Facing the prospect of protests from the Occupy Philadelphia movement, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Friday called off a planned talk at the University of Pennsylvania, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Cantor said in a statement that he canceled after learning that Penn would allow members of the public to attend. He said that he had agreed to the talk on the belief that it would be restricted to those affiliated with Penn. But a statement from Penn said that the university always has opened such events to the general public, and that it never promised Cantor otherwise.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Israel's government on Sunday announced plans to add financial support for higher education. The Jerusalem Post reported that part of the plan will be to pay for one year of higher education costs for soldiers who have completed their required government service. The other part of the plan will be an increase in funding for higher education in small towns and communities.
The City University of New York, facing an increasing population of students who graduate from high school, sometimes with good grades, and then are identified as needing remediation in several subjects, is having success with an intensive semester-long program, The New York Times reported. In the CUNY program, students take only three subjects, and work on them five hours a day, five days week. So far, students are completing the program and then passing out of remedial education at much higher levels than are the norm for remedial programs. CUNY has been working to expand the effort.
The faculty union at the University of Illinois at Chicago won another victory Friday, with a ruling by the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board rejecting a request by the university to stay an order certifying the union. The union is the result of a major organizing drive conducted by the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers, which have hoped that the effort at UIC would pave the way for more faculty unions at doctoral institutions. The university has challenged the right of the union to form, as currently planned, because both tenure-track faculty members and adjunct professors would be in the same unit. The university maintains that this violates state law, but the state labor board in September rejected that argument, and certified the union. The university vowed to go to court to block the union, and requested a stay.
Union officials noted that the board's decision rejecting the stay suggested that the university will lose in court. "We find that granting a stay in this case would be contrary to the public policy that supports a duty to bargain," the board said in its ruling. It added that "we find that there is not a reasonable likelihood that the employer will succeed on the merits."
After this item was originally published, the university released a statement saying that an Illinois appeals court has agreed to an expedited review of the university's appeal, and that the court would soon be asked for a stay.
Journalism students at Moscow State University used Twitter to protest the way an appearance of Russia's president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, was staged on Thursday, The New York Times reported. The appearance was used by the government to portray Medvedev as being in touch with young people, but the students tweeted that the audience was mostly made up of government supporters (many of them from outside the university) selected by a Kremlin team.
The Star-Ledger examines the growing popularity of large-scale anti-zombie warfare as a student game. Last week, students at both Drew and Fairleigh Dickinson Universities were engaged in the activities -- encouraged by anti-alcohol groups that want to promote booze-free, fun activities. In the games, all students start as human, except for one randomly selected as a zombie. That student then attempts to tag students and turn them into zombies. Humans can win by surviving the week-long competition; zombies win for killing off the greatest number of humans.
Joel Miller, a biomedical engineer at the University of Western Australia, is this year's winner of Science's "Dance Your Ph.D." contest in which scientists create and perform dances based on their doctoral work. He won for "Microstructure-Property relationships in Ti2448 components produced by Selective Laser Melting: A Love Story." The video -- as well as videos of the three semifinalists -- may be found here.
The Occupy Wall Street movement is receiving new backing from academe. The Council of the American Studies Association has released a statement expressing support as faculty members who study and teach about American society. "As educators, we experience the dismantling of public education, rising tuition, unsustainable student debt, and the assault on every dimension of education," the statement says. "As American Studies scholars, our work includes, among other things, addressing the problems and challenges societies face, drawing lessons from the past, comparing across polities, and making informed recommendations that will spark open debate. We draw inspiration from earlier social movements that have challenged the unequal distribution of power, wealth, and authority. Today’s movements continue this necessary work. The uprisings compel us to lift our voices and dedicate our effort to realizing the democratic aspirations for an equitable and habitable world. We are the 99 percent."
The Council of University of California Faculty Association created an open letter of support, now signed by more than 1,000 faculty members, that says in part: "We, members of the faculty of the University of California, write in solidarity with and in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement now underway in our city and elsewhere. Many observers claim that the movement has no specific goals; this is not our understanding. The movement aims to bring attention to the various forms of inequality – economic, political, and social – that characterize our times, that block opportunities for the young and strangle the hopes for better futures for the majority while generating vast profits for a very few."
The swelling discontent over college sports -- with scrutiny for issues ranging from improper benefits to scholarship gaps and athletic eligibility -- may soon be examined in the halls of Congress, as well. Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to the panel's Republican chairman asking that the committee hold hearings focusing not just on the aforementioned hot topics, but other “antitrust and due process issues.” Among them: conference realignment, limitations on scholarship durations (see related essay elsewhere on this site), National Collegiate Athletic Association bylaws regarding due process of athletes, institutional liability in the event of athletes getting injured, and the NCAA's control of athletes’ “likeness” – which critics say has allowed the association to profit unfairly from using students’ names or images in things like video games and promotions. “It has become increasingly clear to me that the combination of issues and challenges facing intercollegiate sports have reached a tipping point calling for Congressional attention,” Conyers wrote.
In the letter, Conyers acknowledged that his colleagues might hesitate to spend time on issues regarding college athletics, but argued that the “massive business” has widespread economic impact on athletes, broadcasters, fans and colleges nationwide. He also noted that to do so would not be unprecedented – the committee has previously conducted hearings on piracy of sports broadcasting rights and Bowl Championship Series antitrust issues. (Conyers invoked the latter in his appeal to examine the continuing shake-up among conferences. “The impact of major conference realignment on lower-profile sports teams, parents, and smaller and independent universities -- notably Historically Black Colleges and Universities -- are of particular concern,” he wrote. “HBCUs and other universities appear to have been relegated to difficult bargaining postures due to the recent realignments.”)
The American Bar Association is pledging that it will force law schools to release more information about how their graduates fare at finding jobs. The pledge comes amid criticism from recent law graduates (some of whom are suing law schools) and some members of Congress that law schools deceive prospective students by counting as "employed" those who are working part-time or in temporary jobs or in jobs paid for by the law school. The ABA said that it will now require law schools to report information directly to the association, and that it will require detailed reports, including for each graduate: employment status, employment type, employment location, salary, whether a position is short-term or long-term, and whether a position is funded by the law school. The ABA also plans -- once it completes work on various definitions -- to require reporting on whether jobs in which graduates are employed are positions for which a law degree or bar passage is required. This reflects criticism that, if prospective students knew how many law graduates ended up in jobs for which a law degree was not necessary, some might not enroll (and take out considerable loans to do so).