Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

August 20, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Gerald Koudelka of the State University of New York at Buffalo explains why some of the most dangerous strains of bacteria can outlive their benign cousins in the wild. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

August 20, 2013

The University of Sioux Falls on Monday denied that it is looking for a corporate sponsor to brand everything from its sports complex to its letterhead, saying the surprising news was a result of vague language taken out of context.

President Mark Benedetto said he was contacted by a reporter for the Sioux Falls Business Journal who asked to interview him about the ongoing development of the university’s sports complex. Since the university had recently severed ties with Sanford Health, which previously owned the naming rights, Benedetto said he saw an opportunity to plug the university’s hunt for a new sponsor. He was therefore surprised when an article in the weekly's parent publication, The Argus Leader, titled “USF's search for corporate partner is a delicate quest,” suggested the university “would integrate its business partner into many facets of the organization.”

On Monday, Benedetto acknowledged that the language he used in the interview is partly to blame for the mixup. “It was my mistake to use the term ‘corporate sponsor,’ ” he said. In conversations with potential investors, Benedetto said he uses the term because he feels it is more sellable than “naming rights sponsor.”

When the university does find an appropriate sponsor to put its name on the sports complex, Benedetto said its logo could appear only on fliers and tickets for athletic events. “It never was my intention to put a corporate logo on a business card,” he said.

The previous naming rights contract, signed when the sports complex was “basically a cornfield,” fetched the university $3.2 million eight years ago, Benedetto said. He estimated the university has invested more than $20 million into the complex since, and said he hoped the new contract would attract a multimillion-dollar deal. As part of the negotiations, Benedetto said the Baptist-affiliated university would seek a sponsor that fits its mission. He added that the the university has already turned down sponsors deemed inappropriate.

The liberal arts university, which enrolls about 1,500 students, is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. Students are not required to sign a statement of faith, but campus pastor Dennis Thum said the university always places its faith first when considering how the institution should be governed.

“As a Christian college, we identify that as the most important part of our identity,” Thum said. “We do not want to compromise our Christian integrity.” 

August 19, 2013

Evan Dobelle, who left the University of Hawaii's presidency amid criticism of his spending decisions, is facing questions about his expenses as president of Westfield State University, The Boston Globe reported. Westfield State's foundation closed his credit card account -- intended for modest expenses to help him raise money -- after he charged $8,000 for a four-night stay at the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok and $883 in clothing at the men's clothing store Louis Boston. Other expenses receiving scrutiny were charged to the credit card of Dobelle's assistant. During 68 months as president, the Globe reported, Dobelle has traveled out of state 76 times. Sometimes, those trips combined university business and pleasure. For instance, he flew to San Francisco for the university and then went to Bohemian Grove, the male-only retreat that is popular among moguls.

Dobelle has acknowledged some mistakes in spending, but he has argued that many of the charges were designed to raise the profile of Westfield State and to attract either donors, or attention, or international students. He said, for example, that he would not have impressed Thai educators by staying someplace more modest than the Mandarin Oriental. He noted many projects that are booming at Westfield State, which he said is now "the hottest college in New England."

 

August 19, 2013

Dartmouth College is debating an appropriate response to a fraternity's "Bloods and Crips Party," at which the names of those gangs were the kickoff for a "ghetto" party at which participants (overwhelmingly white) mocked ghetto life in racial ways, The Boston Globe reported. College officials said that they were working with Greek leaders so that theme parties in the future would reflect "the Greek community’s commitment to hosting inclusive events." The party took place two weeks ago but the controversy didn't grow until campus blogs published invitations and information about the event in the last week. One blog, Big Green Micro-Agressions, noted that Dartmouth has been debating offensively themed fraternity parties for years. The blog featured a 1998 New York Times article about a ghetto party at at Dartmouth fraternity. In the article, a Dartmouth student from New York City was quoted as saying: " 'I live in a ghetto... For Dartmouth students in general to mock a situation that I was lucky enough to get out of by the grace of God just seems to me very snotty and very ignorant, because my next-door neighbor couldn't dream of being here right now. The party touched a nerve in me.' ”

August 19, 2013

Baylor University and the Baylor Alumni Association are considering a new affiliation in which the university would oversee alumni outreach that is now managed by the association, but there are tensions about the idea, The Waco Tribune reported. A key issue for many alumni is the independence of The Baylor Line, the alumni magazine, which has been a forum in which sometimes-frank criticism of the university has been published.

 

August 19, 2013

Southern University in Baton Rouge eliminated the job of Dong Sheng Guo, a physics professor, in early 2012, as part of a round of budget cuts, but he went on teaching the fall of that year, and the following semester as well, The Baton Rouge Advocate reported. Guo says that he was never formally notified of his dismissal and only became aware that his job had been eliminated when he went to the human resources office to ask why he was not being paid. It is unclear how he was assigned class sections when the university believed his position had been eliminated. Guo is now appealing for his job back.

 

August 19, 2013

A tenured art professor at the University of Georgia has been terminated for allegedly having sex in a public place with a student on a study abroad program he was leading in Costa Rica, the Augusta Chronicle reported. A faculty panel had split on the appropriate sanctions for James Barsness, with two recommending revocation of tenure and three arguing for less serious sanctions, citing Barsness's strong record of teaching and research, undisclosed medical issues, and his evident remorse. But former UGA President Michael Adams overrode the panel's recommendation, writing in a May 13 letter to Barsness that “Upon review I have determined that public sex with a student under one’s direction and control in a UGA program merits termination. It is my judgment that the charges were sustained and that your employment relationship with UGA, including tenure, should be terminated as of this date.” The Board of Regents upheld Adams’s judgment at its meeting on Wednesday. Barsness could not immediately be reached for comment.

August 19, 2013

Kasetsart University has abandoned the use of hats -- in which pieces of paper attached to the head prevent students' eyes from wandering -- designed to prevent cheating, The Bangkok Post reported. Students designed the hats, but officials said that they abandoned the idea after widespread discussion of them on social media.

 

August 19, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Giorgio Riello of the University of Warwick reveals how European manufacturers were once seen as producers of cheap imitations of Asian goods. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

August 19, 2013

An Associated Press inquiry into e-mail messages by Mitch Daniels when he was governor of Indiana have revealed he was not a fan of the late historian Howard Zinn, and talked of trying to block his book from being used in schools or in teacher preparation programs. A new AP article on Sunday, based on additional e-mail messages obtained under open records laws, reveals that Daniels (now president of Purdue University) had another history book that he wanted in Indiana's schools. That book is America: The Last Best Hope, by William J. Bennett, a historian who was education secretary in the Reagan administration. E-mail messages show Daniels pushing to get the book distributed and praising it.

Courtesy of Amazon, here's the Publishers Weekly review: "Bennett, a secretary of education under President Reagan and author of The Book of Virtues, offers a new, improved history of America, one, he says, that will respark hope and a 'conviction about American greatness and purpose' in readers. He believes current offerings do not 'give Americans an opportunity to enjoy the story of their country, to take pleasure and pride in what we have done and become.' To this end, Bennett methodically hits the expected patriotic high points (Lewis & Clark, the Gettysburg Address) and even, to its credit, a few low ones (Woodrow Wilson's racism, Teddy Roosevelt's unjust dismissal of black soldiers in the Brownsville judgment). America is best suited for a high school or home-schooled audience searching for a general, conservative-minded textbook. More discerning adult readers will find that the lack of originality and the over-reliance on a restricted number of dated sources (Samuel Eliot Morison, Daniel Boorstin, Henry Steele Commager) make the book a retread of previous popular histories (such as Boorstin's The Americans). This is history put to use as inspiration rather than serving to enlighten or explain, but Bennett does succeed in shaping the material into a coherent, readable narrative."

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