Higher Education Quick Takes
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Tuesday upheld injunctions issued by a lower court that would allow a blind law school graduate to use assistive technology software when taking the bar exam. The decision is the latest on the question of what accommodations people with disabilities are entitled to when taking state licensing exams for various professions.
The American Sociological Association, which recently announced that it couldn't meet in Chicago as planned this summer due to labor strife, has found a new home for its next annual meeting: Caesars Palace, in Las Vegas. While disciplinary meetings may not typically flock to meeting sites known for gambling, Ceasars meets a key requirement: it is a union hotel where contracts are in effect until 2012. The sociologists will gather in Vegas August 20-23.
A veteran of the Iraq war whose essay about killing led officials at the Community College of Baltimore County to say he needed a psychological evaluation to remain as a student says that he no longer wants to do so, The Baltimore Sun reported. Charles Whittington, the veteran, said that he met the requirements, but that college officials say he has not done enough. College officials said that they were clear all along on what he needed to do. At this point, the former student said he's decided not to return to the college. The essay described his focus on killing enemy soldiers -- and some advocates for veterans have argued that the college over-reacted to the entire situation.
Arkansas is the latest state in which pro-gun advocates are seeking to make it possible to carry weapons on campuses. Arkansas Carry is seeking legislative support for a bill to override a 2003 attorney general's opinion that colleges and universities could legally ban concealed weapons from their campuses -- even weapons held by permit holders -- if the institutions posted signs to that effect, Arkansas News reported. While state law does refer to some entities having this right to ban weapons, Arkansas Carry says that the reference is meant to cover private businesses, not colleges and universities.
India's government is planning the country's first comprehensive survey of higher education, The New York Times reported. The effort is being conducted out of the belief that a lack of reliable statistics about students and colleges hinders the development of the best policies.
A new report from the National Science Foundation suggests that the elimination of mandatory retirement for science, engineering and health doctorate holders over the age of 70 employed in higher education had minimal effects. Authors Thomas B. Hoffer, Scott Sederstrom, and Deborah Harper found that the retirement rate for those 71 to 75 dropped about 4 percentage points between 87.5 percent 1993 and 1995 (the end of mandatory retirement was in 1994) and stayed below 85 percent from 1995 to 2003. But other results from the study suggest that other factors are at play. Compared with 1993, degree holders at younger ages -- who never would have been covered by mandatory retirement laws when they were in effect -- also saw slight declines in retirement rates in the years after 1993. This runs counter to what many expected in 1993, says P. Brett Hammond, an expert in higher education retirement policy. In short, as Nirmala Kannankutty, an adviser on the project, put it to Inside Higher Ed via e-mail: "Retirement is a fairly complex process to look at." So while the change in mandatory retirement clearly had some impact, the report by Hoffer, Sederstrom and Harper suggests it was limited and difficult to pinpoint.
Employees of the University of California who are at the top salary levels -- earning more than $245,000 -- are threatening to sue if pension rules are not changed to enlarge their potential retirement earnings, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The employees say that the university committed to basing pensions on their actual salaries, not just the first $245,000 earned, and that failure to do so would make it more difficult for the university to attract talent. The demand comes at a time that the university is cutting pension benefits to deal with a massive deficit in the retirement fund.
A state judge in Florida ruled Thursday that the Legislature and not a new higher education board has the right to set tuition rates for the state's public universities, the Associated Press reported. The board was created in part to limit the political intrusion into decisions such as setting tuition rates. Appeals are expected.
The American Economic Association's board plans to discuss whether the organization should have an ethics code dealing with conflicts of interest, The New York Times reported. While many association leaders believe the group will not take action, the idea is that economists who participate in public life through op-eds, testimony and so forth should disclose ties they have to banks or various other financial entities. Critics of the association have said it should take a stand and develop policies comparable to those that require medical professors to disclose ties to pharmaceutical companies.
Just before leaving office as New York State's attorney general and becoming the state's governor, Andrew M. Cuomo announced the creation of a national center that will help students and their families better understand their student loan options, The New York Times reported. The center is being created with funds from settlements reached by various colleges and lenders with New York State -- all arising from Cuomo's inquiry into the relationships between lenders and colleges. New York State Higher Education Services Corporation will manage the new center, and the New York Public Interest Research Group will start a publicity campaign to let students know about the center.