Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 8, 2013

Legislation proposed in Wyoming would expand the board of the University of Wyoming from 12 to 14, allowing the additional two board members to come from outside the state, The Casper Star-Tribune reported. Proponents say that there are loyal supporters of the university who no longer reside in the state, but who could provide expertise to the board. One reason for the possible change: A majority of the university's graduates end up living outside the state.

 

January 8, 2013

When Humboldt State University announced the creation of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research (to focus on marijuana policy analysis), Jimmy Kimmel couldn't resist making fun of the university (see video below). He predicted that the university's pot expertise would soon make it "harder to get into than Yale," and even produced a satirical ad for Humboldt State.

Now the university has invited Kimmel to be its graduation speaker. A joint letter by Rollin C. Richmond, Humboldt State's president, and Ellyn Henderson, its student government president, has invited Kimmel to be the graduation speaker. The letter notes the university's recent scholarly accomplishments (having nothing to do with pot) and its beautiful northern California location -- while also applying some guilt. "[W]e figure you owe us," they wrote. "Humboldt State provided you with just over three minutes of pretty good material, which must be worth quite a bit for a nationally televised program (though we are surprised you were unable to stretch the bit to 4 minutes 20 seconds)." Further, while stressing that they enjoyed the humor, the presidents wrote that "we also felt you shortchanged Humboldt State University, portraying all of our students as pot-obsessed slackers."

No word on whether Kimmel will appear.

 

 

January 8, 2013

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal of a lawsuit challenging (without success) the right of the federal government to finance research involving embryonic stem cells. The Association of American Medical Colleges was among the science and research groups praising the Supreme Court for letting the research continue. "This is good news for patients," said a statement from the medical school group. "Research using hESCs [human embryonic stem cells] conducted under rigorous ethical standards continues to offer great promise in the search for cures and treatments for a variety of intractable diseases. With the legislative, regulatory, and legal barriers cleared, we hope the promise of hESC research can now be realized."

January 8, 2013

James Tracy, a communication professor at Florida Atlantic University who writes about conspiracies is raising eyebrows by suggesting that the Newtown killings did not take place as reported, and that the Obama administration and others may be shaping the way the massacre has been portrayed in the press, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. The newspaper reported that in one blog post, he wrote, "While it sounds like an outrageous claim, one is left to inquire whether the Sandy Hook shooting ever took place — at least in the way law enforcement authorities and the nation's news media have described." The university has distanced itself from Tracy, telling the Sun-Sentinel that "James Tracy does not speak for the university. The website on which his post appeared is not affiliated with FAU in any way."

January 8, 2013

Gallaudet University has reinstated Angela McCaskill, the institution's chief diversity officer, who was suspended for signing a petition against the recognition of gay marriage by Maryland, the Associated Press reported. The university announced the reinstatement, but did not elaborate or respond to requests for comment. Some advocates for gay rights applauded the suspension, saying that universities cannot promote equity for gay students and employees while having their diversity efforts led by people who believe that gay people should be denied rights available to straight people. But critics said that the university was inappropriately punishing McCaskill for expressing political views.

 

January 8, 2013

In a major victory for California public higher education, voters in November approved a plan by Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, to raise some taxes for seven years. Brown and others campaigned for the tax increase by saying that it would allow the public universities to avoid tuition increases. Republicans have now responded by proposing legislation that would freeze tuition for seven years, the duration of the tax increases, The Los Angeles Times reported. While unlikely to pass, the proposal is seen as a way to shape the debate over spending priorities in the state, the newspaper said.

 

January 8, 2013

ITT Educational Services, a for-profit college chain specializing in technical programs, last week announced that it had agreed to a $46 million settlement payment to Sallie Mae, according to a corporate filing. The settlement was related to a lawsuit filed by the lending giant, Reuters reported, which argued that ITT had breached a shared loan risk agreement. The company did not admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement.

January 7, 2013

The University of Iowa has hired a lawyer to defend two medical school officials (one of whom has since left the university) who are facing charged in Jordan, despite never having traveled there, the Associated Press reported. The two are charged with making a death threat to Malik Juweid, who was fired by the university last year and returned to his native Jordan. An Iowa spokesman said that the charges were baseless.

 

January 7, 2013

Bev Kearney has resigned as women's track and field coach at the University of Texas at Austin following an investigation into what she called a “consensual intimate relationship” with "an adult student-athlete." The Austin American-Statesman reported. The relationship took place in 2002, but was only recently reported to the university. In an interview with the Austin newspaper, Kearney said that she "displayed poor judgment," but questioned the way the university has investigated what happened. Her lawyer told the newspaper: "We believe that Ms. Kearney has been subjected to a double standard and has received far harsher punishment than that being given to her male counter-parts who have engaged in similar conduct."

Patti Ohlendorf, vice president for legal affairs at UT, told the American-Statesman, “In the case of a head coach and a student-athlete on his or her team, the university’s position is that that cannot be condoned in any event. ‘It can’t happen’ is what the university’s position is on that.”

Since 1993, Kearney's teams at Texas have won six national championships.

 

January 7, 2013

In a white paper released today, the Institute for Higher Education Policy calls for several changes to the financial aid system, part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Reimagining Aid Design and Delivery project, which gave grants to organizations to recommend what changes they would make to federal financial aid. The institute calls for making the Pell Grant an entitlement and keeping it at the center of need-based student aid programs, but making larger changes to other student aid programs. Among its suggestions: reforming the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant to provide "emergency" financial aid to students; rewarding completion, including a form of loan forgiveness for Pell Grant recipients who complete college on time; tying campus-based aid to student debt repayment levels; matching college savings for low-income households and encouraging employers to match employees' student loan repayments for the first five years after graduation.

Several more papers in the Gates effort are expected from other organizations and advocacy groups in the coming weeks.

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