Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, June 10, 2010 - 3:00am

Marquette University announced Wednesday that it has reached a "mutually acceptable resolution” with Jodi O’Brien, a scholar who was offered the job of dean of arts and sciences, only to have the offer rescinded -- a move that has angered many faculty members. O'Brien is a lesbian and some of her writing is about lesbian sexuality -- facts about which she was frank during the interview process. Marquette declined to reveal details of the settlement. But a statement from the Rev. Robert A. Wild, the president, said: “We deeply regret the upset and unwanted attention that we caused this outstanding teacher and scholar, and we are grateful for the graciousness with which she has handled this matter in the weeks since the decision was announced.” Father Wild said his decision to rescind the contract reflected his judgment for the university on issues arising from aspects of O’Brien’s writings as they pertained to the university’s mission and identity. “To be sure, the university recognizes that, as is true of many judgment calls, different individuals and institutions could reasonably reach a different conclusion, even in the context of leadership positions,” he added.

O'Brien issued her own statement Wednesday night: "Throughout the recent settlement talks my intent has been to be responsive and respectful to the members of the Marquette community and the Milwaukee area residents who have shown such tremendous support for me. I have received hundreds of messages, including many from local Catholics, expressing dismay at the university's decision to suddenly cancel my hire. This support has inspired me to work toward an agreement that acknowledges the pain and damage to the Marquette community as well as to myself. I accepted the position of dean with the sense of a mandate to cultivate mutual understanding and respect among the many different voices that make up the Marquette community and the local and regional environments. Hopefully this work will be carried out through the terms of the resolution. I appreciate the responsiveness of the Marquette representatives to suggestions regarding a legacy of community betterment, including research and education regarding issues of gender and sexuality. I look forward to watching that progress unfold."

Thursday, June 10, 2010 - 3:00am

Wayne State University announced Wednesday that it will maintain its Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity Award, to honor journalists, despite the controversy over anti-Israel statements that led Thomas -- a Wayne State alumna -- to retire, The Detroit Free Press reported. A university statement said that Wayne State "strongly condemns" her "wholly inappropriate comments" but that the controversy shouldn't detract from her "many years of exemplary service."

Thursday, June 10, 2010 - 3:00am

At California State University at Los Angeles, budget cuts have the library closing at 8 every night, leaving many students without their preferred space to study. So, with finals week approaching, students created their own library. The Los Angeles Times reported that they set up tables for laptops, a copy machine and printer, and a coffee machine at a gathering spot outside the library. The "People's Library" has been available until midnight -- and students say it is both serving a practical need and drawing attention to the need for more money for the library budget. University officials initially expressed worries about safety issues, but then helped students with electrical cords and other matters.

Thursday, June 10, 2010 - 3:00am

The National Federation of the Blind is expanding its challenge to the Law School Admissions Council's online system for law school admissions, with a suit against the council and four California law schools that use its applications. The suit charges that the system is not accessible to blind applicants, and thus violates both state and federal anti-bias laws. The Law School Admissions Council has said in the past that its members do not discriminate against blind applicants and want the admissions system to be as functional as possible for all groups, but that some of the changes sought by the blind advocacy group are complicated to carry out.

Thursday, June 10, 2010 - 3:00am

Dr. Pamela M. Jolicoeur, president of Concordia College in Minnesota, died Wednesday after suffering a stroke. She was 65, and had led the college since 2004, following a 32-year career at California Lutheran University. At Concordia, she helped to complete a $100 million capital campaign, and encouraged new programs in the sciences, business and global education. A university statement about her accomplishments may be found here.

Thursday, June 10, 2010 - 3:00am

Teach for America may be far less successful than its publicity suggests, according to a policy brief from the Education and the Public Interest Center and the Education Policy Research Unit. The report reviews evidence about the effectiveness of Teach for America teachers -- generally graduates of elite colleges who have received some training, but nothing resembling formal teacher education. The study found that the Teach for America teachers do better than other uncredentialed teachers (in terms of the impact on their students' test scores), but that they don't do better than teachers who have been credentialed. Teach for America teachers improve if they stay in the field long enough to earn credentials, but that's not the norm, the report says.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - 3:00am

The American Association of University Professors, which holds its annual meeting this week in Washington, will present its Alexander Meiklejohn Award for Academic Freedom to Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, for her outspoken defense last year of the right of Roman Catholic colleges to have a range of speakers on their campuses. McGuire devoted her commencement address last year to the controversy over President Obama's visit to the University of Notre Dame to give the commencement address there. Anti-abortion groups organized protests and urged Notre Dame to withdraw the invitation because Obama favors legal abortion rights. In her talk, which she adapted to an essay that was published on Inside Higher Ed, McGuire said that this kind of "religious vigilantism" was an affront to academic freedom and to the open traditions of Catholic higher education.

The Meiklejohn award -- last given in 2003 -- goes to academic administrators who have made major defenses of academic freedom. The AAUP citation for McGuire states: "President McGuire has a reputation for speaking out on topics other college presidents will not touch. She understood clearly that the drama that unfolded last year on the Notre Dame campus would affect the future of all Catholic colleges. She spoke out when others did not. Her passion for justice, for the salutary benefits of open and rigorous debate, for what is simply right did not allow her to keep silent. Her voice has provided inspiration, encouragement and guidance to the leaders of Catholic colleges and universities across the country and, in fact, to all those in the academy who must resist the forces of censorship and repression."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - 3:00am

The Institute for Higher Education Policy is today releasing a report, "A Portrait of Low-Income Young Adults in Education," with data showing the education gaps between those young adults in poverty and those who are more affluent. Over all in 2008, 44 percent of young adults in the United States were from a low-income background -- and they had low levels of educational attainment, with levels even lower for black, Latino and Native Americans.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - 3:00am

There may be hope for a key research team in philosophy at Britain's Middlesex University. Times Higher Education reported that the program -- whose elimination has outraged scholars nationwide -- may be relocated to Kingston University.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - 3:00am

Education at all levels received just over $40 billion in gifts in 2009, a drop of 3.6 percent from the previous year, according to the annual Giving USA report. Over the last two years, giving to education has dropped by nearly 12 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars. The trends for education are similar to those for most other categories of philanthropy over the past two years -- a drop in 2009 but a smaller dip than the year before. Education received 13 percent of gifts in 2009, the second-highest category (after religion, at 33 percent of the total).

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