Ugandan higher education authorities recently authorized the Virtual University of Uganda to begin offering fully online programs, the first such programs in the region. The university has created an open access virtual library and a course management system through Moodle. Instruction will be in English, but there are plans to expand to French as well.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The U.S. Justice Department announced Friday that it did not see antitrust problems with the Designated Suppliers Program, an effort of the Worker Rights Consortium to assure that employees at factories that produce collegiate apparel receive basic rights and fair treatment. Some have expressed fears that colleges that agree to participate in the program might be found in violation of antitrust laws. But a statement from the Justice Department noted that no college is forced to participate. Further, the Justice Department noted that the program may create new competition among colleges and companies that abide by the conditions of the program.
Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri (right) has been developing a plan for public universities to provide more than $100 million in interest-free loans to the state, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The Democratic governor's plan would benefit the universities, in theory, because the funds would be used for public higher education, reducing the chances of a large cut in appropriations. The money for the loans would come from reserve funds at the institutions. Republican legislators are lining up against the idea. Kurt Schaefer, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, questioned whether the universities would be repaid. "If the proposal is a Bernie Madoff-type Ponzi scheme to make it look like something's being funded that isn't really being funded, that's not acceptable," Schaefer said.
The Houston Athletics Foundation, an endowment that supports athletics programs at the University of Houston, lost more than 40 percent of its assets to a Ponzi scheme, the Associated Press reported. More than $2.2 million of the endowment's $5.1 million had been invested with a financial adviser for college basketball coaches who is believed to have set up the scheme and who committed suicide last summer.
The University of Michigan on Friday promoted news coverage of an open letter on college costs by Mary Sue Coleman, president of the institution, to President Obama. "Higher education is a public good currently lacking public support. There is no stronger trigger for rising costs at public universities and colleges than declining state support," Coleman wrote. In the letter, she praised Obama for recently gathering a small group of college presidents to talk about college costs. But in offering this public advice to Obama, Coleman didn't note that she was one of the presidents invited to the White House, but sent her regrets. A spokeswoman said that Coleman's "schedule wouldn't permit" her to join the White House meeting.
The faculty, key administrators and the board of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have all now approved a new system for faculty governance, potentially ending a long conflict between faculty leaders and President Shirley Ann Jackson. The dispute over faculty governance started in 2006, when the Faculty Senate voted to extend voting rights to non-tenure-track faculty members and the administration objected, saying that the Faculty Senate could not do so, given the role of faculty committees in topics such as tenure review. As the dispute escalated, RPI killed the body, replaced it with a new interim body, and was widely criticized by faculty groups such as the American Association of University Professors. The new constitution for faculty governance authorizes the election of non-tenure-track faculty members for some seats in the Faculty Senate and on some (but not all) committees.
The Albany Times Union reported that the adoption of the new constitution may signal an improvement of relations between professors and Jackson, although the article noted that the student government at RPI recently asked the institute's board to remove Jackson (a request the board rejected). The Times Union also noted that RPI's accreditor, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, has been pushing for a restoration of a faculty governance system.
Missouri State University officials are apologizing for the actions of their band, which played "Dixie" at the dedication of a park where three black men were lynched in 1906, The Springfield News-Leader reported. Black leaders complained that the selection was offensive. Missouri State officials said that the band leader did not understand the historical significance of the song, and that it would not again be performed at public events.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has arrested a student at Loyola University in New Orleans, charging that she threatened to blow up a building and to kill five professors -- all to avoid taking a test, The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported. The first of two e-mail threats said: "Mamba pistol with five bullets in it for five professors in Monroe Hall.... I have no sympathy for any accidental casualties!!!" The second e-mail said: "You are really trying my patience! I am on the verge of blowing that bitch up and you'll be renovating from the foundation!" The student, who is free on bail, denies intending to harm anyone and says that the messages were a joke.