Michigan State University announced Tuesday that it is ending the practice of offering retiree health benefits to new employees, starting July 1, The Lansing State Journal reported. Current employees will continue to be covered. The announcement said that that Michigan State's current liability from those benefits is about $1 billion and "is expected to double every 15 years through 2040 if unabated."
Higher Education Quick Takes
Efforts to build China's academic stature may be hindered by widespread plagiarism, the Associated Press reported. The article noted that experts blame weak punishments and a system that seems to value the quantity of work produced over the quality. One ghostwriter is quoted saying: "My opinion is that writing papers for someone else is not wrong.... There will always be a time when one needs help from others. Even our great leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping needed help writing."
The University of California at Berkeley has released a consultant's report recommending $75 million in savings through better management, including streamlined business systems and the elimination of "redundant" management positions, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. Berkeley officials commissioned the report -- and say they will try to carry out its recommendations -- in response to large cuts in state support (that far exceed the projected savings).
The University of Wyoming, which called off a talk by William Ayers, the one-time Weather Underground leader who is now a leading education researcher, is facing new criticism over the move. While Ayers has been canceled before, Wyoming officials were frank about their concerns over political fallout from a visit (as opposed to claiming security or scheduling problems). As a result, a Colorado lawyer, David Lane (also the lawyer for Ward Churchill), announced that he will sue the university for free speech violations unless it invites Ayers, the Associated Press reported. The suit would be filed on behalf of a student who wanted to see him talk on campus.
A former student has sued Brown University, charging that he was expelled over a false rape allegation made by a fellow student whose father was a major donor, the Associated Press reported. The student says that while Brown kicked him out, they never viewed the rape allegations as credible enough to merit reporting them to the police. Brown is contesting the allegations and pushing to have the case dismissed. The AP reported that the judge appeared frustrated with some of the quality of some of the evidence presented, but also indicated that he was troubled by Brown's failure to report the allegations to police.
Japanese enrollments in the United States are in decline, The Washington Post reported. Many students say that they prefer to stay home, and many employers say that they seek more "harmony" by hiring those educated in Japan, who are believed to be harder workers than those educated in the United States.
Over faculty objections, Missouri State University's board has authorized administrators to reassign faculty members to other jobs, without their consent, in certain circumstances, The News-Leader reported. Faculty members said that the move took away important due process rights, but administrators said that they sometimes need to respond to situations in which they need to move someone. University officials have cited the controversy over their social work program, from which they removed four faculty members from teaching duties in 2008, which set off lawsuits, some of which have been settled.
The National Endowment for the Humanities faced a storm of online criticism this weekend over a report -- first posted on the Feminist Philosophers blog -- about how a grant recipient reportedly was treated. The report said that the woman, a single mother, indicated to the NEH that she wanted to bring her son with her to the European city where an NEH financed seminar will take place. She was told, according to the blog item, that she had 12 hours to “demonstrate that she has full-time child-care arrangements for her son" and that failure to get these arrangements approved would result in her losing her spot in the program. The readers of the blog were outraged and posted comments calling the NEH's conduct "outrageous," illegal, sexist and more. Some readers suggested that word be spread about the situation, and it promptly turned up on Facebook and at other blog sites, again drawing outrage. While some bloggers noted their lack of direct knowledge of the situation, more criticism was heaped on the endowment.
A spokeswoman for the NEH said that efforts over the weekend to identify which recipient was involved -- to figure out exactly what was said and why -- were not successful. The spokeswoman said that the endowment would never ask mothers or fathers about child care in the way described -- and that the NEH works hard to make sure its programs are open to all. In some cases, she said, someone running a program might give a tight deadline to a grant recipient to indicate whether he or she would be attending a program, so that alternates may be offered the place if someone isn't able to attend. The spokeswoman said that, lacking all the facts, there were limits on what she could say -- but that the facts, as described in the blog posts, were not consistent with NEH policies.
Faculty members have voted no confidence in Provost Gary Olson, The Idaho State Journal reported. Olson wasn't available for comment about the vote. He has been the chief proponent of a reorganization plan that would merge many of the university's colleges, a move he maintains would save money. Many faculty members either dispute the estimated savings or say that the plan would increase administrative oversight in ways that would not help the university.
Member conferences of the National Collegiate Athletic Association may vote as soon as today on a controversial proposal to require testing of athletes for a sickle cell trait that was found in at least 8 of the 21 football players who collapsed and died because of sports training in the last decade, The New York Times reported. Some athletes and health advocates have urged that such testing be mandatory to inform players of their risks, but others oppose a requirement, saying that it could lead to denying those with the trait the right to play sports. Several leading football conferences are opposing the measure, the Times said.