Higher Education Quick Takes
Dharun Ravi, who was the roommate of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University student who killed himself last year, was charged with 15 counts related to allegations that he filmed Clementi's encounter with a man and broadcast it in an act of anti-gay bias, the Associated Press reported. Ravi also was charged with trying to cover up what he did. Ravi's lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.
Ellen Lewin, a professore of anthropology and gender, women's and sexuality studies at the University of Iowa, is under fire for her response to a mass e-mail from a campus Republican group about "Conservative Coming Out Week." Lewin replied "FUCK YOU REPUBLICANS" from her university account. Now Republicans are complaining about her language, The Iowa City Press Citizen reported. Lewin has apologized, sending a subsequent e-mail message in which she said: "I admit the language was inappropriate, and apologize for any affront to anyone’s delicate sensibilities. I would really appreciate your not sending blanket emails to everyone on campus, especially in these difficult times."
The provost of Drake University, Michael Renner, announced Tuesday that he would step down next month because of differences with David Maxwell, the president, The Des Moines Register reported. “In my recent conversations with the president, it has become clear that our respective leadership philosophies differ in important ways,” said Renner, in an e-mail to the campus. “In view of this, I believe that it is in the best interests of the university for me to step aside and allow the president to seek a new provost.” Renner declined to elaborate on the differences and Maxwell could not be reached.
Marc Hauser, a Harvard University psychology professor who the university determined committed scientific misconduct, will be barred from teaching for the next year, The Boston Globe reported. While the university has announced that it found Hauser guilty of misconduct, it has been vague about the nature of the misconduct. Hauser had previously been scheduled to teach in the fall.
A state judge in North Carolina has ruled that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill improperly cited the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act to deny journalists access to athletes' parking tickets and certain phone records of athletics officials. Additional requests from both The Daily Tar Heel, the student newspaper, and several other publications are still pending.
Blackboard, the e-learning giant, announced on Tuesday that it has received "unsolicited, non-binding proposals" to be bought out. The company, which is publicly traded, appears to be taking the offers seriously; it has retained the investment firm Barclays Capital to help it figure out whether it wants to sell. Blackboard's stock leaped by nearly 30 percent with the news.
The entity that has proposed to acquire Blackboard is not known. Scott Berg, a research analyst with the investment bank Feltl and Company, told Inside Higher Ed he thinks it is unlikely that the suitors would be other software companies, since the software products Blackboard sells -- online learning platforms, emergency notification systems, and data analytics tools, among others -- would not make an obvious addition to the arsenal of any other software firm. (The only software-related companies Berg speculated might make a bid for Blackboard are Microsoft and Pearson. Neither of those companies elected to comment.) It is more likely that a potential suitor would be a private equity firm, Berg said, in which case the consequences for Blackboard's many higher-ed customers would be difficult to predict.
Kenneth C. Green, director of the Campus Computing project, speculated that an acquisition could mean increased costs for colleges. “Blackboard has been aggressive in buying other firms,” Green wrote in an e-mail, “more than half a billion dollars in acquisitions since 2006…. That's a lot of debt to pay down, and more debt is likely to come following an acquisition. All of which suggests that the company's new owners will be looking for new revenue, which could well mean price increases across the range of Blackboard's current product lines and services.”
This article in The Financial Times explores reasons some companies may or may not be likely to be making a bid for Blackboard. Joshua Kim, who writes the Technology and Learning blog for Inside Higher Ed, has written in the past why a Blackboard purchase would make sense for either Microsoft or Google.
President Obama on Tuesday signaled that he would strongly oppose Republican budget plans that would, among other things, cut the size of the maximum Pell Grant. In remarks at the Annandale campus of Northern Virginia Community College, he said: "How many of you who are in the audience have gotten a Pell Grant to help you pay your way? How many of you can’t afford to pay another $1,000 to go to school? I know what this is like. Scholarships helped make it possible for me and for Michelle to go to college. It’s fair to say I wouldn’t be President if it hadn’t been for somebody helping me be able to afford college. That’s why I think it would be such a huge mistake to balance the budget on the backs of students, by cutting scholarships by as much as $1,000, forcing students to go without them altogether."
Rick O'Donnell, a controversial adviser to the University of Texas Board of Regents -- seen as promoting the ideas of Governor Rick Perry, a Republican -- is no longer employed by the system, the Associated Press reported. O'Donnell blamed senior officials at the system office and the flagship campus at Austin for obstructing research he was doing on whether faculty members spend enough time teaching.
After unionizing last August, adjuncts at Central Michigan University have reached agreement on a new contract that would increase job security and, more modestly, their pay. The four-year deal, announced Tuesday by the Union of Teaching Faculty and CMU, would apply to about two-thirds of the unit's 340 members who work part-time or more. The bargaining unit includes adjuncts and graduate students. A separate unit, affiliated with the Michigan Education Association, represents tenured and tenure-track faculty.
CMU administration confirmed that a tentative agreement had been reached, but withheld further comment pending the deal's ratification. Sources familiar with the terms of the deal said that, a year from now, adjuncts who have taught for five years will become eligible to sign multi-year contracts. Job security was achieved in return for modest pay increases, mostly directed to lower paid workers. The lowest paid adjuncts who work full-time would see their wages rise from the current level, less than $20,000, to $24,000, sources said. The union recently began campaigning for higher wages for adjuncts by highlighting members who worked full-time, but needed to rely on public assistance to make ends meet.