Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of California at Merced has banned from an art exhibit a student's series of photographs that mock Chancellor Steve Kang, the Associated Press reported. The photos, among other things, show the chancellor speaking into a microphone that has been covered with a condom. University officials said that the art exhibit is billed as a family event and that this series was inappropriate. A video by the student, showing and explaining her work, may be found here. She writes: "My piece is a reflection of the torn feelings students face when discovering themselves. It outlines the ability to love two different campus idols: Steve Kang, our chancellor, and Lady Gaga, a pop idol."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - 3:00am

A report issued by Congress's investigative arm Tuesday provided few if any revelations about the state of university endowments, for anybody who has been paying close attention to the debate in Washington and elsewhere about whether colleges are spending aggressively enough from them. The study by the Government Accountability Office, which was mandated by Congress when it renewed the Higher Education Act in 2008, is descriptive rather than analytical in nature. It found that the vast majority of colleges have endowments of under $100 million (despite the wide publicity given to the most well-endowed institutions), that most of the money in the funds is restricted for specific uses (much if not most for financial aid), and that the value of the funds has risen by an average of 6.2 percent a year in inflation-adjusted dollars since 1989.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - 3:00am

University administrators enthusiastically participated in a House of Representatives subcommittee hearing on the state of research infrastructure at American institutions, telling a mostly sympathetic group of lawmakers that their financial needs are great if the country is to remain scientifically and economically competitive. The chairman of the House Science Subcommittee on Research & Science Education, Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.), citing a 2005 report saying that "academic institutions were deferring $3.5 billion in needed renovation projects," said he was "worried that unless we actively modernize our R&D facilities that we could not only be spending federal research dollars inefficiently, but that we could lose our position as scientific leaders, finding it harder to attract top scientists and engineers." The academic administrators who testified -- Leslie Tolbert of the University of Arizona, Albert Horvath of Pennsylvania State University, John R. Raymond of the Medical University of South Carolina, and Thom Dunning of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign -- offered various perspectives on the problems their institutions faced, but all of them sent the message that more federal funds, through the National Science Foundation or other agencies, were needed to help offset declines in fund raising, state appropriations and other funding sources. While nobody openly disagreed or said such support would be a bad idea, Rep. Vern Ehlers, a Michigan Republican who has long been a champion of science, said he had "mixed feelings" about the idea of direct research infrastructure support from the federal government and said it would represent "a change in direction" that the government should not undertake lightly.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - 3:00am

For the third time in three years, the University of Mary Washington is looking for a new president, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. Judy Hample announced her resignation Friday, after one year in office. While Hample and the university board members were vague about her departure, it follows an investigation into money spent on bookcases in the president's home. Hample succeeded William J. Frawley, who was fired in 2007 after two arrests for driving under the influence.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - 3:00am

The student government president at the University of California at San Diego temporarily froze funding for all student-financed media operations on the campus after members of a student media group made racially charged comments on a broadcast, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The incident, which was the second involving deragotory comments about black students in a matter of weeks, led the president of the student government to freeze student funding for all media outlets while the campus drafts a new policy on funding student media. The Guardian, the student newspaper, which does not receive student fee support, blasted the decision in an editorial entitled "Stopping the Presses Won't Heal the Hurt."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - 3:00am

The members of the American Anthropological Association have voted to condemn the June coup in Honduras, and to back those "who have resisted and continue to resist" the government takeover. Association members were invited to vote online, and about 8 percent of members did. The final tally was 656 to 166. Supporters of the resolution said that the "repression in Honduras has specifically and disproportionately affected groups traditionally studied by anthropologists, to whom we as a profession have responsibilities" and that "the coup created an atmosphere hostile to research, including anthropological research." Critics raised questions about whether there was a real consensus about events in the country, and whether it was appropriate for the largely North American members to express these views despite some opposition from anthropologists in Honduras.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 - 3:00am

A local sheriff unhappy about having been used as an example of a double dipping employee charged into a classroom at Mercer County Community College and forced the offending professor to apologize, the Times of Trenton reported. Its account, and that of The College Voice, Mercer's student newspaper, said that Sheriff Kevin C. Larkin had been told via a student's text message that Michael Glass, a political science professor, had cited the fact that Larkin receives a police pension on top of his current salary as sheriff as evidence of the double dipping that contributes to New Jersey's $2 billion budget gap. (The class discussion reportedly also discussed the fact that Larkin was divorced and had hefty alimony payments.) Larkin reportedly tried to call Glass and, unable to reach him, came to the campus, where he reportedly spoke to him for several minutes in the hallway outside his classroom, before Glass returned and, with the sheriff by his side, apologized for "making disparaging comments" about him. The college's president, Patricia C. Donohue, issued a statement saying that "we do not think it is appropriate for any visitor to interrupt a class" and that "we plan to follow up with the individual about what our visitor policy is." Robin Schore, dean of Mercer's liberal arts division, was more forceful, telling the student newspaper that such an incident "has a chilling effect on free speech.... The idea of having a police presence challenging a professor and taking him out of class is something seen in a police state. It's outrageous."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 - 3:00am

With good jobs for new M.B.A. graduates in short supply and business schools anxious about their soon-to-be graduates' employment practices, business schools are getting creative about reaching corporate recruiters, The Wall Street Journal reported. Some are arranging for video interviews to deal with corporate recruiters who are reluctant to travel. Others are flying students to visit corporate offices, rather than waiting for companies to come to campus.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 - 3:00am

A panel charged with recommending ways for financially troubled Brandeis University to save money has proposed the elimination or shrinkage of numerous academic programs -- with associated reductions in faculty slots, although some courses in these subjects would continue to be taught. Among the proposed cuts likely to be controversial, given that Brandeis describes itself as a nonsectarian Jewish-sponsored university, are the major in Hebrew language and literature and the minor in Yiddish and East European Jewish culture. Other proposed changes include the elimination of the anthropology doctorate program, cuts in the number of university-supported doctoral students in chemistry and computer science, and cuts in the theater design program and the theater company. Several independent science departments would also be merged.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 - 3:00am

Seven years after the University of Mississippi abandoned the use of Colonel Reb as its mascot, the university is considering restoring some (other) mascot, and once again is debating questions of race and symbolism, the Associated Press reported. The old mascot was seen as a symbol of the slave-owning Old South. Now some loyalists are advocating for the old mascot while others just want some mascot. Today, students will vote only on the question of whether some mascot should be selected -- or whether the university should remain without one.

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