Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

May 29, 2012

The University of Michigan is seeking to join a federal suit challenging a new Michigan law that bars graduate research assistants from unionizing, The Detroit Free Press reported. The move to join the suit is somewhat unusual in that Michigan's senior administrators have spoken out against the unionization of research assistants during a recent organizing drive at the university. The administrators maintain that the graduate students who work as research assistants should be seen as students, not employees. And that was the same rationale cited by Republican legislators who pushed the new law. But the University of Michigan Board of Regents is controlled by Democrats, who back union rights for the graduate students, and who opted to have the university join the suit.

 

May 29, 2012

A new website called Not in My Country has been created to allow for reports of corruption, harassment or incompetence at universities in Uganda, The Wall Street Journal reported. The idea behind the website -- which also includes faculty ratings similar to RateMyProfessor.com in the United States -- is that a system for anonymous reporting is badly needed for higher education in the country.

 

May 29, 2012

When the University of Missouri System announced on Thursday that it was shutting down the University of Missouri Press, initial response was muted. Employees of the press did not return calls, and the university said that it could not identify the faculty advisory committee for the press. The university said that it couldn't continue to subsidize the press, which currently receives about $400,000 annually.

Over the holiday weekend, however, opposition started to materialize. A Facebook page -- Save the University of Missouri Press -- appeared Monday. One post there: "As an alumnus of the University of Missouri, I am disappointed and angry to learn that you have decided to close the University of Missouri Press. Where are your priorities? What has happened to the school’s standing as the state’s flagship university? Is the institution to be known more and more only for its athletic programs? Will Truman State become known as Missouri’s university most interested in academics?" (Truman State has a university press.)

Letters to the editor are also appearing in local publications, questioning why a $400,000 subsidy would be out of the question at a university that pays its head football coach $2.7 million.

 

May 29, 2012

In many states in recent years, summer enrollments have gone way up at public institutions, as students who struggle to get into sections during the regular academic year take advantage of greater availability in the summer. But in California, higher education budgets are so tight that many community colleges have cut way back on summer programs -- despite student demand, The Los Angeles Times reported. Eight community college campuses plan no summer courses this year, and the community college system's summer enrollment was down 43 percent from 2008 to 2011. A survey by Santa Monica College found that, at 15 community colleges in the Los Angeles area, only one-third of the courses offered in 2008 are going to be offered this year, representing a loss of 6,000 teaching assignments and 168,000 classroom seats.

May 29, 2012

Graham Spanier, former president of Pennsylvania State University, on Friday sued the university to demand access to e-mail records from 1998 to 2004, The Patriot-News reported. The records were thought to have been destroyed when the university switched e-mail systems, but the e-mail files recently have been recovered. Spanier's suit says that he didn't have access to the files when he testified before a grand jury looking into alleged molestation of boys by Jerry Sandusky, a former football coach. Much of the molestation allegedly took place on Penn State's campus, and the issue of what senior administrators knew has become a major issue in the case against Sandusky and (potentially) other cases. Spanier's suit says he cannot meet with independent investigators looking into the case without access to the old e-mail messages, but Penn State says that it has been informed by a state assistant attorney general that it should not turn over the records.

May 29, 2012

The State Department on Friday issued revised visa guidance on visa rules for those who work at Confucius Institutes, which are supported by the Chinese government and operate at many campuses in the United States. The new guidance essentially reversed earlier guidance that would have been very difficult for many of the centers. For instance, the earlier guidance said that the Confucius Institutes would need separate accreditation if their offerings weren't part of the language offerings of the universities at which they are located. The new guidance says that the university's overall accreditation is sufficient. Generally, institutes whose employees were receiving visas prior to now should be fine.

 

May 25, 2012

In today’s Academic Minute, Paul Newhouse of Vanderbilt University explains research that suggests nicotine may have beneficial effects on aging brains. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

May 25, 2012

A federal appeals court on Thursday directed a lower court to overturn its March 2011 ruling in a legal fight between the University of Illinois and The Chicago Tribune, saying that the student privacy issues raised in the case would be better addressed by a state court. The ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit states that the newspaper's claim to the information it sought from the university -- about student applicants and their parents, as part of the Tribune's 2009 investigation into political influence in the admissions process -- arose under state law rather than federal law. Numerous higher education groups had joined the university in arguing that the lower court's decision would undermine student privacy protections.

 


 

May 25, 2012

Neither a Republican nor a Democratic bill to keep the interest rate on federally subsidized student loans at 3.4 percent could muster the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate on Thursday, meaning that rates are still scheduled to double on July 1. The Republican proposal would have paid for the $6 billion extension by eliminating a preventive care fund in the health-care overhaul; it failed, 34-62. The Democratic proposal would have changed a tax provision that allows some small business owners to avoid paying payroll taxes; it failed to advance on a 51-43 vote.

May 25, 2012

Charles B. Reed announced Thursday that he would retire as chancellor of the California State University System after 14 years. During that period, Cal State has grown in size by about a quarter (to 427,000 students), implemented several programs that have become national models (including a major initiative to expand outreach to minority and low-income high school students), and shepherded the campuses through one massive budget cut after another. Along the way, even his well-honed political acumen -- he was a former chief of staff to the governor of Florida -- was not enough to satisfy many critics, especially members of Cal State's faculty union.

Reed spent 13 years as chancellor of Florida's public university system before moving to Cal State, meaning that he has overseen two of the country's biggest public university systems for more than 25 years in total.

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