Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, December 4, 2009 - 3:00am

A California jury has awarded $28,000, the equivalent of one year's salary, to Lorri Sulpizio, the former head coach of the women’s basketball team at San Diego Mesa College, after finding that the college had retaliated against Sulpizio when she complained about inadequate support for women's athletics. The National Center for Lesbian Rights, which represented Sulpizio, issued a statement declaring the win to be a "landmark" decision. But the jury rejected other claims by Sulpizio, including that she was dismissed shortly after the college found out that she is a lesbian. A spokesman for the San Diego Community College District, of which Mesa is a part, noted that Sulpizio sued for 10 times what she was awarded.

Friday, December 4, 2009 - 3:00am

A Chinese court has approved a settlement between the Graduate Management Admission Council and a Chinese test-prep business that upholds the GMAC's copyright on the Graduate Management Admission Test. The council sued when it found that the company was using copyrighted materials in its programs. Western testing organizations have generally been frustrated with their limited legal ability to object to copyright violations in China, and so GMAC officials called the ruling a significant victory.

Friday, December 4, 2009 - 3:00am

Achieving the Dream, a five-year-old effort to improve community colleges, has named a CEO: William Truehart, who formerly led Bryant University, Reading Is Fundamental and the Pittsburgh Foundation. The program helps states and community colleges use data to identify weaknesses at community colleges and to fix them. The program was created in 2004 by the Lumina Foundation.

Friday, December 4, 2009 - 3:00am

Hofstra University announced Thursday that it is eliminating its football program. The rationale for the decision was quite similar to that offered by Northeastern University last month in making a similar decision: the need to reallocate funds, which the university pegged at $4.5 million a year. Football has been the largest athletics program at Hofstra, despite "low student, community and media interest, attendance and financial support," the statement said. So the university plans to "redirect those resources toward academic initiatives and need-based scholarships."

Friday, December 4, 2009 - 3:00am

The Health Sciences Center has ended the use of cats from a shelter in exercises on emergency medical techniques, The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported. Texas Tech did not indicate why it abandoned the use of the cats, but People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has been campaigning against their use.... Chapman University meanwhile has found a new use for dogs. The university is bringing in puppies on Wednesday, and stationing them outside the library, so students stressed during finals week can relax by playing with them, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Friday, December 4, 2009 - 3:00am

In remarks kicking off a White House forum on job creation and the economy, President Obama repeatedly stressed the role of higher education. "I want to hear about what unions and universities can do to better support and prepare our workers -- not just for the jobs of today, but for the jobs five years from now and 10 years from now and 50 years from now," he said. "We still have the best universities in the world. We've got some of the finest science and technology in the world, we've got the most entrepreneurial spirit in the world, and we've got some of the most productive workers in the world." The Obama discussion of job creation continues today when the president will visit Lehigh Carbon Community College.

Friday, December 4, 2009 - 3:00am

The chairmen of Congress's education committees on Thursday disputed a report that a proposed lender alternative to President Obama's student loan restructuring proposal would save nearly as much money as the administration's plan. Rep. George Miller and Sen. Tom Harkin were responding to news reports indicating that the Congressional Budget Office had "scored" an alternative put forward by Sen. Robert Casey on behalf of lender groups as saving $75 billion, within striking distance of the amount projected to be saved by President Obama's plan to end lending through the guaranteed loan program. The higher level of savings would be achieved through a series of budget gimmicks, the Democratic lawmakers wrote.

Thursday, December 3, 2009 - 3:00am

This won't be news to anyone in Illinois, but college trustees and regents need to pay attention to conflicts of interest other than financial ones, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges says in new guidance on the subject. The statement from AGB's Board of Directors notes that "[w]hile financial conflicts tend to dominate board conflict of interest discussions, the subjects of political gain, unmerited preference in hiring, student admissions decisions" -- like those that have enveloped the University of Illinois system's Board of Trustees -- "and other conflicts can compromise the integrity that boards should hold in trust." While avoiding being too prescriptive, given institutions' differing situations and missions, the statement offers 12 principles that should guide boards' policies governing potential conflicts and how to avoid or manage them.

Thursday, December 3, 2009 - 3:00am

"States are current facing one of the worst, if not the worst, fiscal periods since the Great Depression." With that downbeat assessment, the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers introduced their semi-annual "Fiscal Survey of States," which projects continued declines in tax revenues driving the need for additional cutbacks in state spending in 2010, 2011 and possibly 2012. Thirty-three states cut their spending on higher education in the 2009 fiscal year and 30 did so for 2010, although federal stimulus funds backfilled the cuts in states such as Colorado, New Mexico and Oklahoma in 2010, the report said. Lawmakers or governors in several other states exempted higher education (Tennessee and Vermont) or student financial aid (Indiana and South Carolina) from budget cuts in 2010.

Thursday, December 3, 2009 - 3:00am

Nearly 50 years after adopting its celebrated Master Plan, California’s vision for higher education has become “less cohesive,” and the state has failed to link funding decisions to clearly defined policy goals, according to a report released Tuesday by California's non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. The report questions whether the state’s policy pre-occupation with expanding “access” has “come at the expense of other critical goals, including student learning and degree completion.” Among other suggestions, the LAO recommends the Legislature consider new governance structures, as well as new funding models driven by student outcomes.

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