Howard Zinn, an influential leftist historian whose books are widely assigned on college campuses, died Wednesday at the age of 87. Zinn was politically active throughout his career, which included teaching positions at Boston University and other institutions. At BU, he was both a critic and target of John Silber during his presidency there. Of Zinn's books, the most influential is A People's History of the United States, which describes itself as "American history from the bottom up, throwing out the official version of history taught in schools -- with its emphasis on great men in high places -- to focus on the street, the home, and the, workplace." Zinn's Web site features numerous essays, interviews and a bibliography.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Students and faculty members at Shimer College -- a small "great books" institution in Chicago -- are in an increasingly tense fight with the board and president, the Chicago Tribune reported. Shimer has historically delegated a great deal of authority to students and professors, many of whom were taken aback when the president fired the admissions director. Critics also bemoan the recent expansion of the board, which they say has attracted many conservatives. The administration and trustees say that their actions are designed to preserve the college's unique curriculum by putting the institution on solid financial ground.
Lynn University announced Wednesday that all signs indicate that the four students and two faculty members who have been missing in Haiti since the earthquake there were killed by the disaster. Eight other Lynn students who were part of the service trip were able to return safely to the United States. A statement from Lynn's president, Kevin M. Ross, praised the dedication of those who went to Haiti. "Theirs was a journey of hope. Theirs -- a selfless commitment to serving others," he said. "They were on the ground in Haiti to find, feed and focus on the poor of that nation. In the day and a half before the quake, they did just that -- doling out rice at a distribution center and holding the hands of sick children in a dilapidated orphanage. They intended to do much more. In their absence, it is incumbent upon the rest of us to follow in their stead."
Advocates for the student press are accusing Los Angeles City College of a series of actions to limit the rights of reporters on the student newspaper there, calling the incidents one of the worst patterns they have seen in recent years, the Los Angeles Times reported. The incidents involve attempts to control content and to discourage reporters from covering various campus events. College officials declined to discuss specifics, saying that they needed to focus on other issues.
Thanks to leaks in the days leading up to it, there were virtually no surprises in President Obama's State of the Union speech last night. As expected, the president called for expanding the government's newly created Income-Based Repayment Program to reduce the payments of up to a million more borrowers with sizable loan burdens and comparatively low salaries. Obama also warned that, because of the country's burgeoning deficits, the administration would freeze most forms of domestic spending beginning in the 2011 fiscal year, for which the White House will release a budget plan in the coming days. That decision could have painful implications for some higher education programs and for scientific research. And in the section of his speech about college affordability -- which focused on exhorting the Senate to follow the lead of the House of Representatives in passing a student loan reform bill that would direct tens of billions of dollars to Pell Grants and community colleges -- the president issued a challenge to colleges: "And by the way, it's time for colleges and universities to get serious about cutting their own costs -- because they too have a responsibility to help solve this problem." The statement had the feel of a throwaway line, but whether it is that -- or the throwing down of a gauntlet that will be followed by policy in weeks or months to come -- is uncertain.
The recent publication of an anti-gay cartoon by the student newspaper at the University of Notre Dame has led to wider discussion of the way the institution treats its gay students and faculty members. On Wednesday, more than 100 people held a rally on the campus to demand the adoption of new policies to ban discrimination, WNDU News reported. The university says that it promotes equity and "inclusiveness" in ways consistent with Roman Catholic teachings.
Twenty-one students and two faculty members from Gustavus Adolphus College are waiting for evacuation from an area near Machu Picchu, where flooding has blocked normal transportation routes. The group was in the area for a January education program called "Education, Health Care and Poverty in Peru." A statement from the college said that the campus has been in touch with the group members, who are holding up well. Helicopter evacuations are expected to start in the next few days.
Flooding in Mexico delayed the return this week of students from California State University at Chico and Butte College, but they have now returned to California, The Contra Costa Times reported.
Officials at Texas Christian University are investigating an apparent branding of a fraternity member that left him with serious burns, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. The student and his family are considering filing criminal charges or suing.
Eastfield Collge, in Texas, will let students in its ceramics classes make crosses after all. The college has banned crosses, setting off charges of anti-Christian bias. The college said that the ban wasn't about religion, but about encouraging students to be creative in their work. But facing a threatened lawsuit, the college will allow crosses, The Dallas Morning News reported. Sexually or racially offensive ceramic work will still be banned.
The University of Montana may deal with state budget cuts by adopting a four-day week for classes and work schedules, The Missoulian reported. The idea is estimated to save $450,000, mostly on utility cost reductions, which also reflect the environmental gains from the approach. All class meetings would be Tuesday through Friday, with class times shifted to 90 minutes, and more classes at 8 a.m. The standard employee work day would be 10 hours. While some community colleges adopted similar schedules, primarily during the summer, and plenty of individuals operate this way, the idea would be unusual at a research university.