President Obama on Tuesday, in signing legislation to reform the student loan system and add billions to Pell Grants, also announced that the White House will hold a summit about community colleges this fall. The White House statement said that the event would "provide an opportunity for community college leaders, students, education experts, business leaders, and others to share innovative ways to educate our way to a better economy."
Higher Education Quick Takes
Students, faculty members and some legislators are questioning the decision of the foundation of California State University at Stanislaus to invite Sarah Palin, the former vice presidential candidate, to be the lead speaker at a fund raiser in June, The Modesto Bee reported. Many are questioning why a divisive, partisan figure would be invited to celebrate the 50th anniversary of a public university. Matt Swanson, president of the foundation, said that "first and foremost, this is a fund-raising event. We saw Governor Palin as somebody who is obviously a big celebrity and on the forefront of the public eye."
A plan at the University of Maine to eliminate numerous majors is drawing criticism from advocates for those disciplines and from students and faculty members concerned about the liberal arts taking too large a hit, The Bangor Daily News reported. Among the majors proposed for elimination -- although lower division courses would continue to be offered in some cases -- are women's studies, French, German, Spanish, Latin, theater and music.
The University of Florida has told two master's students at the Documentary Institute that they cannot use footage they shot in Haiti for their thesis project because the university barred student travel to Haiti, The Gainesville Sun reported. The students say they needed the footage for their film, and used private funds to pay for the travel, but the university says that permitting the footage would undercut the travel ban.
The University of Louisville has agreed to pay $1 million to a former administrator who was asked to leave his job, The Louisville Courier-Journal reported. The revelation follows another report in the newspaper about a lobbyist paid not to work.
Newcastle University, in Britain, is using a series of personality characteristics to hire administrators, and some faculty members think the system is Orwellian, Times Higher Education reported. The qualities values those who "accept change and run with it," and suggests avoiding those who "express doubts" -- qualities faculty members say will produce those who won't question potentially negative changes.
The Educational Credit Management Corporation, a guarantor of federal student loans, announced Friday that a "portable media" device recently stolen had personally identifiable information -- including names, addresses, dates of birth and Social Security numbers -- on 3.3 million borrowers, co-signers and others. The theft occurred during the weekend of March 20-21 and was discovered by ECMC on the afternoon of Sunday, March 21. Officials said that they informed law enforcement immediately and issued Friday's announcement as soon as they had clearance to do so by those investigating the theft. ECMC guarantees loans for students in Minnesota, Virginia and Oregon, and also contracts with the U.S. Education Department to provide services when borrowers have entered into bankruptcy.
What's it like being John Yoo, the one-time Bush administration official whose memos are widely seen as endorsing torture and who is now back teaching law (to the dismay of activists who want him ousted) at the University of California at Berkeley? He told the Los Angeles Times he relishes his role and isn't intimidated by the many at the university who want him gone, or who defend his right to be there while finding his ideas offensive. "I think of myself as being West Berlin during the Cold War, a shining beacon of capitalism and democracy surrounded by a sea of Marxism," Yoo told the Times. He said he views Berkeley as "a natural history museum of the 1960s," adding: "It's like looking at the panoramic displays of troglodytes sitting around the campfire with their clubs. Here, it's tie-dye and marijuana. It's just like the 1960s, with the Vietnam War still to protest."
The University of Nebraska at Omaha is home to the Center for Afghanistan Studies, an academic center created in the 1970s, before Afghanistan was a hot spot in global conflict. As a result, the center's officials became much-quoted and the center has attracted numerous grants for its work as the country has become key to U.S. foreign policy. An article in the Los Angeles Times notes that while the attention and funds have pleased the university, many critics question whether the center is too close to federal agencies and not sufficiently scholarly.
Some Maryland legislators are threatening to block funds for the University of Maryland because its law clinic is involved in environmental suits against the poultry industry, The Baltimore Sun reported. The dispute is the latest nationally in which legal clinics run by law schools -- generally only a blip in the total budgets of public universities -- become the subject of major legislative debates because they help those suing powerful groups.