Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 4, 2009

Gallaudet University has announced four finalists to become its next president -- and all of them are deaf and use sign language, The Washington Post reported. Gallaudet's presidential selections are among the most scrutinized by students and others who care about the university because the president is seen as a national figure in discussions of deaf people. Sustained protests of some past selections have led to withdrawals and considerable debate. The candidates for the opening are: T. Alan Hurwitz, president of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf; Roslyn Rosen, director of the National Center on Deafness at California State University at Northridge; Ronald J. Stern, superintendent and chief executive of the New Mexico School for the Deaf; and Stephen F. Weiner, provost of Gallaudet.

September 3, 2009

WASHINGTON -- Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a gathering of presidents of historically black colleges and universities Wednesday that their institutions are essential to the future of the country's education system -- and that they must do a better job helping students get degrees. That dual message, delivered to the 2009 National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week Conference here, is consistent with the forceful ideas put forward this summer by John Silvanus Wilson Jr., the Obama administration's new head of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Duncan filled his speech with praise for the tradition of historically black colleges' doing more with less, preparing generations of black leaders despite often comparatively "meager resources." Other colleges could have much to learn from HBCUs in these lean times, Duncan said, singling out institutions such as Elizabeth City State University and Philander Smith College. But while black colleges will benefit heavily from the economic recovery package and other federal aid, they, like other institutions, will have to become more cost efficient. Duncan also challenged the institutions' effectiveness, noting that the teachers they produce are less likely than their peers to pass certification tests and that many of the colleges have graduation rates below 20 percent, an "unacceptable outcome for students.... And just like other institutions of higher education, HBCUs cannot explain away big differences in graduation rates simply by reference to the usual suspects. The management practices of those colleges have to be part of the explanation -- and part of the solution."

September 3, 2009

More than half of the 165 colleges providing information to the American College Health Association reported instances of the H1N1 virus on their campuses, the association said in the first of what will become weekly reports from a survey of institutions. Combined, the colleges in the survey -- which is designed to supplement federal surveys by providing a campus-specific picture of the swine flu outbreak -- reported 1,640 cases, or about 7.9 per 10,000 students. Instances were highest in the Southeast and far Northwest, the ACHA reported, and the illness remains mild so far. "Despite brisk disease activity on campuses in some regions of the country, we have just one report of hospitalization and no reported deaths due to influenza," said James C. Turner, president of the association and executive director of the Department of Student Health at the University of Virginia.

September 3, 2009

A final deal to revive Antioch College -- independent of Antioch University -- will be signed Friday. The agreement was announced by the Great Lakes Colleges Association, which has helped promote the negotiations between the alumni leaders who will be managing the revived college and the university's board.

September 3, 2009

The following meetings, conferences, seminars and other events will be held in the coming weeks in and around higher education. They are among the many such that appear in our calendar on The Lists on Inside Higher Ed, which also includes a comprehensive catalog of job changes in higher education. This listing will appear as a regular feature in this space.

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To submit a listing, click here.

September 3, 2009

Oakland University's faculty voted late Wednesday to authorize a strike, and the faculty union urged members to skip today's first day of classes. Newspaper accounts of the vote, like this one in the Detroit Free Press, said that the campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors had authorized a strike but that the union would call for a boycott early this morning only if they believed talks were at an impasse. A note on the home page of Oakland's AAUP this morning said: "The 2006-09 contract has expired without a tentative agreement. The AAUP team asks the faculty show support for the bargaining process and to not meet classes until further notice." A note on the university's Web site warned students to prepare for a work stoppage but also noted that a strike would violate state law.

September 3, 2009

Students took out 25 percent more in federal student loans in 2008-9 than they did the year before, according to Education Department data reported by The Wall Street Journal. The federal data showed borrowing rising to $75.1 billion, higher than the 17 percent most recently projected by the Obama administration. Robert Shireman, deputy under secretary for education, called the rise "definitely above expectations" and attributed it to the poor economy and increases in federal limits on how much students can borrow.

September 3, 2009

In a sign of the impact of the recession on colleges with large endowments, Stanford University announced that total layoffs at the institution over the last eight months were 412 -- some of whom are still working with their jobs due to end soon. Stanford is projecting at 30 percent drop in endowment value in 2009.

September 2, 2009

The University of Miami is investigating an incident in which police officers questioned a student -- subsequently revealed not to be the person the officers were looking for -- at gunpoint, The Miami Herald reported. The incident has attracted considerable attention because some communications students witnessed it and made a videotape, which is on the Web site of The Miami Hurricane, the student newspaper.

September 2, 2009

Harvard University's medical school is backing away from new rules about student interaction with reporters, following complaints that the policy would block discussion of key issues, The New York Times reported. The controversial policy -- which officials have now vowed to change -- said that all interactions between students and the press needed to be coordinated by the deans of students and public affairs. Harvard officials claimed that the policy was designed to help students, not muzzle them. But students noted that the policy followed student activism (much of it covered by reporters) demanding that the medical school and others pay more attention to issues of conflict of interest in biomedical research. And students argued that university officials shouldn't be required to be involved when students may well be criticizing the university.

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