Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, September 24, 2010 - 3:00am

The chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley said the institution plans to cut another 200 jobs to save $20 million, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. In a letter to employees this week, Robert Birgeneau said that Berkeley "cannot continue with our current administrative structures and operations and be the best run public university in the country." The cuts, which he said will be achieved through "a combination of attrition, retirements, voluntary separations and layoffs," would be in addition to about 600 positions eliminated since last year.

Friday, September 24, 2010 - 3:00am

Days after it called off the screening of a potentially controversial new documentary on the environment, the University of Minnesota has announced that it will show the film, as planned, The Pioneer Press of St. Paul reported. Minnesota officials had said the delay was to give faculty members time to review the documentary produced by its natural history museum, "Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story," for factual accuracy, but the decision raised questions in some quarters about whether the university was yielding to concerns of agricultural interests. The head of the museum, Susan Weller, told the newspaper that the show would go on as planned after she reassured Minnesota administrators that a review process had been conducted and that no more faculty review was needed.

Friday, September 24, 2010 - 3:00am

Robert M. Berdahl announced Thursday that he will retire as president of the Association of American Universities on May 1. Berdahl has led the association of 63 research universities in the United States and Canada since 2006. Berdahl said that he plans in retirement to remain active on higher education issues and to pursue various writing projects. Before coming to the association, he served as chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley and president of the University of Texas at Austin.

Thursday, September 23, 2010 - 3:00am

Drew University students are complaining that the university has made it a bit more difficult for them to obtain free condoms, The Star-Ledger reported. Students can get free condoms by asking dormitory resident advisors for them. In the past, the university had condoms for the taking in a wicker basket in the lobby of the university health office, but changed the system because students were grabbing handfuls of them at once -- and sometimes taking the basket too, officials said. Students say that they may be embarrassed to ask their R.A.'s for the condoms. But a university spokesman said: "If a student is mature enough to engage in sexual activity, they should be mature enough to ask for a condom or buy them. At the end of the day, everyone is responsible for their own health and welfare."

Thursday, September 23, 2010 - 3:00am

Wednesday marked the official launch of a new federal panel designed to recommend how to ensure that American research universities remain vital and effective. The Committee on Research Universities, sponsored by the National Academies and funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, includes corporate CEOs, university leaders, and others, and is charged with answering this question: "What are the top ten actions that Congress, the federal government, state governments, research universities, and others could take to assure the ability of the American research university to maintain the excellence in research and doctoral education needed to help the United States compete, prosper, and achieve national goals for health, energy, the environment, and security in the global community of the 21st century?” A report is due next May.

Thursday, September 23, 2010 - 3:00am

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a statement denouncing as "harmful to one's moral and spiritual life" a 2008 book by two theologians at Creighton University, a Roman Catholic institution. The book, The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology, by Todd A. Salzman and Michael G. Lawler, was published by Georgetown University Press, and the press website features much praise for the work. In the book, the authors offer views that differ from traditional church teachings on a variety of issues related to sex. The authors were not available for comment. Creighton issued a statement to The Omaha World-Herald saying that the institution is committed both to Catholic teachings and to academic freedom.

Thursday, September 23, 2010 - 3:00am

Much has been made in recent months about the increasingly intensive political activity in which for-profit colleges and their employees have been engaging in the face of the related increasingly intensive federal regulatory and legislative scrutiny buffeting the institutions. That political tradition is matched by two others that a new report reaffirms: the heavy financial contributions by higher education employees to political campaigns, and the overwhelming bias of that giving toward Democratic candidates. The report, by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group, breaks down political giving by college employees leading up to November's 2010 midterm elections, and shows how heavily the donations tilt left. (There are exceptions, with employees at the Universities of Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia giving predominantly, and workers at Calvin College and the College of Lake County giving almost exclusively, to Republicans.) A table below includes the top 10 institutions (and educational groups) in political giving so far this year:

Organization Total
Giving
By Political
Action
Committee
By
Individuals
% to
Democrats
% to
Republicans
University of California $483,981 $0 $483,981 86% 14%
Harvard University $424,478 $0 $424,478 77% 23%
Stanford University $375,553 $0 $375,553 75% 25%
Apollo Group $265,625 $78,600 $177,025 76% 24%
Career College Association $226,111 $206,311 $19,800 66% 34%
University of Texas $139,867 $0 $139,867 83% 17%
Columbia University $126,690 $0 $126,690 72% 28%
Full Sail $126,070 $0 $126,070 74% 24%
Keiser University $118,242 $0 $118,242 51% 25%
Princeton Review $115,000 $0 $115,000 100% 0%
Thursday, September 23, 2010 - 3:00am

Grambling State University officials are consulting lawyers following complaints by civil liberties groups over the university's ban on students and faculty members using campus e-mail systems for political solicitations, The News Star reported. The university said it was trying to comply with state law barring the use of state resources for political activity, but the complaints from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education say that the university's interpretation goes too far in limiting free expression.

Thursday, September 23, 2010 - 3:00am

A former assistant to Mills College's president has sued the institution for wrongful termination, charging that Mills fired her after she complained that the president's dog had bitten her, the Contra Costa Times reported. According to the newspaper's account, Pamela Reid's lawsuit asserts that she lost her job as assistant to President Janet Holmgren in January, several months after she called Oakland Animal Services to report that Holmgren's dog, a terrier mix, had bitten her outside the president's on-campus home in August 2009. Mills officials called the lawsuit "meritless." No word on the fate of the dog.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - 3:00am

As the U.S. Senate appeared poised to move ahead on a defense spending bill, Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Tuesday wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his GOP counterpart, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), to ask that they push for the passage of the DREAM Act, which would create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children and went on to postsecondary education or military service. In his letter, Duncan said the act would "stop the punishment of innocent young people for the actions of their parents, and give them the chance to earn their legal status." The act, he added, would "play an important part in our efforts to meet the Administration's goals of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020." Dozens of college presidents have spoken out in favor of the DREAM Act in recent months.

President Obama last week voiced his support for Congress to pass the DREAM Act as a standalone measure, after Reid and other Democrats made clear that they wanted action on it before November's Congressional elections. But motion stalled Tuesday afternoon as Republicans and some Democrats voted to continue debate on the bill, which Reid has said he plans to also amend with language that would repeal the federal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy pertaining to the military's treatment of gay and lesbian members of the armed forces. The DREAM Act was first introduced in Congress in 2001.

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