Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, September 20, 2010 - 3:00am

Members of Congress who have signed letters opposing proposed tougher regulations for for-profit higher education have seen their contributions from the sector increase, according to an investigation by ProPublica. The nonprofit journalism organization found that members who signed letters opposing new rules have received $94,000 in 2010. For some of the lawmakers, this means much more money than they have received from the sector in the past. Rep. Donald Payne, a Democrat from New Jersey, received $6,000 in campaign contributions from for-profit higher ed from 2005 through 2009. In 2010, he received more than $20,000.

Monday, September 20, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of Kentucky Board of Trustees last week approved a $157,000 pay raise for Lee T. Todd Jr., the outgoing president of the university, and made the raise retroactive for a year, arguing that his salary had been too low and was more appropriately set at its new level of $511,000. Criticism has been widespread, not only of the actual raise (at a time when the university is facing budget cuts), but of comments by trustees defending the raise. An editorial in the Lexington Herald-Leader, for example, noted that one trustee said that "we do not pay the cleaning lady what we pay the heart surgeon."

One creative (and anonymous) response to the raise is on YouTube:

Monday, September 20, 2010 - 3:00am

The National Association of Scholars in June released a report criticizing the selections colleges make for common reading assignments for freshmen, charging that colleges favor the multicultural and politically correct over the timeless ideals that have helped to build Western civilization. Many academics criticized the association's critique, saying that it oversimplified the book selections and didn't reflect the actual goals behind these reading programs. For instance, many colleges said that the association was correct in identifying a preference for living authors -- and that colleges leaned that way because they saw value in inviting those authors to campus to meet students. On Friday, the association released a list of 37 of its suggestions for books that would be good to use for common reading programs for freshmen. Dead white men do dominate the list -- with William Shakespeare getting three slots (for Julius Caesar, Richard III and Henry V). The association also recommends Augustine's Confessions, James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans, and Voltaire's Candide, not to mention classics by the likes of Plato and Plutarch. But those expecting only works by dead white men may be surprised to find books by a living white man (Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff); a living African author (Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart); a dead white woman (Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop); and authors who are very much a part of the African-American and American canons (Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man and Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God).

Monday, September 20, 2010 - 3:00am

Pennsylvania State University on Friday announced its largest gift ever -- $88 million that will finance the construction of a hockey arena and the creation of a Division I men's hockey team. The university also will create a Division I women's hockey team.

Monday, September 20, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities is getting a lot of questions about why it called off the scheduled broadcast premiere of a documentary, "Troubled Waters," which is about the Mississippi River and produced by the university's natural history museum, The Star Tribune reported. University officials say that they delayed the broadcast -- which was to have taken place on the Twin Cities public television station next month -- so that faculty members could review the documentary for possible issues of accuracy and balance. But those involved in the documentary say that it was fact-checked thoroughly. Parts of the documentary focus on environmental problems created by chemicals used by farms -- and that material is expected to be controversial.

Monday, September 20, 2010 - 3:00am

Many students at Purdue University are angry about the latest installment of a regular feature in The Purdue Exponent, the student newspaper, WLFI reported. The feature is a cartoon, "Sex Position of the Week," and the latest such cartoon is being viewed by many as suggesting that rape is such a position. The student journalists say they never intended to condone rape, but students who created a Facebook group called "Tell Purdue Exponent Advocating Rape is NOT OKAY" believe that's exactly what the newspaper did.

Monday, September 20, 2010 - 3:00am

Irish universities are facing a crisis related to budgets and quality as they have been forced to eliminate positions at a time of rising enrollments. Times Higher Education reported. In 2009, and again in 2010, the universities have cut their staffing levels by 3 percent a year, but over that two-year period, undergraduate enrollment is up 12 percent and graduate enrollment is up 6 percent.

Friday, September 17, 2010 - 3:00am

President Obama on Thursday said in a statement that he would support efforts to use a defense spending bill as a vehicle to pass the DREAM Act, which would create a path to citizenship for many college students who have been in the United States for years -- typically brought by their parents at young ages -- without legal documentation to allow them to stay. Many political leaders have argued for keeping the DREAM legislation -- arguably one of the less controversial parts of immigration reform -- in an overall package of changes in immigration laws. The statement issued by the White House stressed that Obama still supported comprehensive immigration reform but that he was getting behind the idea of moving on DREAM first. "The president noted that it is time to stop punishing innocent young people for the actions of their parents, especially when those youth grew up in America and want to serve this country in the military or pursue a higher education they have earned through academic excellence," said the statement.

Friday, September 17, 2010 - 3:00am

Student journalists at Southwestern College, a community college near San Diego, say that the administration is trying to block them from publishing controversial election-related articles by invoking an old rule to require them to seek bids on their publishing contract, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The college has not enforced, for at least 15 years, a policy requiring the paper to seek bids before signing a printing contract, but the college now says that the paper may not be printed again until a bidding process takes place. The students say that this is an attempt to squelch them, but college officials say they just discovered the rule -- and they note that students can publish online.

Friday, September 17, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of California is routinely ignoring its own policies on proxy votes involving stocks in its endowment, according to an investigation by Bay Citizen, a nonprofit journalism organization whose work appears in The New York Times. The university's rules require a case-by-case analysis on proxy measures involving social issues, but the analysis found that the university appears to routinely vote against measures that would seem to require such an analysis -- without evidence of a study having taken place. Melvin Stanton, the university’s associate chief investment officer, told the Bay Citizen: "Our focus is doing what is best to improve the financial wherewithal of a particular company,” adding that "we’re not really focusing on social issues.”

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