Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of Kentucky fire marshall is calling for the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house to be closed for the rest of this semester and next semester following an unusual and unsafe fire incident, The Herald-Leader reported. According to authorities, they found multiple fire code violations after responding to an incident in which a fraternity member set fire to a friend who was wrapped in toilet paper.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 - 3:00am

A group of major corporations in Britain says that the government's push to expand access to higher education has devalued university degrees there, The Guardian reported. The British government has set a goal of having 50 percent of all citizens under 30 attain a college degree, and that effort "driven down standards and devalued the currency of a degree and damaged the quality of the university experience," says a report from the Association of Graduate Recruiters, which represents 800 companies.

Monday, March 8, 2010 - 3:00am

An unusual clash between a professor and student at Portland State University is examined in an in-depth article in The Oregonian. The professor has been suspended, amid allegations that he violated the privacy of the student by suggesting that he was a government informant and could be dangerous. While some believe the professor went too far, without evidence, others think he was trying to point out a potential danger to students and the university, and is being unfairly punished.

Monday, March 8, 2010 - 3:00am

Virginia's attorney general, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, last week sent a letter to the leaders of public colleges and universities, telling them that they lack the authority to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation. In the letter, Cuccinelli says that only the General Assembly can ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, and that college policies doing so "create, at a minimum, confusion about the law and, at worst, a litany of instances in which the school's operation would need to change in order to come into conformance." The attorney general did not release the letter and his office declined to comment on it, but The Washington Post obtained a copy and wrote about it. The attorney general's stance could create problems for many colleges in Virginia because they do in fact include sexual orientation among characteristics on which they bar bias. And in many states with legislatures that have not barred such bias, public colleges have done so. Among the Virginia colleges with policies that run afoul of the attorney general's thinking are the College of William and Mary, George Mason University and the University of Virginia. Officials of all three colleges declined to discuss Cuccinelli's letter. The Virginia branch of the American Civil Liberties Union issued a statement saying that the attorney general was overstepping his authority and calling on the colleges to keep their anti-bias policies as they are.

Monday, March 8, 2010 - 3:00am

More college basketball players -- men and women -- are suffering concussions, the Associated Press reported, based on data from the National Collegiate Athletic Association. While concussions are more commonly associated with sports like football and hockey, head injuries are on the rise in basketball, in part because larger athletes are playing. As one coach told the AP: “Guys are so big and so strong, the collisions are going to be bigger. If a Volkswagen hits a Volkswagen, it’s a big deal. But if a dump truck hits a dump truck, there’s more damage.”

Monday, March 8, 2010 - 3:00am

Education Secretary Arne Duncan will announce today that the U.S. Education Department will begin a broad series of civil rights compliance reviews of school districts and colleges, The New York Times reported. The reviews, which will include six as-yet unidentified postsecondary institutions and 32 K-12 districts, will examine a wide range of issues, including racial and gender discrimination and treatment of students with disabilities, according to a draft of Duncan's speech reviewed by the Times and The Washington Post.

Monday, March 8, 2010 - 3:00am

A former police officer in Philadelphia is facing extortion charges over an unconventional approach to dealing with his son's unpaid dormitory bill. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Vincent Gaudini Sr. is alleged to have sent Harcum College (his alma mater in addition to being the place his son enrolled at and failed to pay) e-mails saying he would tell authorities about drugs and guns on campus -- unless his son's bill became "a zero balance." College officials and Gaudini declined to comment.

Monday, March 8, 2010 - 3:00am

The Faculty Senate at Stanford University last week voted to create a committee to study the feasibility of returning Reserve Officers' Training Corps programs to the campus. Stanford's ROTC units were phased out in the early 1970s amid faculty questions about requirements and campus opposition to the Vietnam War. More recently, the university and many others have indicated that they don't want programs on campus that discriminate against gay people, as the military does. But Stanford officials said that with the likely end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the next year or so, the time is right to reconsider the issue. Currently, a small number of Stanford students are in ROTC, but they must participate through programs at nearby universities, not on their home campus.

Monday, March 8, 2010 - 3:00am

Edison State College, a Florida institution that was once a community college and now offers some four-year degrees as well, is planning to create a private college that will offer bachelor's and master's degrees, The Fort Myers News-Press reported. Edison State officials note that state regulations limit the four-year degrees it can offer, and say that many of the college's associate degree graduates want to continue their educations, but local institutions are at capacity.

Monday, March 8, 2010 - 3:00am

Enrollments are up 20 percent in doctoral nursing programs, according to data released last week by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. The increase is important, according to nursing educators, because enrollments in undergraduate programs are increasing only modestly -- despite demand for more nurses -- because of shortages of faculty members. The association estimates that more than 54,000 qualified applicants to nursing programs were turned away.

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