Higher Education Quick Takes
Preliminary results from Tuesday’s election show that incumbents on the Flathead Valley Community College Board of Trustees easily held off a surprise challenge from a group of conservative candidates whose views and campaign rhetoric startled many in the rural Montana region who were used to uneventful races. Among other positions, the challengers argued that the college relied too heavily on federal funding and that its faculty and staff unions should not have the right to collectively bargain for their salary or benefits levels. A campaign blog maintained by one of the main challengers offered congratulations to the incumbents in a post Wednesday afternoon. The official results of the election are slated to be released and certified at the next Board of Trustees meeting, May 23.
The University of Texas at Austin has largely resisted the controversial higher education reforms being pushed by Texas Governor Rick Perry and others close to him, but Texas A&M University -- the governor's alma mater -- has been more open to the ideas. For instance, Texas A&M has published rankings of professors' "productivity." But this week, 22 prominent A&M alumni, all of whom have been been designated as "distinguished alumni" for their contributions to the university, are circulating a letter calling for Texas A&M to oppose the governor's ideas, The Houston Chronicle reported. The letter refers to "an extraordinary level of political intervention in our university" that could hurt the university's standing. In particular, the letter questions "proposals to fundamentally change how research universities in Texas fulfill their educational responsibilities."
Two months after the faculty of the Rhode Island School of Design overwhelmingly voted no confidence in the school's president and provost, the provost, Jessie Shefrin, has announced she will step down, according to the Providence Journal.
In early March, three-quarters of the faculty at RISD who cast ballots returned a vote of no confidence in Shefrin and in President John Maeda, due, in part, to concerns over management style and to objections over a new strategic plan. Faculty members argued that the plan would weaken the school's core curriculum and academic standards.
Shefrin became provost at RISD in 2008 after serving as dean of graduate studies since 2005. "I will be taking a long-awaited sabbatical next year as I make the transition to pursue other interests," she said in a statement, according to the paper. Maeda has announced a search for an interim provost who will start in the fall and serve for one year.
David Protess, a legendary Northwestern University journalism professor known for his efforts to show the innocence of wrongly accused prisoners, is on leave from the university, amid investigations that he lied to the university about his conduct. But The Chicago Tribune reported that he has both signed an agreement not to return to teaching and that he started teaching an "underground class" to students. According to the Tribune, reports are surfacing that he told students to lie about their identities in some past class investigations -- a tactic he says is justified in some cases, but that others question.
Britain should consider giving more financial support for private (read: for-profit) providers of higher education and developing a more consistent regulatory framework to monitor them, according to a study reported on by Times Higher Education. The study, by the Higher Education Policy Institute, suggests that the government consider incentives to private institutions to merge with or take over failing public universities. But it also warns that, if Britain isn't vigilant enough in its oversight, it could end up repeating the mistakes of the U.S. higher education system, where for-profit colleges have come under intense scrutiny.
The dispute between Amazon and college bookstores is heating up. Amazon is now seeking a court order declaring that it is not false or misleading for it to claim discounts of 30 percent on new college textbooks and up to 90 percent on used textbooks, Bloomberg reported. The move follows a complaint by the National Association of College Stores, filed with the Better Business Bureau, calling those claims misleading.
The Pacific-10 Conference -- soon to be the Pac-12, with the addition of the Universities of Utah and Colorado at Boulder -- will start its own cable television network next year, according to an article Tuesday in The New York Times. It also notes that, on Wednesday, the conference will announce it has a new agreement with Fox and ESPN worth $3 billion over 12 years to broadcast “most of its marquee football and basketball games.” The television deal is the richest ever for an athletic conference. Unlike some previous agreements, this one will give the Pac-10 complete ownership of its network. The article notes that Fox owns 49 percent of the Big Ten channel and ESPN owns all of the Longhorn Network, a recently announced venture focusing entirely on the University of Texas at Austin.
The Faculty Senate of the College of Charleston held a special meeting Tuesday to vote to condemn George Benson, the president, for reversing a tenure denial, The Post and Courier reported. The professor who was denied tenure before Benson's intervention, and who had started a grievance process, is married to the president's chief of staff. Faculty leaders acknowledged that the president has the right to reverse tenure decisions. But they said that doing so without letting the grievance process run its course or consulting with faculty leaders undermined their role. Benson said that, in the future, he would not reverse a tenure decision before the end of the grievance process.
The Shalem Center, a research and education center in Jerusalem, on Tuesday announced a $12.5 million gift that designated for an effort to create a liberal arts college, which would be Israel's first. Israel has many liberal arts programs within larger universities and many vocational programs, but officials said that they saw a need for the equivalent to an American-style liberal arts college.