Higher Education Quick Takes
A Virginia jury on Wednesday convicted George Huguely V of second-degree murder in the death of Yeardly Love in 2010, The Washington Post reported. The case, involving lacrosse players at the University of Virginia, attracted national attention to the issue of domestic violence among college students. Huguely did not deny that he played a role in Love's death, but his lawyers had urged a conviction of manslaughter, while prosecutors sought a first-degree murder conviction.
The Michigan Legislators is trying to block graduate research assistants at the University of Michigan from unionizing. AnnArbor.com reported that the Michigan Senate voted Wednesday to define the graduate assistants as students, ineligible for collective bargaining. Michigan's Board of Regents has backed unionization rates for the students, but many administrators have criticized the union drive.
Seventeen students and two alumni have sued police officers and administrators of the University of California at Davis over being subjected to pepper spray during a peaceful protest last year, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The suit charges excessive force and suppression of free speech. "When the cost of speech is a shot of blinding, burning pepper spray in the face, speech is not free," said a lawyer in the case, Michael Risher of the American Civil Liberties Union. A spokesman for the university declined to comment on the specifics of the suit, but said that officials have been talking to the lawyers for the plaintiffs.
The U.S. Education Department's federal student aid office has fallen short in several ways of ensuring that foreign medical schools are meeting federal requirements that their students pass licensing exams, meaning that there is no assurance that student loan funds were "disbursed only to students who attended schools that were eligible to participate in the Federal student loan programs, the department's inspector general said in an audit last month. The audit found that the federal student aid office was "not timely in taking appropriate actions against schools identified as having failed to submit the required pass rate data or meet the pass rate threshold, inconsistent in its methodology for calculating pass rates, and accepted from some foreign medical schools pass rate data that were not complete or were not in the required format."
Indiana University at South Bend has dismissed Otis B. Grant, a tenured professor, for "serious personal and professional misconduct," The South Bend Tribune reported. Grant could not be reached, but is appealing the decision. While the university did not detail the misconduct of which Grant was accused, the Tribune has previously reported on allegations that he allowed non-employees to grade some student work, canceled classes, and dismissed students from classes without due process.
Following a major e-textbook pilot last year, the California State University System announced Wednesday that it has cut a deal with Cengage Learning that could give students steep discounts on that publisher's e-textbooks. “Beginning in the fall, students will have the choice to rent digital versions of [Cengage] texts… at a cost savings of 60 percent or more compared with the cost of purchasing the same text as a new printed version,” the Cal State system office said in a release. Students who want to benefit from the discount but still prefer to read ink on paper will be allowed to print out the pages, according to the release.
Importantly to faculty groups, the university does not plan to mandate that professors adopt e-textbooks. Cengage is not requiring that California State promise a certain number of professor adoptions or student purchases as a condition of the discounts, according to Bill Rieders, executive vice president of global strategy and business development for Cengage. (Publishers, perennially undercut by a booming secondary market for used copies of their printed textbooks, have for years been pushing universities and their constituents to adopt electronic versions that cannot be resold.) For now, the 60-percent discount will only apply to e-texts — not the digital homework tools and other learning applications that Cengage and its fellow publishers see as the future of their products. The company’s hope is that the uptake of Cengage’s digital texts will happen organically as a result of lower prices and better availability, Rieders said. California State is planning a campaign to “increase awareness” of the discounted Cengage e-textbooks on its 23 campuses, according to a system spokesman.
A draft of new regulations proposed as part of the Education Department's negotiated rule making process for teacher preparation programs would require states to report data on such programs' employment outcomes (for their newly graduated teachers) and student learning outcomes (for those teachers' students). The draft regulations, which will be discussed and modified at the rule making panel's meeting next week, also would require states to make "meaningful differentiations in teacher preparation program performance," based in large part on learning outcomes for their graduates' students. So far, the regulations leave the definition of a "high quality teacher preparation program," a key point in the panel's discussions, to individual states to determine.
Rick Santorum last week told an audience at the Detroit Economic Club that President Obama "had a war on private education" and that his administration has unfairly attacked private-sector, or for-profit colleges, that do most of the worker training for new jobs, according to a transcript published by The Detroit Free Press. The surging Republican presidential candidate promised that his administration would have a different attitude.
"He believes that private sector schools are somehow evil and they're abusive, and his Education Department has done everything they could to make it harder for them to compete for loans and other things and to stay in business," Santorum said. "Yet they are going to be the principal tool, along with community colleges, to respond to this, what I believe will be exploding demand for skilled and semi-skilled workers to do the jobs of the future."