Does It Feel to Be a Problem, by Moustafa Bayoumi, who teaches at the college. The book looks at the experiences of Arab-Americans, post 9/11. Bruce Kesler, the alumnus, told the Daily News: ""That book was a poor and insulting choice. I'm sure Brooklyn College is still a great avenue for education, but I don't think that I should send it any more money." The National Association of Scholars, which has drawn attention to what it considers politicized reading assignments for freshman orientation programs, recently wrote critically about the book. A statement from the college said it was "regrettable that Mr. Bruce Kesler misunderstands the intentions of the Common Reader experience and the broader context of this selection."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010 - 3:00am

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, a key member of the Senate Democratic leadership, on Tuesday called for a number of reforms of federal laws that involve for-profit higher education, saying that they should share in the default risks of their students -- costs that are currently assumed by the taxpayers. “While responsible for-profit colleges offer a valuable alternative to students, there are too many schools taking advantage of students and making money hand over fist,” Durbin said at a forum he held in Chicago. “Some for-profit colleges are spending a quarter of their revenues on marketing and recruiting, and up to 90 percent of those revenues come from federal funding. We need to consider whether it is wise for companies to profit so handsomely on federal funding when the results don’t match the investment. And we need Congressional action to rein in abuses and ensure that taxpayer dollars are being wisely spent.” Durbin also proposed that accreditation rules be changed so that for-profit colleges can't obtain accreditation by purchasing accredited nonprofit colleges. And he said the for-profit colleges should be required to release more information about "real costs," job placement rates and other factors.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - 3:00am

A judge in British Columbia has lifted an injunction that blocked the University of Victoria from moving ahead with its rabbit control plan, but the rabbits may be safe from being killed, The Globe and Mail reported. The judge ruled that the animal rights activists who won the injunction earlier, lacked standing to sue the university over its plan to deal with some 2,000 wild rabbits on the campus by trapping and relocating some of them, killing some of them, and sterilizing others. The controversy has prompted so many offers to take some of the rabbits, university officials said, that if everyone who has offered to do so follows through, no bunnies will be killed.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of California system's retirement fund faces a shortfall of $20 billion, according to a study released Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported. A committee that produced the study offered a number of recommendations for closing the gap, including raising the retirement age for new employees, increasing the contributions made by both the university and its employees, and reducing benefits. Faculty members worry that some of the changes could make employment at the university less attractive for some of the academic talent they would like to recruit. Mark G. Yudof, the system president, recently sent a letter to all employees in which he said some changes are essential. "If we do nothing, in four years, the university will be spending more on retirement programs each year than we do on classroom instruction," he said.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - 3:00am

The White House said Monday that the Obama administration would revamp and simplify its system of export controls -- a set of procedures and regulations that are designed to limit the sharing of certain technological information with foreign parties, but that research administrators and scholars complain often impair their work. University research officials were quick to praise the proposed reforms, which are expected to limit the number and type of technologies with which companies and universities need licenses if they wish to involve foreign nationals in the work.

"The export controls regulations that served the United States well 40 years ago no longer meet the country‟s needs. In fact, many current requirements actually impede our national security and thwart our ability to compete," John Hennessy, Stanford University's president, said in a statement from the Association of American Universities. "[I]n a world of globalized science and technology, our security will come from our ability to 'run faster' than our competitors, not from building walls around our nation. A more agile and responsive system of controls will allow us to focus our energies on serious security risks, make informed decisions, and make them more quickly."

Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - 3:00am

The U.S. Justice Department has sued Maricopa County Community College District, charging it with illegal discrimination by requiring non-citizens to produce more work authorization documents than are required, the Associated Press reported. U.S. citizens have not faced the additional requirements. A district spokesman declined to comment on the suit.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - 3:00am

New Jersey's low-income students will see their state grants for higher education cut by 8 percent this year, even as they face higher tuition rates, The Star-Ledger reported. The state increased funding for the grants program by 18 percent, but the number of eligible students surged, so the additional funds were not enough to keep the grant size even with last year's level.

Monday, August 30, 2010 - 3:00am

Iran is focusing on the humanities in a new crackdown on the country's universities, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty reported. New limits will be placed on the number of students permitted to study the humanities, consistent with worries expressed by Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that nearly two-thirds of Iranian university students are seeking degrees in the humanities. He said that the humanities promote "skepticism and doubt in religious principles and beliefs."

Monday, August 30, 2010 - 3:00am

A new study by researchers at the University of Leeds has found that one in four lap dancers have undergraduate degrees and a number of them are pursuing graduate education. The study is attracting considerable attention in Britain. In this clip from a BBC interview, one of the researchers cites the need to repay student debt as one factor in the trend.

Monday, August 30, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of Louisiana Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Friday to defer consideration of a plan to make it easier to eliminate the jobs of tenured professors. The plan -- opposed by faculty leaders -- would authorize universities in the system to dismiss tenured professors not only when programs are completely eliminated due to financial exigency (the status quo) but because programs are reduced in size. Board members said that they would consult with faculty groups before any further consideration of the issue.

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