Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, February 8, 2010 - 3:00am

The Christian Legal Society is attracting wide support -- particularly from religious organizations -- in its U.S. Supreme Court battle over whether public colleges and universities can enforce their anti-bias rules against religious groups. In December, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case involving the society's chapter at the Hastings College of Law of the University of California. Hastings maintains that it is within its rights to deny recognition to groups, like the society, that engage in forms of discrimination (against gay people, for example) that the university bars. But the society maintains that enforcing such rules violates its freedom of speech and religion.

Among the religious groups that filed briefs backing the society last week are the American Islamic Congress, the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, the National Association of Evangelicals, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Others filing briefs on behalf of the Christian Legal Society include the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the College Republican National Committee, and 14 states. The briefs may be found here.

The deadline for groups backing Hastings to file briefs is next month.

Monday, February 8, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of Louisville's foundation awarded a $200,000, no-bid contract to an advertising company led by a university trustee, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported. James Ramsey, president of the university and its foundation, said it was "a mistake" to award the contract in this way to an advertising business. He also said that the university's foundation has started working on tighter contracting procedures -- a project that started after the newspaper made an open records request for information about contracts.

Monday, February 8, 2010 - 3:00am

Organizers of the Secular Students of Concordia are trying to get officials of the Minnesota college to reconsider their refusal to recognize the organization, The Fargo-Moorhead Forum reported. College officials said that they could not recognize a group committed to ideals that conflict with those of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, with which the college is affiliated. On the organization's Facebook group, the club says its goals are to "to organize and gather students with interest and/or belief in the secular ways of thinking," "to inform and encourage the campus community about secularism, secular values and theories, and seeing these as adequate alternatives to religion" and to "enforce a greater tolerance towards secular beliefs, both on and off campus."

Monday, February 8, 2010 - 3:00am

The case of a first-year student at the University of Oxford, apparently admitted courtesy of a high school and testing record he didn't earn, has led to increased scrutiny of the admissions system there, Times Higher Education reported. The student in question reported 10 A-grade A-level exams, a notable accomplishment in the British system -- except that it was false. A teacher's recommendation was also forged. The Times Higher reported that the student, who has been suspended, was admitted through a program for applicants who are not sponsored by schools, and that questions have been raised by critics about whether such applicants' materials receive enough scrutiny.

Monday, February 8, 2010 - 3:00am

In the last decade, the number of cheating cases considered by Stanford University's judicial board has more than doubled, to 123 from 52, The San Jose Mercury News reported. Stanford officials attributed the increase both to more cheating and more reporting by faculty members. University analysis found that although computer science students make up 6.5 percent of Stanford's students, they accounted for 23 percent of violations of the university's honors code.

Friday, February 5, 2010 - 3:00am

Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State University, is encouraging academics to rethink tenure criteria. While a spokeswoman said that there is no specific plan he has put forth, he told the Associated Press that tenure doesn't give enough consideration to teaching, and that the research evaluation may place too much emphasis on quantity over quality. While these critiques of tenure are not new, the article noted that they don't typically come from the leaders of research universities.

Friday, February 5, 2010 - 3:00am

Oklahoma State University had high hopes for an unusual fund-raising strategy involving the purchase of insurance policies on major donors -- with the goal of supporting athletics programs. Now the university is suing the life insurance company that managed the program, charging that inflated premiums and bad information gave the university a false sense of the program's potential, the Associated Press reported.

Friday, February 5, 2010 - 3:00am

A committee studying the future of higher education in Louisiana voted narrowly Thursday to recommend a restructuring that would create a single governing board for four-year public colleges and universities, down from the current three, and another for two-year institutions, The Advocate of Baton Rouge reported. The Louisiana Postsecondary Education Review Commission, appointed by the state's Board of Regents and urged by Gov. Bobby Jindal and legislators to be provocative and far reaching, wraps up its work today with a final vote on its full report.

Friday, February 5, 2010 - 3:00am

The Chinese government has removed the University of Calgary from its list of accredited institutions, a move that officials there believe is related to an honorary degree awarded by the university to the Dalai Lama, The Vancouver Sun reported. Calgary educators said that they hope the removal does not limit recruitment efforts or hurt the value of degrees held by alumni who are in China.

Thursday, February 4, 2010 - 3:00am

The Yuba Community College board on Wednesday voted to revoke a controversial $29,000 raise for Chancellor Nicki Harrington, News 10 reported. Board members said that they were starting a process to award a new raise, and that they acted because questions have been raised about whether their earlier vote to award the raise violated state open-meetings requirements. Board members said that they didn't believe they had violated the law, but wanted to remove any doubts. Many faculty and student leaders have spoken out against the raise, saying it was inappropriate at a time of deep budget cuts at the California community college.

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