Higher Education Quick Takes
University of Oxford officials found themselves in the uncomfortable position of publicly debating with Britain's prime minister over his assertion that the elite institution had enrolled only one black Brit in 2009, BBC News reported. Prime Minister David Cameron made his comment during a public session in answer to a question about the impact of greatly increased fees that British institutions have begun charging as part of a new approach to university financing. Cameron said: "I saw figures the other day that showed that only one black person went to Oxford last year.... I think that is disgraceful. We have got to do better than that."
University officials disputed the statement, the BBC reported, saying that only one British undergraduate from that year's class had self-identified as "black-Caribbean," but that another 26 had identified themselves as either "black-African" or "black-other," among others who characterized themselves as mixed race with some black heritage. In total, in 2009 22% of Oxford University students were from ethnic minorities, the institution said.
The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, one of Korea's top universities, has seen four student suicides since January, The Wall Street Journal reported, and a faculty member killed himself over the weekend, prompting more discussion of why so many have taken their own lives.
Lawrence Summers may have had a controversial run as Harvard University's president, but now that he's back from service in the Obama administration, his lectures on campus are wildly popular with students, who come early to get a seat and stay late to ask questions, The Boston Globe reported. "I got a lot of satisfaction from being president but now I can focus on students in the way I wasn’t able to as president," he told the Globe. "I don’t think I’d enjoy being engaged in who was going to be hired and how the curriculum’s going to be reformed and the like at this stage. My life is much freer now."
A part-time English instructor at Olympic College in Washington has filed a formal complaint with the National Education Association, alleging that his full-time colleagues retaliated against him for speaking out against a state bill that would benefit them but hurt adjuncts. "My treatment by the [Washington Education Association] calls into question the determination and ability of the WEA to provide fair and equal representation to the overwhelming majority (10,000) of the professors who teach 'part-time' in Washington's community and technical college system," the instructor, Jack Longmate, wrote in an April 5 letter to NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. (In Washington, adjuncts are referred to as part-timers, even if some of them work full-time when all of their courses at various campuses are added together. Tenured and tenure-track professors are considered full-time.)
"The WEA has not acknowledged or addressed the serious and unmitigated conflicts of interest that exist between the part-timers, who lack any job security," continued Longmate, "and the full-timers, who have tenure and serve as their de facto supervisors."
Longmate, who was the subject of an earlier article in Inside Higher Ed, testified -- not as a union representative -- in February in front of the House Education Committee of the Washington State House of Representatives against a bill favored by the union. That bill would establish a way for the state to pay for salary increases for faculty members in the state's 34 community and technical colleges. In his letter to Van Roekel, Longmate said that his Washington colleagues censured him for coming out against a union-backed bill, demanded he resign as secretary of the campus chapter of the Association for Higher Education and rescinded his per diem and lodging for a union lobby day -- and didn't allow him a chance to defend himself. Longmate asked Van Roekel to establish a trusteeship over the Washington chapter to redress what he alleges are violations of its constitution and bylaws, and to bring in a third party to conduct an impartial investigation. Longmate contended that the issues brought forth in his complaint reflect systemic conflicts of interest between full-time and part-time faculty, and he asked the NEA to review its contracts to ensure compliance with its duty of fair representation.
The NEA was not immediately able to comment.
A long article in The Washington Post examines the ties between The Washington Post Company, the newspaper and Kaplan Higher Education. The article notes that while many credit Kaplan with providing the company with a secure financial base at a time of declining journalism-based revenue, the relationships have not always been smooth and have led to uncomfortable scrutiny. "Post Co. executives blame outside forces, including a drop in political support for private-sector education companies and 'financial and corporate agendas,'" the article says. "They also acknowledge missteps. Current and past officers say The Post Co. did not keep close-enough tabs on its fast-sprawling education unit, even as it focused heavily on customers who were poorer and thus at the riskier end of the business. But they say serving that disadvantaged population is important."
A survey of students at eight colleges and universities in North Carolina found that 17.4 percent are current users of hookahs, water pipes that have grown in popularity in recent years. Researchers at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center who conducted the study say that students seem unaware of health risks associated with the practice.
Disgraced financier Bernard Madoff recently gave a jailhouse interview to The Financial Times in which he said that one of his activities behind bars may soon be advising business schools. The article says: "Several business schools have approached him, he adds, and asked him to work on ethics courses. He likes that idea; Harvard and Northwestern are in his sights." The feelings may not be mutual. A spokeswoman for Northwestern's business school said that the institution is not engaged in any discussions with Madoff. (UPDATE: A spokesman for Harvard's business school said Monday morning that there was "no truth" to the idea that it was having any talks with Madoff.)
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights refused on Friday to reconsider suspending its investigation into discrimination against women in university admissions, voting 4-3 against putting a motion on the agenda that would have reopened the inquiry. The commission voted by the same margin last month to suspend the study, which had subpoenaed data from 19 colleges within a 100-mile radius of Washington, D.C. The goal was to discover whether colleges relaxed standards for men, but not women, in order to achieve gender balance. Commissioners supporting the inquiry argued that a significant amount of data had already been collected and that abandoning the study would be a waste of resources. Its opponents, who last week argued against continuing with incomplete data, said that nothing had changed their minds.
Leading Australian universities are creating new positions to recruit and retain indigenous students, The New York Times reported. Indigenous people make up 2.4 percent of the population but 1.25 percent of students entering universities, according to a recent study by the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne.