What can you make with 23 plastic bottles? A graduation gown, it turns out. Tis the season (almost), and Oak Hall Cap & Gown, a company that counts more than 1,600 colleges as clients, has announced a new GreenWeaver line, featuring caps and gowns composed of 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The Indiana Conference of the American Association of University Professors has weighed in on the controversy surrounding President Obama's upcoming commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame, which some Roman Catholics oppose due to the president's support for abortion rights. In its statement, the AAUP chapter expresses support for Notre Dame's president, the Rev. John I. Jenkins, for standing by the invitation, and expresses concern about "the efforts of external groups to prevent President Obama or any other invited guest from speaking on campus. ... Notre Dame has a worthy tradition of inviting new presidents to speak at commencement even though none agree with all aspects of Catholic dogma. To disinvite a commencement speaker over public policy disagreements is an anathema to open discourse." President Obama will be the ninth U.S. president to be awarded an honorary degree at Notre Dame, and the sixth to be commencement speaker.
The Institute for Creation Research is suing Texas for the right to award master's degrees in the state. The Dallas Morning News reported that the suit charges the state with discriminating against the institute based on its views of evolution (on which the institute differs from mainstream science). The institute wants to award master's degrees to people who plan to teach science, and says it will teach evolution even as it also teaches creationism. Texas has not authorized the degrees and many science groups have been alarmed at the prospect of the institute training science teachers.
Higher education leaders in California on Saturday announced the release of $537 million in federal stimulus funds for the state's public colleges and universities, the Los Angeles Times reported. The funds come from the state's $3.1 billion allocation of the federal stimulus bill. Few details have been released regarding how the state's higher education systems will use the funds, and lawmakers and educators alike stressed that there wasn't enough money to make up for all of the currently planned cuts. Said State Sen. Gloria Romero: "You can almost compare this to a blood transfusion to a very sickly patient. But this is triage and only addresses a portion of the problems we face."
Linda Bunnell, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, is facing increasing criticism, but she says she is making necessary changes at the institution. The Associated Press reported that fund raising leaders have questioned the way she treats them, even as some on campus say she is spending too much time off campus trying to raise money. The situation has become so vexing, the AP reported, that the university has hired a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice to mediate. Adding to the controversy: Bunnell has admitted to getting in an accident with a state vehicle after she had been at a club where she ordered three alcoholic beverages (but says she consumed only one). And a student group, seeking to draw attention to her travels off campus, put documents online that included her credit card number.
Colby College has become the latest institution to shift its admissions policies with regard to standardized testings for applicants. Colby has until now required all students to submit SAT or ACT scores. The college has approved a five-year experiment in which applicants will have the option of instead submitted three SAT subject test scores.
A legislative committee in Oregon on Friday amended a bill -- which would have required public colleges and universities to interview minority candidates before hiring football coaches -- to apply the requirement to include head coaches in all sports as well as other key positions in the athletics department, The Oregonian reported. Advocates for black coaches have pushed colleges to adopt such rules, noting the relative scarcity of black head coaches -- even in teams with many black athletes.
A board committee at the College of William and Mary has approved an eight-year research project, sponsored by the Office of the Provost, documenting black history at the university and in the Williamsburg area, the Newport News Daily Press reported. "The Lemon Project: A Journey of Reconciliation" is named after a slave owned by the college; in 2006, Brown University famously released a report chronicling its own ties to slavery and the slave trade.
Playboy, which has periodically ranked "party schools," announced Friday it would issue such reviews annually, potentially setting up a challenge with Princeton Review, whose guidebook is best known for its party school rankings. The differing methodologies of the two operations result in different "winners" of the competition that most administrators would prefer to lose. Playboy does include learning as one factor in its rankings. The other four factors are: athletics, campus life, availability of sex, and a "bikini index," based on weather, female-to-male student ratio, and cheerleaders. The resulting top five for Playboy: University of Miami, University of Texas at Austin, San Diego State University, University of Florida and University of Arizona. The Princeton Review bases its selections on student surveys covering the use of alcohol and drugs, hours of study a day and the popularity of the Greek system. The Princeton Review's current top five are: University of Florida, University of Mississippi, Pennsylvania State University, West Virginia University and Ohio University.
All salaried employees -- including faculty members -- at Greensboro College are having their salaries cut by 20 percent, News 14 reported. Employees who are paid on an hourly basis, generally those with the lowest take-home pay, are not subject to the cut. In addition, the college is cutting matching contributions to retirement accounts, dental insurance and sabbaticals. College officials cited declines in the endowment and contributions, and concerns about fall enrollment levels.