Higher Education Quick Takes
Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee announced Wednesday that he would veto a bill designed to require Vanderbilt University to abandon its anti-bias policies with regard to student religious groups, The Tennessean reported. Vanderbilt requires groups seeking recognition to have "all comers" policies, meaning that all students at the university are welcome to join and participate. Some religious groups say this endangers their ability to stay true to their beliefs, and sympathetic legislators passed the bill to require Vanderbilt to abandon its policy. Haslam said he would veto the bill, but not because he agrees with the university. "Although I disagree with Vanderbilt’s policy, as someone who strongly believes in limited government, I think it is inappropriate for government to mandate the policies of a private institution," he said.
The University of Texas of the Permian Basin has introduced five bachelor's degrees in science fields for which the price tag for students will total $10,000 for a four-year degree, The Midland Reporter-Telegram reported. The degrees fulfill a challenge by Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, to create $10,000 programs. Students in other programs at Permian Basin are charged about $25,000 for a four-year degree.
Opposition leaders report that Syrian security forces raided dormitories at the Aleppo University Wednesday, killing four students, injuring others and arresting at least 50, the Associated Press reported.
Prosecutors filed charges Wednesday against 13 people allegedly involved in the hazing death of the Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Eleven of the as-yet unnamed defendants face felony hazing charges, and prosecutors could file up to 20 more misdemeanor charges stemming from incidents involving different victims who were not seriously injured. Champion died after other students on the university’s famed marching band, long plagued by a culture of hazing, “punched, kicked and suffocated” him on a bus during a trip. Seven FAMU students have been charged in unrelated hazing incidents since Champion’s death. The state attorney said that in Champion’s case, he pursued only hazing charges because with the number of people involved, the burden of proof for homicide charges would have been difficult to meet. Even so, the Sentinel reported, the case could be difficult to prosecute because so many people were allegedly involved -- more than 20. Meanwhile, the university's own effort to address the hazing problem has run into obstacles, the Sentinel reported.
The California Faculty Association said Wednesday that its members had voted overwhelmingly to authorize two-day strikes at the 23 campuses of the California State University System if disputes with administrators over salaries and other issues are not resolved. Leaders of the CFA said that 95 percent of those who voted from April 21 to 27 endorsed the rolling strikes. The strikes, if they were to happen, would probably occur in the fall. The association represents about 24,000 faculty members, librarians, coaches and counselors in the Cal State system.
Contract negotiations have been under way for the last two years, and on Wednesday the association’s leaders called the process difficult and disappointing. The two sides are scheduled to resume negotiations this week. When talks ended without an agreement in April, Gail Brooks, CSU Vice Chancellor for Human Resources, said she was disappointed, but added that “CSU remains committed to the negotiation process as the best way to resolve the issues that remain on the table.” Brooks said at the time that the CFA’s proposal, if implemented, would cost CSU about $244 million over the next two years.
The pharmaceutical company Pfizer has agreed to pay $450 million to Brigham Young University to settle a lawsuit over the drug Celebrex, The Deseret News reported. Brigham Young and one of its professors have accused the company of unfairly using his work conducted at the university for the drug. The announcement of the settlement did not detail terms, but a footnote in a quarterly report issued by Pfizer references a $450 million expense related to the Brigham Young suit.
Authorities in China have arrested two education brokers and 18 students for trying to fraudulently win admission to Korean universities, The Korea Herald reported. The scheme is alleged to involve creating fake high school diplomas and other school records for the students, who do not meet standards for admission to Korean universities. Chinese authorities are expanding their investigation, expecting to find more such cases.
Brown University agreed Tuesday to pay the City of Providence $31.5 million over 11 years, according to The Wall Street Journal, ending a contentious standoff in which city officials threatened to revoke the university’s tax-exempt status if the institution would not help the city fill its budget deficit. Brown, along with four other colleges in the city, had an agreement in place since 2003 to pay the city $50 million over 20 years, but city officials hoped to rework the agreement as the city’s financial problems became clear.
The California State University System board will consider a policy next week that would freeze the pay of campus presidents, but allow foundations associated with the campuses to pay for raises, The Los Angeles Times reported. The system has been strongly criticized in recent months for increasing pay for some presidential hires amid new rounds of budget cuts and tuition increases. System officials said that the proposal would recognize the limits on state funds, while allowing the system to be competitive in executive pay. While similar arguments have carried the day in some other states, some system critics are not agreeing. State Sen. Leland Yee said that support for students should come before support for presidents. "This latest masquerade demonstrates that the Board of Trustees will raise the salaries of executives by any means necessary,” he said.