The law school of the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa is well respected, but generally isn't seen in the same league as some elite private law schools in places like Cambridge and New Haven. So how is it, the Associated Press asked, that every sitting Supreme Court justice has either already visited to give a talk or has agreed to do so? Based on interviews and open records requests, the AP reported that Alabama is very resourceful at identifying people to lobby on its behalf, and identifying the right kind of honoraria offers (which are typically paid to charities favored by the individual justices). Unique Alabama experiences are also part of the effort. Justice Anthony Kennedy had heard about a rib place he wanted to visit, and that was part of his trip. Justice Clarence Thomas, a big sports fan, attended an Alabama football game. And Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg received an autographed copy of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The Cornish College of Arts announced Friday that it was withdrawing invitations to Mike Daisey to give the commencement address and receive an honorary degree, The Seattle Times reported. Daisey, a playwright, has admitted that parts of his play about Steve Jobs, as performed on "This American Life," were inaccurate. Nancy Uscher, president of the college, issued a statement explaining the decision. "Mr. Daisey has acknowledged that he personally did not witness all the events that he said he did, and he exaggerated the level of his own experiences to journalists," she said. "Since its founding by Nellie Cornish in 1914, Cornish College of the Arts has educated and prepared students to contribute to society as artists, citizens, and innovators. One essential principle of that education is the importance of professional integrity. Because of that foundational value, Cornish will not award an honorary degree to Mr. Daisey. Cornish and Mr. Daisey have mutually agreed he will withdraw from commencement."
A government report suggests that many Indian universities have enough room on their campuses to double enrollments in the next five years, Mint reported. "The 43 central universities, except a few like Delhi University, are functioning with disproportionately low student enrollment compared to the campus area," the report said. "A 100 percent increase in intake is feasible in 30 of these university campuses." The report suggests that a new measure of university efficiency be students-per-acre of campus.
Deepak Pental, a former vice-chancellor of the University of Delhi, called the proposal "ridiculous," adding that "authorities should not equate number with quality, though we understand that a service economy needs to get enough human capital to sustain the growth rate."
Gay students and gay issues have become unusually visible at Brigham Young University, an institutions that bars students from sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that gay students last week released a video in the "It Gets Better" series talking about being gay at the university. Also last week, estimates are that up to 600 students attended a meeting in a room with seating for 260 to hear four students talk about balancing their gay identities with life at the university, which is affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "We’re trying to live it and create new spaces for us to be gay and Mormon and be active in the church," said Adam White, who was on the the panel and appeared in the YouTube video. The university says that gay students do not face punishments from the university as long as they don't have physical intimacy with members of the same sex.
A lengthy Bloomberg article outlines a series of incidents that have alarmed security officials and some university leaders who fear that some countries are attempting to use American universities' foreign connections for the purpose of spying. The article notes numerous incidents, including an American researcher who was invited to give a talk abroad. Then someone there asked for a copy of her paper, inserted a thumb drive into her laptop, and downloaded every document she had. In another instance, Michigan State University was approached by a Dubai-based company about providing funds and students for the university's Dubai campus, which was struggling financially. Lou Anna K. Simon, president at Michigan State, contacted the Central Intelligence Agency because she was afraid the company might be a front for Iran. When the CIA couldn't confirm the company's legitimacy, Simon passed on the deal and shut down the Dubai campus.
The article also quoted from a 2011 Pentagon report that said that attempts by East Asian countries to obtain classified or proprietary information through "academic solicitation" (requesting to see academic papers or discuss work with professors), jumped eightfold in 2010.
The University of Oregon has filed objections to a proposed union of faculty members organized jointly by the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers. Potentially the most significant challenge is to the idea of having in the same bargaining unit tenure-track faculty members, adjuncts, postdocs and others. The university filing with the state labor board states that there is not "a sufficient community of interest" in these various groups. Union organizers criticized the university's action. "The university administration appears to be headed down a long and contentious path of using every legal mechanism and a lot of public money to deny us the basic right to decide our union future for ourselves,” said Michael Dreiling, associate professor of sociology.
The board of Santa Monica College has scheduled an emergency board meeting for today to consider the fate of the college's controversial two-tiered tuition plan, The Los Angeles Times reported. The plan would charge more for some high-demand courses, and has set off student protests and concern from educators nationwide. The chancellor of the California community college system this week asked Santa Monica to hold off on the plan.
Chicago State University has told its faculty members that they can't talk to the press without permission from university officials, and that permission may be required for various other forms of communication, including writing opinion pieces and using social media, The Chicago Tribune reported. An e-mail message Sabrina Land, the university's director of marketing and communications, sent to faculty members said that the new rules would assure that communications were "strategically deployed" in a way that "safeguards the reputation, work product and ultimately, the students" of the university. Cary Nelson, national president of the American Association of University Professors, told the Tribune that the new policy "is an obscenity and absurdity and is not tolerable."
The University of Connecticut men’s basketball team will have to sit out the 2012-13 postseason, after it failed in its final effort to appeal a National Collegiate Athletic Association decision that banned the team from the tournament because of poor academic performance. The team is ineligible because it didn’t reach the (newly raised) minimum NCAA Academic Progress Rate of 930, which would indicate that half its players were on track to graduate. That measurement is a cumulative one, meaning the APR that got Connecticut banned from the 2013 tournament actually reflects the academic performance of players on the team from 2007-11. Connecticut appealed to an NCAA committee after its initial request for a waiver was denied in February.
The university issued a statement Thursday pointing to the improved academic performance of its past two men’s basketball teams. “It is disturbing that our current players must pay a penalty for the academic performance of students no longer enrolled,” Connecticut President Susan Herbst said in the statement. “As I have said repeatedly, no educator or parent purposefully punishes young people for the failings of others.”
This is the first year the NCAA has issued postseason bans for poor APR scores. The new rule is part of a series of Division I reform efforts that NCAA President Mark Emmert pushed through in October.