Higher Education Quick Takes
Utah State Representative Chris Herrod introduced a bill Monday to require the state's public colleges and universities to stop offering tenure to faculty members, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Higher education leaders are speaking out against the bill, saying it would make it difficult to attract top academic talent to the state. (Currently tenured faculty members would not have their tenure revoked.) Herrod said that the bill would be good for higher education. In tight budget times, he said, “I would hate to have to cut a young, energetic Ph.D." to preserve a position for a tenured professor who is "barely there."
The London School of Economics and Political Science has declined to ban from a panel discussion on Europe's future two speakers who are seen as anti-Muslim for questioning the willingness of Muslim immigrants to integrate themselves into German society, Times Higher Education reported. German students and academics based in Britain had asked for the panelists to be removed, but the student organizers and the institution itself declined to do so, citing a commitment to free speech.
Gallaudet University announced Monday that it will eliminate 17 academic programs (pdf) in a gradual process that will end in August 2013. Six undergraduate majors, six undergraduate minors, three master’s degree programs, one educational specialist program, and one doctoral program will be affected. No faculty layoffs of any kind are planned. The programs include an undergraduate major and minor in French, majors in theater arts and computer science, and a master's program in deaf history.
The announcement comes after a university task force spent seven months reviewing 99 undergraduate and graduate academic program offerings “on a set of agreed-upon common criteria for recommending growth, monitoring, restructuring, merging, or discontinuing.” A campus-wide public comment session followed. The review was prompted in an effort to meet the goals set out in the university’s “Vision 2020” plan, explained Benjamin J. Soukup, chair of the university’s board of trustees. “We feel these recommendations will help us meet those milestones and dramatically improve our offerings to ensure Gallaudet’s continued growth and success,” he said.
Jane Dillehay, chair of the Gallaudet Faculty Senate, issued the following statement on its behalf: "As a whole we recognize that resources are limited and our ability to support all of our programs effectively are limited. Our first commitment is to provide an educational experience to prepare today's students for their futures. While many faculty remain concerned with flaws in the process, the Program Prioritization Task Force was a product of shared governance. The university provost and president have pledged to continue that approach in developing an implementation plan for transition to help students complete their studies by August 2013, place faculty in other programs to avoid layoffs, and reallocate resources to support our stronger programs."
A group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers said Monday that they would seek to use budget legislation the House will consider this week to try to block the Education Department from carrying out regulations requiring vocational programs (and all programs at for-profit colleges) to ensure that they prepare students for "gainful employment." In an interview in his office, Representative John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said that he and three other lawmakers would sponsor an amendment to the continuing resolution legislation that the House could take up as early as today. The measure would bar the Education Department from using any of its appropriated funds in 2011 to promulgate or enforce the gainful employment regulations, which for-profit college officials have fought on a variety of fronts.
Kline, who spoke with reporters along with Representative Alcee Hastings, a Florida Democrat, said the lawmakers were confident that the House would pass the legislation, and hoped that that vote would send a "strong signal" to "the administration and our friends in the Senate" that "somebody ought to take another look at" the wisdom and fairness of the rules. "We have an opportunity right now to make a statement." Kline said the lawmakers objected both to the one piece of the gainful employment regulation that the department has already published -- which requires institutions wishing to create new vocational programs to get the Education Department's approval to do so -- and to the forthcoming portion of the rules that would institute a new set of outcomes that vocational programs would have to meet.
The ratings outlook for nonprofit higher education's 2011 remains mixed, according to a report issued Monday by Standard & Poor's. In 2011, "operating results and demand will likely be uneven, and institutions with high debt and limited liquidity could experience severe stress," according to the report. However, "many institutions will perform favorably over the next year," and, in the long-term, the credit profile remains stable. Standard & Poor's does not expect public colleges as a whole to face more serious difficulties than private colleges -- despite state funding cuts. But the credit-rating agency projects that public four-year colleges will experience increased competition from both private and community colleges.
Next Generation Learning Challenges, a program that plans to disburse $20 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to educational technology projects over the next two years, on Monday released the 50 higher-ed finalists for its first round of grants. The projects were chosen as finalists based on their potential impact on college access and completion through the development and use of open courseware, blended learning, "deeper" learning, and learning analytics. About 60 percent of the finalists are expected to receive grants. The foundation is currently working on selecting the winners, which are expected to be announced in early spring.
Afghanistan's universities are suffering severe financial problems at a time that they are badly needed to promote the development of the country, The Washington Post reported. Among the key problems are laws that bar charging tuition and that prohibit universities from creating endowments. The result is dependence on the government and outside agencies, which have limited funds. Last year, the 22 public universities and education institutes operated on a combined total of $35 million, the Post said.
The University of Utah is investigating allegations of plagiarism against Bahman Baktiari, director of the institution's Middle East Center, in an op-ed in The Salt Lake Tribune, that newspaper reported. The newspaper has since removed the op-ed from its website. Faculty members and students identified several instances of unattributed material from sources such as The New York Times and The Economist and shared their analysis with senior university officials and the Tribune. Baktiari told the newspaper he didn't know attribution was needed for newspaper op-eds.
Three teams that had been slated for elimination at the University of California at Berkeley -- women's lacrosse, women's gymnastics and rugby -- will be maintained, the university announced Friday. The teams were among five proposed for elimination last year, as the university tried to trim its athletic spending amid major budget cuts for the university. Baseball and men's gymnastics -- the other two teams -- will be phased out. Berkeley officials credited philanthropic commitments for allowing some of the teams to survive, but others have noted that the elimination of the women's teams would have created challenges for the university in demonstrating compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.