WASHINGTON -- You have to know you're probably in for a rough time in a debate when one of the people arguing for your "side" is known for telling you you're a shell of your former self. That's how it was for higher education Friday night at a debate at the National Press Club here sponsored by the University of Virginia's Miller Center for Public Affairs, designed to argue the statement: "To remain a world class economic power, the U.S. workforce needs more college graduates." Arguing the negative position were Ohio University's Richard Vedder (a tough critic of colleges' costs and lack of productivity) and George Leef (a libertarian researcher at the John Pope Center for Higher Education Policy), and they discouraged what Leef called a "central planning mindset" that might artificially propel "marginal" students into higher education who might be perfectly well qualified for jobs that don't demand a college degree. Michael Lomax, president of UNCF: the United Negro College Fund, said it would be a mistake for the country to "ration education once again" as it too often did in decades past, letting the growing number of lower-income and minority Americans languish in an undereducated status. Lomax's debating partner agreed that "education is the great equalizer" for those who've too often been shut out of the country's economic upper tier, and said it would be a mistake to "write off" millions of Hispanic and African-American kids as "not having aptitude." But Margaret Spellings, the former U.S. education secretary, made it clear that she didn't just want to pour more Americans into "this broken system" of higher education, language that will resonate with those who followed her administration's policies and rhetoric. "We need a higher education system that's more responsive to the market place.... One of the things we've never asked much of higher education is accountability, and some results orientation." The debate will be broadcast in the coming weeks on PBS stations nationwide.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Early reports are encouraging about the safety of American students in Chile, which suffered a major earthquake Saturday. During the 2007-8 academic year, Chile was the 19th most popular destination for study abroad, attracting 2,739 students from colleges in the United States, according to the Institute of International Education. Among colleges that have verified that all of their students in Chile are safe are: Middlebury College, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Notre Dame and the University of South Carolina. Officials at Harding University, which has a study center in Chile, said that it sustained only minor damage, and that no decision has been made on whether to send a group of students who are scheduled to go there this week. The University of Tennessee at Knoxville said that 67 M.B.A. students were en route to Chile when the earthquake struck, and their flights were diverted. Several faculty members who were already in Chile are safe.
Chile is home to many advanced telescopes used by scientists from around the world. An article in Discovery News discusses the earthquake-safety measures used at some of the facilities.
Some colleges and universities, such as the City University of New York, are expanding ongoing efforts to help those in or from Haiti to include those affected by the earthquake in Chile.
The University of Hawaii closed all of its campuses Saturday as the state operated under a tsunami warning related to the earthquake, but when the warning was lifted, the campuses reopened.
A frustrated lawyer (or someone claiming to be one) is attempting to sell a law degree on Craigslist and eBay. "After several years of practicing law with a bunch of nerds in Silicon Valley I have come to the conclusion that my law degree is useless and I don't want to be a lawyer anymore. Though I spent over $100,000 on it I am willing to sell it for the bargain basement price of $59,250, which is the current value of my remaining student loan balance," the ad states. It adds a disclaimer: "This piece of shit isn't even written in English. It's in Latin or something, but I have the translation. It says 'Haha. We took your tuition money bitch, now suck it. Sincerely, President of the University.' " Via e-mail on Sunday, the anonymous person who posted the ad said that the high bid so far is $200 although the most creative bid is "a $50 offer from a documentary filmmaker to urinate on my diploma and then set it on fire." Beyond the bids, the response has been positive, he said. "It's amazing that out of the around 250 replies I've received probably 98 percent have mentioned how I'm spot on that the legal profession is wacked. Many people have written about their frustrations with large law firms, being unemployed, and/or student loan debt," he said. While the ads did not identify the source of the law degree, several comments on the blog Above the Law identify the diploma as coming from Georgetown University's law school.
East Stroudsburg University has suspended Gloria Gadsden, a sociology professor, for joking comments she posted on her Facebook page that apparently were taken seriously, The Pocono Record reported. One comment was about wanting to hire a hit man. Another said "had a good day today, DIDN'T want to kill even one student :-). Now Friday was a different story." Gadsden said that in the meeting where she was told of the suspension, a dean referenced last month's murders at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Gadsden said that the humor was clear to her Facebook friends and she doesn't know why the university was monitoring her account. University officials said that they did not routinely monitor Facebook accounts and that they couldn't discuss details of Gadsden's case.
President Obama last week nominated Eduardo M. Ochoa, the No. 2 official at Sonoma State University, to be assistant secretary for postsecondary education at the U.S. Department of Education. Ochoa, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Sonoma since 2003, and a professor of economics at institution as well, has spent most of his career in the California State University system, previously serving as business dean at California State Polytechnic University at Pomona and as a professor and chair of economics and statistics at California State University at Los Angeles. The assistant secretary for postsecondary education historically has been the federal government's top higher education official. But if the Senate confirms Ochoa's nomination as assistant secretary, he would join an unusually crowded group of higher education policy makers at the Education Department -- most of whom are Californians. In addition to Under Secretary Martha J. Kanter, who was chancellor of Foothill-De Anza Community College District, the department's upper ranks also includes Robert Shireman, who has since March been serving as deputy under secretary, a new position in this administration that did not require Senate confirmation. Daniel Madzelan, a long-time career official in the department, is acting as assistant secretary.
The Medical College of Wisconsin has announced that it is ending the use of live pigs in laboratories in which first-year students are taught about the cardiovascular system, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The college has been criticized for the use of the live animals in the lab program. Officials of the medical school said that the change was part of broader shifts in the curriculum and was not a result of the criticism.
The American Political Science Association announced Friday that it will move its summer workshop for African scholars from Uganda to a yet-to-be-determined location elsewhere in Africa. The association planned the meeting well before the current debate there about legislation that would impose severe penalties -- including execution in some cases -- for gay acts. A statement issued by the association noted that "legal hostility" toward gay people is a problem in almost all African nations. But Uganda poses "unique" problems, the association said, in part because of the breadth of the proposed legislation, which covers some thought as well as behavior, the statement said. The association has been studying the issue and hoping that the legislation would be withdrawn or defeated, but at this point, plans need to be made, so the APSA decided to move the meeting. "We cannot commit today to send staff and scholars to work in Uganda safely on topics that include the study of sexual identity in politics, and we of course must not remove these topics from our agenda for the workshops," the statement said.
The American Psychological Association announced last week that it has toughened its ethics code to remove a loophole some feared could be used by psychologists to justify assisting the government in torture or other violations of human rights. Language in previous versions of the ethics code suggested that in some situations, it was appropriate for psychologists to rely on U.S. law in determining acceptable practice. Because the Bush administration issued various "findings" that attempted to justify torture or other actions in some circumstances, critics of the APA policy said that this created a loophole. As a result, the APA removed that language and amended its ethics code to state that violations of human rights are justified "under no circumstances." The issue is a sensitive one for the association because some of its members have complained that the association was not rigorous enough in banning activities undertaken by some social scientists on behalf of the Bush administration.
Major protests over state budget cuts are planned throughout California this week, and tensions are rising over not only the fiscal situation, but other issues. On Friday, the University of California at San Diego saw another racial incident when a noose was found in the library, setting off a new round of rallies. Students were already angry over a party mocking black students and a television show that defended the party. On Saturday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger condemned “intolerable acts of racism and incivility” at the university. Late Thursday night, a protest at the University of California at Berkeley included the trashing of some campus buildings and some smashed windows of nearby businesses, The Oakland Tribune reported.
The Educational Testing Service is today announcing that total registrations for the Graduate Record Examination set a record in 2009 of 675,000, a 9 percent increase. Economic downturns tend to make more undergraduates consider graduate school, so the increases are in some sense expected. ETS said that it saw notable gains as well in minority test-takers and in those planning to use GRE scores to apply to business schools -- the latter market being one in which ETS is competing with the Graduate Management Admission Test.