State auditors are calling on the Los Angeles Community College District to seek a criminal investigation of the district's hiring of an inspector general to monitor a $5.7 billion construction program, The Los Angeles Times reported. State officials said that the district hired a company with links to a construction company that was a major donor in trustee elections, and that an initial review of the proposals for inspector general ranked the selected company second to last among 11 proposals. The Times has run a series of articles about mistakes and wasteful spending in the mammoth construction program. Most district trustees are reluctant to seek a criminal investigation, saying that they do not see the need.
Higher Education Quick Takes
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing has added two more colleges to the list of hundreds that no longer restrict admissions to those willing to submit SAT or ACT scores. The new additions are Earlham and Nichols Colleges. According to FairTest, Earlham is the 36th "national liberal arts college" ranked in the U.S. News & World Report top 100 to move away from automatic testing requirements.
Leon Panetta, the new secretary of defense, is calling on the military to look for new ways to promote language training. In a memo last week to senior Pentagon officials, he said that "language, regional and cultural skills are enduring warfighting competencies that are critical to mission readiness in today's dynamic global environment." He asked relevant military leaders to "establish and execute policies" to "show we value these skills." He called for more "cross-cultural training," and new efforts to "increase and sustain the foreign language proficiency" of military professionals.
Georgetown University's basketball team is on a trip to China, where it is playing Chinese squads as part of the university's efforts to build ties in the country. But on Thursday night a brawl broke out during a game in Beijing with the Bayi Rockets, and the game ended prematurely as Coach John Thompson III pulled his team off the court as the crowd showered it with plastic bottles and other refuse. John Thompson issued this statement: "Tonight, two great teams played a very competitive game that unfortunately ended after heated exchanges with both teams. We sincerely regret that this situation occurred. We remain grateful for the opportunity our student-athletes are having to engage in a sport they love here in China, while strengthening their understanding of a nation we respect and admire at Georgetown University."
YouTube has video of the brawl:
The University of Colorado at Boulder is proud of its numerous environmental initiatives. But as The Boulder Daily Camera noted, the university is not bothering with most surveys of campuses for "green" ratings, even if that means other institutions are named as superior on environmental matters. Until all the surveys opt to collect similar information so that time burdens aren't imposed on Boulder by filling out all of the forms, it is skipping the surveys.
The American Association of University Professors on Thursday told the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights that its recent crackdown on policies and procedures in cases of sexual harassment has the potential to threaten academic freedom. In April, the OCR sent an advisory letter to colleges and universities reiterating their responsibilities to address sexual assault under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender. Given the aim of the ramped-up enforcement, organizations such as Security on Campus have praised the letter.
But the AAUP is now among groups, such as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, that worry that the office is overreaching. In a letter to the federal office, AAUP President Cary Nelson and Ann E. Green, chair of the AAUP Committee on Women in the Academic Profession, took issue with the OCR telling colleges to use a “preponderance of evidence” standard -- which requires them only to show that it is more likely than not that an assault occurred -- and suggested that they use the tougher "clear and convincing" standard of evidence because requiring more proof lessens the likelihood that professors be unfairly disciplined or sanctioned. (The OCR has noted that many colleges do use the latter, illegally.) The AAUP also cautioned against rushed judgment of faculty who teach courses touching on sexually sensitive topics. “‘Dear Colleague’ should encourage discussion of topics like sexual harassment both in and outside of the curriculum, but acknowledge that what might be offensive or uncomfortable to some students may also be necessary for their education,” Nelson and Green wrote.
A local judge has dismissed a conservative watchdog group's lawsuit challenging a Maryland community college's policy that lets recent graduates of the county's high schools pay lower tuition rates, even if they are not legal U.S. residents. The ruling in Montgomery County Circuit Court blocks Judicial Watch's lawsuit against Montgomery College; the lawsuit charged that "[b]y providing reduced, in-county tuition to all students who graduate from Montgomery County public high schools, regardless of their residence or status as unlawfully present aliens, Montgomery College is failing to collect revenue that, by state and federal law, it is required to collect." The court ruled that the three county residents who served as Judicial Watch's plaintiffs did not have standing to sue the college. A lawyer for the college, Michael Hays of Dow Lohnes, said that the college "believes that its tuition policy is fully consistent with all applicable laws and regulations."
White applicants for grants from the National Institutes of Health were significantly likelier than black researchers to win funding, according to a Science magazine study published Thursday that sought (and struggled) to explain the reasons for the gap. The study found that about 16 percent of black applicants were successful in winning NIH grants, compared to about 29 percent of applications from white researchers and 25 percent of Asian researchers. The gap between black and white applicants shrank (to about 10 percent, from 13 percent) but was sustained even after controlling for factors such as the applicants' educational background, country of origin, training, previous research awards, publication record and employer characteristics. But the gap disappeared among applicants whose applications emerged from the peer review process with "strong" scores.
The study, which was commissioned by the NIH and drew expressions of concern from its officials, said it was difficult to gauge what caused the gaps in grants or in the scoring of the submitted proposals, but suggested that they could be caused by differences in the quality of the papers or by racial bias. "Although our models do not fully explain the funding gap, the greatest differences between blacks and whites that we observed were in the effect of previous training and the probability of receiving a priority score," the researchers wrote. "Although more research is needed to discern the basis for the award differences, it is possible that cumulative advantage may be involved."
Governor Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, wants his state's universities to rise in the U.S. News & World Report rankings, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. Brownback spoke on the issue Wednesday at a meeting of the Kansas Board of Regents. He said that he was open to higher admissions standards as one way to rise in the rankings.
Half of all women who have graduated from a four-year college give the higher education system excellent or good marks for the value provided by the money spent by students and their families. But only 37 percent of male graduates agree. Those results come from a nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center. The study also found that women are more likely than men to say that their education helped them, both personally and intellectually.