Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, April 26, 2010 - 3:00am

San Francisco State University had issued a "clarification" of its handling of a December protest that essentially admits that the university broke a deal that an administrator made with students, but the university isn't honoring the deal, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The students made a deal with an assistant dean that they would face no more than $50 in fines if they accepted the idea of university sanctions. Subsequently, the university fined each student $744 -- and told them they would be forced to leave if they didn't pay. The students have been complaining about the apparent change of punishments, and on Friday the university issued a statement indicating that the assistant dean now remembered the promise he made about the $50 fines. The university still isn't reducing the fines to $50, but it is now allowing the students access to an appeals process.

Monday, April 26, 2010 - 3:00am

Under fire for promoting sex tourism in Thailand, a California State University professor has taken down a controversial Web site partly devoted to the subject. Kenneth Ng, an associate professor of economics at Cal State Northridge, “reluctantly” took down the site Friday, Provost Harry Hellenbrand said in a statement. Ng said he was discontinuing the site because of the impact it was having on the campus’s reputation, not because he thought its content was inappropriate. Highlighting the complexity of the debate that unfolded over the site, Hellenbrand said “We are trying to balance two principles that, in this case, clashed. Our commitment to gender equity compels us to see the site as offensive; our commitment to expression urges us to tolerate words and pictures we find intolerant.” The site, BigBabyKenny.com, now features a few posts about the controversy that proved its undoing.

Monday, April 26, 2010 - 3:00am

Lafayette College has agreed to pay $1 million to five women on whose behalf the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the college for sexual harassment, The Morning Call reported. The suit charged that the college did not prevent Barry Stauffer, who was at the time a police officer there, from groping female employees and making lewd comments to them describing sex acts he said he wanted to perform. The college fired him in 2008, the same year the suit was filed. Last year, the Morning Call said, he pleaded guilty to two counts of stalking involving two female college employees.

Monday, April 26, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of Texas System has called all students and faculty members in seven states in the north of Mexico to return, citing rising violence in the region. Many of the larger exchange programs with Mexico are in other parts of the country.

Monday, April 26, 2010 - 3:00am

Kent State University is marking the 40th anniversary of the May 4, 1970 shootings with a new walking tour -- with audio narrated by civil rights leader Julian Bond -- of seven stops that relate to the tragedy. The university is also honoring the placement of the site on the National Register of Historic Places.

Friday, April 23, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of Oregon has "reassigned" its general counsel to teach at the law school, The Eugene Register-Guard reported. University officials aren't commenting on the reasons behind the switch, but it follows a controversy over the departure package negotiated by the university with its athletic director.

Friday, April 23, 2010 - 3:00am

Faculty members at Columbus State University have voted no confidence in President Tim Mescon and Provost Inessa Levi, by wide margins, The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported. Faculty members cited a number of grievances, including tenure decisions and shifts in library oversight, and administrators have pulled back on some of the decisions that angered professors.

Friday, April 23, 2010 - 3:00am

Kathryn A. Martin, chancellor of the University of Minnesota at Duluth, on Thursday denounced as “horrendous and despicable” a Facebook discussion among two white female students that was read by many students at the institution, The Duluth News Tribune reported. The discussion, on the students' Facebook pages, took place as a black student entered a study lounge where the white students were working (and chatting on Facebook). Among the comments, according to several news accounts: “ew-w-w a obabacare is in the room, i feel dirty, and unsafe. ... keep a eye on all of your valuables and don't make direct eye contact.” After the comments spread, they became the topic of widespread discussion on the campus and a university investigation.

Friday, April 23, 2010 - 3:00am

Robert J. Sternberg, a prominent psychologist who has pioneered alternative approaches to college admissions, has been named the next provost of Oklahoma State University. Sternberg spent most of his academic career at Yale University and since 2005 has been dean of arts and sciences at Tufts University. In an e-mail interview, Sternberg said that many have been surprised by his decision to move to Oklahoma State, but that he had decided he wanted to work in public higher education. (He pulled out of being the sole finalist for the position of provost of the University of Colorado at Boulder to accept the Oklahoma State job.)

Access is the key issue facing higher education today, Sternberg said, and he worries that elite private higher education -- though doing a great job in many respects -- may not be where the action is. "I think that our society has a real problem but does not recognize it -- that its obsessive preoccupation with test scores has sowed the seeds of its own destruction. We need to be concentrating on developing wise and ethical leaders -- instead we are developing people who are consummate multiple-choice test-takers who do not necessarily have the wisdom to lead," he said.

"This is not to dump on the elite schools -- they are doing the job they believe they should do," he said. "But is it the right job? Society as a whole has, I think, drifted in the wrong direction. I believe that the state schools, with their emphasis on service and 'giving back,' represent a crucial direction for this country. We need to emphasize wisdom and giving back, not just narrow academic intelligence and how to use it to take more. Oklahoma State, I found, had the same core values I do."

Friday, April 23, 2010 - 3:00am

The Alabama Legislature reached a deal Thursday that will keep the state's prepaid tuition program functioning, the Associated Press reported. With the 2008 collapse of stock values, the funds invested by the state on parents' behalf no longer appear sufficient to pay the tuition of those who paid to join the plan. Some in the state have worried that the bailout would amount to a large infusion of funds to a program that largely benefits the middle class or wealthy who participate at a time that colleges that primarily serve low-income students are short on funds. In the end, the deal will provide $548 million over 17 years to maintain the program. And in a move that is being criticized, the deal requires public universities to limit tuition increases for program participants, but exempts Auburn University and the University of Alabama systems.

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