Students, faculty members and some legislators are questioning the decision of the foundation of California State University at Stanislaus to invite Sarah Palin, the former vice presidential candidate, to be the lead speaker at a fund raiser in June, The Modesto Bee reported. Many are questioning why a divisive, partisan figure would be invited to celebrate the 50th anniversary of a public university. Matt Swanson, president of the foundation, said that "first and foremost, this is a fund-raising event. We saw Governor Palin as somebody who is obviously a big celebrity and on the forefront of the public eye."
Higher Education Quick Takes
A plan at the University of Maine to eliminate numerous majors is drawing criticism from advocates for those disciplines and from students and faculty members concerned about the liberal arts taking too large a hit, The Bangor Daily News reported. Among the majors proposed for elimination -- although lower division courses would continue to be offered in some cases -- are women's studies, French, German, Spanish, Latin, theater and music.
The University of Nebraska at Omaha is home to the Center for Afghanistan Studies, an academic center created in the 1970s, before Afghanistan was a hot spot in global conflict. As a result, the center's officials became much-quoted and the center has attracted numerous grants for its work as the country has become key to U.S. foreign policy. An article in the Los Angeles Times notes that while the attention and funds have pleased the university, many critics question whether the center is too close to federal agencies and not sufficiently scholarly.
Some Maryland legislators are threatening to block funds for the University of Maryland because its law clinic is involved in environmental suits against the poultry industry, The Baltimore Sun reported. The dispute is the latest nationally in which legal clinics run by law schools -- generally only a blip in the total budgets of public universities -- become the subject of major legislative debates because they help those suing powerful groups.
An Associated Press profile examines the work of Jonathan Jansen, the first black rector of the University of the Free State. The South African institution is integrated in total enrollments, but black and white students live separately -- a tradition Jansen is pushing to change. Much of the focus is on residences, which the article describes as something similar to fraternities and sororities, with many traditions and hazing. Jansen forced one of the residences to stop forcing new students to bow before a statue of its founder -- a practice black students found troubling.
Nursing shortages have many colleges that educate nurses expanding programs, while prompting other institutions to think about starting them. The University of St. Thomas, in Texas, falls into another category: institutions that eliminated nursing programs years ago that are thinking about reviving them, The Houston Chronicle reported. Alumni have been raising money and the university hopes to restore the program in a year or two.
President Obama on Saturday announced that he was making recess appointments of 15 of his nominees whose confirmations have been blocked by Senate Republicans' refusal to allow votes on them -- and two appointees in particular could lead to a major change for higher education. Those appointees -- Craig Becker and Mark Pearce -- will restore a quorum to the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB has lacked a quorum throughout the Obama administration, leading to legal challenges to its right to decide cases. One of the major goals for academic labor for the Obama administration was to see a reversal of the 2004 NLRB decision that effectively shut down the unionization of graduate student teaching assistants at private universities. But labor groups have hesitated to bring a challenge to the ruling while the NLRB lacked a quorum. The leaders of private universities generally oppose unionization of graduate students.
The Educational Credit Management Corporation, a guarantor of federal student loans, announced Friday that a "portable media" device recently stolen had personally identifiable information -- including names, addresses, dates of birth and Social Security numbers -- on 3.3 million borrowers, co-signers and others. The theft occurred during the weekend of March 20-21 and was discovered by ECMC on the afternoon of Sunday, March 21. Officials said that they informed law enforcement immediately and issued Friday's announcement as soon as they had clearance to do so by those investigating the theft. ECMC guarantees loans for students in Minnesota, Virginia and Oregon, and also contracts with the U.S. Education Department to provide services when borrowers have entered into bankruptcy.
What's it like being John Yoo, the one-time Bush administration official whose memos are widely seen as endorsing torture and who is now back teaching law (to the dismay of activists who want him ousted) at the University of California at Berkeley? He told the Los Angeles Times he relishes his role and isn't intimidated by the many at the university who want him gone, or who defend his right to be there while finding his ideas offensive. "I think of myself as being West Berlin during the Cold War, a shining beacon of capitalism and democracy surrounded by a sea of Marxism," Yoo told the Times. He said he views Berkeley as "a natural history museum of the 1960s," adding: "It's like looking at the panoramic displays of troglodytes sitting around the campfire with their clubs. Here, it's tie-dye and marijuana. It's just like the 1960s, with the Vietnam War still to protest."
Tarleton State University has rebuffed critics demanding that it halt a student production of "Corpus Christi," a play in which Jesus is depicted as gay. But the Associated Press reported that the university is moving the performance time -- originally 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon -- to 8 a.m. Saturday. In addition, only invited guests and relatives of cast members will be permitted to attend.