Higher Education Quick Takes
A federal jury on Wednesday convicted Phil Hamilton, a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates, of bribery and extortion in relation to a job he received at Old Dominion University, The Virginian-Pilot reported. Hamilton was charged with, as a powerful state legislator, obtaining $500,000 in state funds for Old Dominion to create a program he went on to lead as director of the university's Center for Teacher Quality and Educational Leadership. Hamilton has denied wrongdoing.
Authorities arrested 25 students at the University of Washington Wednesday, following sit-ins in the president's office and a conference room, The Seattle Times reported. The students were demanding that the university stop doing business with Sodexo, a food services company. The students charge that Sodexo mistreats its workers -- a charge the company denies.
An outbreak of a norovirus (or similar virus) has led Spring Arbor University to postpone its commencement, scheduled for May 14, until May 21. More than 170 students are ill.
As Speaker of the House John Boehner prepares to address graduates of the Catholic University of America Saturday, a group of professors at Roman Catholic colleges and universities has publicly rebuked the Ohio Republican for, they say, abandoning church teachings on social justice with a legislative agenda that neglects "the desperate needs of the poor." Saying they hope Boehner's visit to Catholic will "reawaken your familiarity with the teachings of your Church on matters of social justice," the scholars specifically cite his leadership on a 2012 House budget that, they say, would remove "long-established protections for the most vulnerable members of society," and that they call "particularly cruel to pregnant women and children." A spokesman for Boehner said the Congressman will be honored to deliver the speech and receive an honorary degree "from the only Catholic college in our country that is chartered by Catholic bishops.”
The Presidential Oversight Committee of the Bowl Championship Series announced Wednesday that the Fiesta Bowl will remain part of the BCS -- the controversial group of contests that determines the national champion in big-time college football -- but that it must pay a $1 million fine for illegal campaign contributions and inappropriate spending. Duane Woods, the Fiesta Bowl's chairman, told the Associated Press: “The Fiesta Bowl Board of Directors understands and accepts the sanctions imposed by the BCS. We think that these tough but fair measures are consistent with our commitment to reform the Fiesta Bowl's governance and rebuild trust.” Bob Williams, spokesman for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, wrote in a statement: “The BCS task force actions regarding the Fiesta Bowl are serious and constructive steps in the right direction. The NCAA postseason bowl licensing subcommittee will review the task force report as it considers whether to reaffirm the Fiesta Bowl ... for the coming season. The subcommittee is planning to meet next week and expects to make a decision in the near future.”
Florida's attorney general, Pam Bondi, on Tuesday announced a suit against JLF University Inc., which she said defrauded medical and nursing students by telling them incorrectly that the institution's graduates could become eligible for licenses to practice in Florida. In fact, the graduates are not eligible because the university is not accredited or approved by the state. Bondi's statement said that the owner tried at one point to let the students who made an additional payment "transfer" to a nursing program owned by his wife. The Sun Sentinel reported that JLF's main offices are in Haiti and that the phone numbers for the university had been disconnected.
Saint Paul's College, in Virginia, announced Tuesday that it will eliminate its entire intercollegiate athletic program as a money-saving move, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. Saint Paul's currently has seven teams for men and seven for women.
Efforts to reestablish shared governance at Idaho State University appear to have gotten off to a rocky start. Months after the State Board of Education scuttled the institution's Faculty Senate after it had voted no confidence in President Arthur Vailas, the faculty this week elected a new provisional senate charged with writing a constitution and bylaws to pave the way for a new permanent body, the Idaho State Journal reported. So far, so good. But when the leaders of the provisional senate -- many of whom were on the panel that was disbanded in February -- sought to begin work this week, they were told, to their dismay, that Idaho State administrators would not clear the way for them to do so until the fall, Phil Cole, an associate professor of physics and the provisional senate's new chairman, confirmed Tuesday.
Cole found this out, he said, when he sought a key to the Faculty Senate office, which had had its locks changed in February when administrators disbanded the panel. “We have not given an official charge to the provisional senate yet. That will happen in the fall," Provost Gary Olson wrote. "Until then, the senate is not yet in operation. The structure, scope and background information will be provided to you in the fall. We have not authorized an election of officers at this point either. I hope you have a productive summer.” The Idaho State Journal quoted a spokesman for the State Board of Education as saying that he was "surprised" that administrators were not permitting the senate to begin work. Officials at Idaho State could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Idaho State professors got more bad news Monday, when the faculty ombudsman, John Gribas, informed his colleagues that administrators at the university had informed him that they had suspended the office -- which is designed to help faculty members resolve conflicts or problems affecting them -- until the new senate constitution and bylaws are in place. "Therefore, no ombuds office services will be available to ISU faculty during the summer 2011 session or through the 2011-2012 academic year," the office's website says. "It seems to me that this upcoming year will be one of continued transition and uncertainty, a time in which an ombudsperson’s assistance would be greatly desired," Gribas, a professor of communication and rhetorical studies, said in an e-mail to the faculty. "Therefore, until a Faculty Ombuds Office is reestablished and staffed, I encourage us all to look for ways to provide professional, supportive, and confidential assistance to our fellow colleagues in need."
The American Council on Education and other higher education groups are asking federal officials for flexibility on visa and other rules for the approximately 2,000 Libyan nationals studying in the United States, many of them with family members. The letter from the council noted that most of these students are funded by the Libyan government, and are currently unable to obtain funds or to return home.