Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, May 17, 2010 - 3:00am

The Alliance Defense Fund -- a group that promotes the rights of religious students, among others -- on Friday issued a press release saying that it had secured for students at Mohave Community College the right to have prayers at the nursing students' graduation ceremony. The fund announced that prayers, which have been common in the ceremony, had been eliminated and were being restored because of the fund's action. In an interview, however, Michael Kearns, the president, said that the college had never banned prayer at the ceremony. He said that a university committee had designed a template for graduation ceremonies, and that the benedictions were designated (as they have been in the past) as optional, with student organizers given the right to invite someone to offer prayers. He said that the fund apparently saw that prayer was not listed as a mandatory part of the template, and took that to mean prayer was being banned. He said that for the fund to claim credit for restoring prayer to the ceremony was like claiming credit "for the sun coming up tomorrow morning."

Monday, May 17, 2010 - 3:00am

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, unveiled his latest proposed budget for 2010-11 on Friday and it doesn't propose cuts (and actually includes restoration of funds) for the state's three higher education systems. The news led to praise from leaders of the systems, but it is unclear whether the budget will survive. The governor's proposals may reflect a growing consensus in the state that cuts to higher education have been debilitating. However, the governor's budget plan includes such measures as the complete elimination of the state's major welfare program and of the main program to provide state subsidized child care -- and many legislators are vowing to save these and other programs.

Monday, May 17, 2010 - 3:00am

Clotilde Reiss, a French academic, was permitted to return home from Iran 10 months after she was arrested on various charges that she denied, AFP reported. Reiss was conducting research in Iran and also teaching French at the University of Isfahan at the time of her arrest.

Friday, May 14, 2010 - 3:00am

Congress took a step Thursday toward disappointing education leaders who are hoping for another large injection of federal funds, even as the Obama administration stepped up its advocacy for such a boost. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $58.8 billion bill to provide emergency spending for the 2010 fiscal year, but despite pleas from the Congressional education committees and education groups, the legislation did not include any money to help states protect the jobs of schoolteachers and college employees. Also on Thursday, though, Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote Senate leaders urging them to include up to $23.3 billion for such purposes, in line with legislation proposed by Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa.

Friday, May 14, 2010 - 3:00am

Seton Hall University's law school is sticking with plans to have New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as its graduation speaker -- over the objections of some alumni and faculty members, The Star-Ledger reported. Critics are angry that the new governor, a Republican, has announced plans to replace the only African American on the state's Supreme Court despite state tradition that governors generally reappoint justices.

Friday, May 14, 2010 - 3:00am

Legislation aimed at strengthening federal support for academic research ran (at least temporarily) into a buzzsaw of Congressional concern Thursday over continuing expansion of the federal government. The measure, which would renew the America COMPETES law that set Congress on a path to double the budgets of the National Science Foundation and other federal physical sciences agencies, was sent back to the House of Representatives science committee after a majority of lawmakers bowed to Republican critiques that the bill would create too many new programs and authorize far too much federal spending. Democrats said they reluctantly pulled the bill before a final up or down vote. While Republicans raised substantive objections to the measure, they also flogged the NSF for failing to aggressively punish employees who had viewed pornography. “I’m disappointed that politics trumped good policy," said Rep. Bart Gordon, the Tennessee Democrat who heads the science panel. "The minority was willing to trade American jobs and our nation’s economic competitiveness for the chance to run a good political ad."

Friday, May 14, 2010 - 3:00am

It was a luxury that even Williams College can't afford anymore. The Wall Street Journal reports today that the highly selective liberal arts college in Western Massachusetts is closing its stand-alone club for alumni in New York City, one of a few such clubs that remain. "After nearly a century of serving our extended New York City community from our location on 24 East 39th Street, the Williams Club will cease its own clubhouse and hospitality operations," the head of the club's board wrote on its website.

Thursday, May 13, 2010 - 3:00am

Michael Hogan's decision to leave the University of Connecticut's presidency for that of the University of Illinois is receiving considerable criticism in Connecticut, where politicians and others are questioning whether it is appropriate to leave after less than three years in office. The Connecticut Post quoted a statement from Gov. M. Jodi Rell: "Many, including myself, are deeply disappointed that he is leaving the university at such a critical time, particularly on the heels of the landmark financial investment we have just made to the UConn Health Center. We had assumed President Hogan's commitment to UConn was a long-term one; it should have been." Even more critical was a blogger for The Hartford Courant, who wrote: "I don't begrudge University of Connecticut President Michael Hogan for wanting to trade up to a larger, Big 10 school. That's what these job-shopping, opportunist college presidents do. But you don't leave before you get the job done."

Thursday, May 13, 2010 - 3:00am

Some conservative groups are attacking Elena Kagan, the Supreme Court nominee, for her ties to Thurgood Marshall, for whom she was a law clerk on the Supreme Court. Among those defending Kagan is the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund, which raises money for scholarships for students at public historically black colleges. Johnny C. Taylor, president and CEO of the fund, issued this statement: "We, at the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, are extremely supportive of Ms. Kagan’s nomination for a number of reasons; but two stand out as particularly meaningful – she served as a law clerk to Justice Marshall and she served on the Board of Directors of the college fund bearing Justice Marshall’s name. Ms. Kagan’s career has embodied the meaning and tradition of Thurgood Marshall’s life’s work to support the Constitutional mandate of inclusion and equal protection under the law for all Americans, particularly in higher education.”

Thursday, May 13, 2010 - 3:00am

A federal judge on Wednesday issued a temporary restraining order to stop New York State from imposing a one day furlough next week on state workers, including those at the four-year institutions of the City University of New York and the State University of New York. The faculty unions of those two systems, along with other state employee unions, are suing to block the furloughs, arguing that they violate existing contractt and aren't necessary. A statement from Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress, the CUNY faculty union, said: "The furlough legislation was never about closing the budget gap. Furloughs were expected to produce $250 million in savings for the state -- yet the budget deficit is more than $9 billion. I hope the governor and the legislature will stop playing with people’s lives and get down to business."

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