Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, May 13, 2010 - 3:00am

A moving article in Nature tells the story of how the biology department at the University of Alabama in Huntsville has continued operations in the wake of the February shootings by Amy Bishop that killed three faculty members and seriously wounded two others. The article discusses a range of emotional and logistical issues -- everything from writing the job ads for new colleagues to finding people to take charge of research grants that lost their principal investigators. "Right now, it's a sort of managed chaos. As each thing comes up, we deal with it," said Debra Moriarty, a faculty member who was in the room when her colleagues were shot.

Thursday, May 13, 2010 - 3:00am

A student at Kennesaw State University -- who came to the United States with her parents from Mexico when she was 10, and who does not have legal immigration papers -- was briefly detained in an immigration center last week. She received help from her sorority sisters and university administrators, who noted that it is completely legal under Georgia law for public colleges to enroll such students, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. But as press coverage increased, so did scrutiny. Eric Johnson, a Republican candidate for governor, is using the case to call for public colleges to be required to do citizenship checks in the admissions process.

Thursday, May 13, 2010 - 3:00am

The controversy over Marquette University's decision to rescind a job offer to be dean of arts and sciences to Jodi O'Brien, a sociologist at Seattle University who is a lesbian and whose scholarship has focused on sexuality and gender, continues. O'Brien was very open about her sexual orientation and her scholarship with the search committee, which in turn was open with senior administrators at Marquette, who first offered her the job and then rescinded it. In new developments:

  • The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Rev. Jerome Listecki, the archbishop of Milwaukee, called the Rev. Robert A. Wild, president of Marquette, to express concerns about the appointment. Many on the campus have speculated that pressure from outside the university contributed to the decision to rescind the offer to O'Brien.
  • The president of the American Sociological Association sent a letter to Marquette, strongly objecting to its treatment of O'Brien and calling on the university to once again offer her the dean's job. The letter noted that the study of issues of sexuality is a well established and respected part of sociology. "We condemn the action of Marquette University’s senior officials in rescinding its offer to Dr. O’Brien. By doing so, Marquette University appears to have violated its own non-discrimination policy as well as the principles of free inquiry that govern all great universities," said the letter, from Evelyn Nakano Glenn, director of the Center for Race and Gender at the University of California at Berkeley.
Thursday, May 13, 2010 - 3:00am

The number of community college students who transferred to University of Texas System campuses rose by 11.3 percent from 2008 to 2009, a spike that officials attributed to a set of new programs and policies the system has implemented in recent years. The comparable increase from 2007 to 2008 was 1 percent, UT officials said.

Thursday, May 13, 2010 - 3:00am

Richard Lariviere, president of the University of Oregon, released a white paper Tuesday that suggests that the state replace annual appropriations with funds that would allow bonds to be issued to build up the university's endowment over a 30-year period. As The Oregonian reported, he argues that such a shift would allow the university to have more budget stability and to improve its programs. Key lawmakers, while not ruling out the idea, are making clear that they are skeptics. Dave Hunt, speaker of the House of Representatives, said that the idea sounded like giving a 30-year advance to his children on their allowances. "It has a way of getting spent more quickly, and mom and dad don't have accountability anymore," he said.

Thursday, May 13, 2010 - 3:00am

Students at the University of California at Berkeley have ended a 10-day hunger strike, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The university did not agree to many of the students' demands related to campus protests and the new immigration law in Arizona, but officials condemned the law and agreed to study the campus code of conduct.

Thursday, May 13, 2010 - 3:00am

Michael Hogan's decision to leave the University of Connecticut's presidency for that of the University of Illinois is receiving considerable criticism in Connecticut, where politicians and others are questioning whether it is appropriate to leave after less than three years in office. The Connecticut Post quoted a statement from Gov. M. Jodi Rell: "Many, including myself, are deeply disappointed that he is leaving the university at such a critical time, particularly on the heels of the landmark financial investment we have just made to the UConn Health Center. We had assumed President Hogan's commitment to UConn was a long-term one; it should have been." Even more critical was a blogger for The Hartford Courant, who wrote: "I don't begrudge University of Connecticut President Michael Hogan for wanting to trade up to a larger, Big 10 school. That's what these job-shopping, opportunist college presidents do. But you don't leave before you get the job done."

Thursday, May 13, 2010 - 3:00am

Some conservative groups are attacking Elena Kagan, the Supreme Court nominee, for her ties to Thurgood Marshall, for whom she was a law clerk on the Supreme Court. Among those defending Kagan is the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund, which raises money for scholarships for students at public historically black colleges. Johnny C. Taylor, president and CEO of the fund, issued this statement: "We, at the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, are extremely supportive of Ms. Kagan’s nomination for a number of reasons; but two stand out as particularly meaningful – she served as a law clerk to Justice Marshall and she served on the Board of Directors of the college fund bearing Justice Marshall’s name. Ms. Kagan’s career has embodied the meaning and tradition of Thurgood Marshall’s life’s work to support the Constitutional mandate of inclusion and equal protection under the law for all Americans, particularly in higher education.”

Thursday, May 13, 2010 - 3:00am

A federal judge on Wednesday issued a temporary restraining order to stop New York State from imposing a one day furlough next week on state workers, including those at the four-year institutions of the City University of New York and the State University of New York. The faculty unions of those two systems, along with other state employee unions, are suing to block the furloughs, arguing that they violate existing contractt and aren't necessary. A statement from Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress, the CUNY faculty union, said: "The furlough legislation was never about closing the budget gap. Furloughs were expected to produce $250 million in savings for the state -- yet the budget deficit is more than $9 billion. I hope the governor and the legislature will stop playing with people’s lives and get down to business."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 - 3:00am

John T. Casteen III, president of the University of Virginia, met with Gov. Bob McDonnell Tuesday to urge reforms in state law so colleges would be informed of the off-campus arrests of their students, The Charlottesville Daily Progress reported. Casteen noted that the university was never informed of an incident in which the student who is facing murder charges in the death of another student this month was arrested in 2008 and allegedly threatened a police officer. “Information of that kind would have lit up our system,” Casteen said. “Students who do those sorts of things would find themselves suspended immediately … In any event, I would like to know if one of my students threatened to kill a police officer.”

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