Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, February 19, 2010 - 3:00am

An article in The Tallahassee Democrat examines the layoffs of 21 tenured faculty members, and other tenure-track faculty members, at Florida State University. Faculty leaders charge that the layoffs are inappropriate, even given the difficult budgets facing the university, and the United Faculty of Florida, the faculty union, is challenging the dismissals.

Friday, February 19, 2010 - 3:00am

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents on Thursday raided offices at Sonoma State University, The Press Democrat reported. The FBI investigation apparently focuses on possible misuse of federal grant funds through an institute that was shut down at the university in 2007.

Friday, February 19, 2010 - 3:00am

The Anti-Defamation League on Thursday came out against calls by some Jewish groups to boycott the University of California at Irvine (in enrollment and donations) because of controversies over campus events related to Israel, most recently a talk by the Israeli ambassador to the United States, who was repeatedly interrupted by protesters. The ADL praised the university's leaders for responding quickly in condemning the interruptions, even while noting concerns over numerous anti-Israel events. However, the ADL said that a boycott of a university would not be an appropriate way to respond even to legitimate concerns. Abraham H. Foxman, ADL's national director, said: "We are surprised that those who call for a boycott fail to recognize that it is a double-edged sword that legitimizes a tactic so often used against Jews and Israel, particularly in academic settings. We believe academic boycotts are inappropriate, harmful and counterproductive, and will not work to resolve the situation on campus."

Thursday, February 18, 2010 - 3:00am

George Washington University accidentally sent about 200 applicants it was rejecting an e-mail congratulating them and welcoming them to the institution, The Washington Post reported. The university followed up a few hours later with an explanation, no doubt disappointing the early decision applicants, for whom GW was their first choice college.

Thursday, February 18, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of California at Berkeley, barred by the state from considering race in admissions, is today announcing a major, privately supported effort to create an inclusive curriculum and campus. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that a $16 million gift -- which could grow considerably with matching funds -- will pay for a variety of efforts. Among them: five endowed chairs, including one on disability and one on gay rights; funds to revise 30 courses to emphasize community and public service; and scholarships for transfer students from community colleges, who are more likely to be black, Latino or from low-income families than are students who enroll as freshmen.

Thursday, February 18, 2010 - 3:00am

High schools in eight states have agreed to participate in a project aimed at using a system of "board examinations" to get high achieving students to do college-level work as early as 10th grade, the National Center for Education and the Economy announced Wednesday. Under the plan, which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, high schools in Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont will give volunteering students one of a series of exams (such as ACT’s QualityCore, the College Board’s Advanced Placement exam, or Pearson/Edexcel’s IGCSE and A-level programs) near the end of 10th grade, and those who pass will earn a high school diploma and the chance (if they choose) to enroll in any open admissions college in their state the following fall. Students can also opt to stay in high school and take courses designed to prepare them for admission to a selective college. Students who fail the exam will be prepped to help them pass it the next time they take it. “By introducing these Board Examination Systems in pilot high schools in these states as early as the 2011-2012 school year, we will begin a process that will ultimately prepare dramatically more students for college success and greatly reduce the high number of students who now take remedial courses in college,” said Marc Tucker, president of the national center.

Thursday, February 18, 2010 - 3:00am

A committee studying enrollment strategy at the University of Texas at Austin has recommended that undergraduates be required to finish their degrees in 10 semesters, the Associated Press reported. The current average length of time is 8.5 semesters. Students enrolled in programs for which the expected completion time is longer than 8 semesters would be exempt, and appeals could be filed for special circumstances. The rationale for the proposal is that the university can't meet demand for space if too many students take too long to graduate.

Thursday, February 18, 2010 - 3:00am

Taking a page from President Obama's recent criticism of Wall Street bankers, Education Secretary Arne Duncan sharpened his rhetoric about the student loan industry in urging Congress to pass an overhaul of federal student aid programs during a telephone news conference with reporters Tuesday. Student loan providers "had a free ride from taxpayers for too long," Duncan said, calling for passage of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act that has passed the House and has been stalled for months behind health care legislation in the Senate. "It's a simple choice: subsidize banks or invest in children," Duncan said of the legislation, which would stop the origination of loans by banks and compel all colleges to participate in the department-run direct loan program. The administration would use savings from the change, which were originally estimated at $87 billion but have arguably shrunk since then, to increase Pell Grants, buttress community colleges, and invest in early childhood education, among other things. Lenders have challenged many aspects of the president's plan and have been working hard to win over enough Democratic senators to threaten passage of the legislation and build support for an alternative.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 3:00am

A federal jury ordered the University of Oregon to pay Paula Rogers $164,000 after finding that she was a victim of adverse treatment and a hostile work environment in the East Asian languages and literatures department because she is half-Japanese and not entirely Japanese, The Eugene Register-Guard reported. The university declined to comment on the verdict. Since her contract was not renewed, Rogers has taught in Taiwan, resulting in an extremely long-distance marriage with her husband, who teaches at Oregon.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 3:00am

Williams College, which last month announced an end to its "no loans" policy for undergraduates in need of financial aid, on Tuesday moved to end the policy of being need-blind in admitting international students. Admitting international students without regard to need is unusual, even among the small group of private colleges like Williams that have that practice for undergraduates from the United States. In the last decade, having moved to the policy for international students as well, Williams saw its international financial aid costs increase by more than 200 percent, according to a letter sent to the campus (a copy of which appears at EphBlog). As a result, the college will establish a set limit on financial aid for international students. Williams officials believe that they will still admit more international students in need of financial aid than the college did before it shifted to being need blind for those students.

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