Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010 - 3:00am

An article in Business Week looks at why some universities (a small minority in fact) select CEOs, not academics, to lead business schools. "That kind of narrow and bounded perception of what deans do has changed really dramatically, so now in many places there is really a heightened expectation that the dean should be the public face of the school," Dan King, executive director of the American Association of University Administrators, told the magazine. "Business schools, in particular, want to present a prestigious public face. One way of presenting that image is showing they can recruit a leader who has been a successful executive in business and industry."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010 - 3:00am

Leaders of a United Auto Workers unit representing 6,000 doctoral researchers at the University of California said Monday that they had reached a tentative agreement with administrators over what would be the union's first-ever contract. A spokesman for the union said he could provide no details on the deal until postdocs ratified the agreement, probably next week. But he said it would improve the researchers' standing on a range of issues, from pay to benefits to working conditions. The UAW has spent years trying to unionize postdocs at UC.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010 - 3:00am

Research that will be published today in the journal Health Affairs suggests that graduates of foreign medical schools perform as well as graduates of medical schools in the United States, as measured by mortality rates for patients with a common set of conditions. The findings could be significant given a growing debate over the quality of medical care provided by doctors who were educated outside the United States -- a group that makes up nearly 25 percent of physicians in the United States. At the same time, however, the study found that the performance of foreign medical graduates who were U.S. citizens lagged the performance of other graduates, the kind of figure that could add to scrutiny of colleges outside the United States that serve many American students.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of Georgia wins top honors this year as a "party school," according to The Princeton Review's annual rankings. While the college guide in which the rankings appear has many categories (and the student surveys that go into the methodology don't reflect cutting edge social science standards, to put it mildly), everyone pays attention to the party school category. A spokesman for the university issued a statement: “UGA has been on the Party School list for a while, but it’s one we prefer not to lead.... The University of Georgia takes student alcohol education programs very seriously and will continue to do so."

Another institution that makes the list went on the offensive. Bruce Benson, president of the University of Colorado, sent local reporters a memo questioning whether enough students are sampled to make valid judgments. "This blatant lack of transparency, combined with questionable research methods, causes us to question the veracity of the survey," Benson wrote in the letter to The Daily Camera. "Frankly, we would not allow our faculty researchers or our students to be so secretive in their research methods." Colorado's flagship campus at Boulder is #16 for party schools, but also earned #6 in the "reefer madness" category for pot use and #13 for hard liquor. Benson's defense may have backfired. The alt-weekly Denver Westword awarded Benson its "Schmuck of the Week" award for trying to trash the rankings. Wrote the newspaper: "Sorry, Bruce, but CU is one of the country's top party schools, and everyone knows it. That orgasm of cannabis consumption in Boulder every 4/20 isn't exactly a secret. Now, you may not be proud of that, but by bitching about how unfair the school's slotting is before we even know the actual number, you seem like you're protesting too much, not to mention giving the CU faithful several extra days to anticipate a list they probably had forgotten was even coming."

Monday, August 2, 2010 - 3:00am

Stevens Institute of Technology appears to be moving past last year's administrative and financial turmoil, in part due to reforms pushed by New Jersey's attorney general, The Star-Ledger reported. The president whose compensation levels were criticized has stepped down and the board has instituted a series of new rules designed to assure proper oversight and greater transparency.

Monday, August 2, 2010 - 3:00am

The U.S. Education Department has told state officials in California that the federal government will terminate its agreement with EdFund, the state agency that guarantees federal student aid, and replace it with another entity, the Sacramento Bee reported. The department's decision could threaten Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to sell the troubled agency, which has been in turmoil for years.

Monday, August 2, 2010 - 3:00am

The environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has revived concerns at the University of California at Berkeley over the institution's ties to BP. The oil company gave the university $500 million for energy research in 2007 -- and many faculty members questioned the deal at the time. On Friday, a rally at Berkeley drew attention to the deal in light of recent events, with those at the rally saying it was time to revisit the university's ties to BP, the Associated Press reported. But Berkeley officials said that now isn't the time to walk away from the research. "The horrible events in the Gulf should only strengthen our commitment to find alternatives to fossil fuels," Graham Fleming, vice chancellor of research, told the AP. "Why would anyone's interest be served by stopping this research?"

Monday, August 2, 2010 - 3:00am

The long-awaited rankings of doctoral programs by the National Research Council -- years behind schedule and with an evolving methodology -- aren't coming this month, but are apparently due soon. NRC officials have been declining to give public indications of when the rankings will be released, but the Web site for the project posted a notice last week that indicated some campus officials were asking about the timing of August vacations in light of the potential release of the project. According to the notice, the rankings won't come out in August, but universities should find out in August when they will receive the data and when the public will receive the data -- at a later point also not in August.

Monday, August 2, 2010 - 3:00am

A new California law requires public colleges and universities to let students from foster care -- who frequently have no place to go during the summers -- to have access to dormitories year-round, the Los Angeles Times reported. About 700 University of California students came from the foster care system, as did 1,200 at California State University campuses and several thousand at community colleges.

Monday, August 2, 2010 - 3:00am

The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Friday admitted that it tracked Howard Zinn, the noted historian and political activist who died in January, from 1949 to 1974, and the bureau released 423 pages of records from the monitoring of Zinn. Salon noted that this monitoring took place "despite having apparently no evidence that he ever committed a crime." And TPM noted that the records indicate that a senior official at Boston University, where Zinn taught, tried to have him fired in 1970. (If you are wondering if that official might have been John Silber, the long-time BU president with whom Zinn had many disagreements, it wasn't, as Silber hadn't been hired at the time.)

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