Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

July 22, 2009

The Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii beat out a site in Chile on Tuesday to become the future home of the world's largest telescope, the Associated Press reported. The $1.2 billion telescope, with a range of 13 billion light years, is being set up by a consortium of the University of California, the California Institute of Technology and the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy.

July 21, 2009

Ave Maria University has fired Rev. Joseph Fessio, a theologian who was previously fired as provost, The Naples Daily News reported. Fessio's dismissal as provost provoked protests by students and supporters at the college, which prides itself on close adherence to Roman Catholic teachings. Father Fessio is a friend of and former student of Pope Benedict XVI. According to the Naples newspaper, Ave Maria's split with Father Fessio is rooted in financial disagreements, not theology. Father Fessio recently told the university's founder that it was at "great risk" because of its reliance on real estate development -- a view that has been expressed by others, but that is apparently not shared by university leaders.

July 21, 2009

Cambridge police arrested Henry Louis Gates Jr., a Harvard University professor who is one of the leading figures in African-American studies, outside his home on disorderly conduct charges Thursday in an incident some see as racial profiling, The Boston Globe reported. According to the police, someone walking saw Gates trying to get into his own home without a key. (Gates has said that his door was jammed.) When police arrived and questioned Gates, the police report characterizes him as argumentative, while friends who have spoken to Gates said that he did cooperate, and that a white professor outside his own home would never have been treated in the same way. “It’s unbelievable,’’ Lawrence Bobo, a Harvard sociologist who visited Gates at the police station Thursday and drove him home, told the Globe. “I felt as if I were in some kind of surreal moment, like ‘The Twilight Zone.’ I was mortified.... This is a humiliating thing and a pretty profound violation of the kind of trust we all take for granted.’" The Root published a statement on behalf of Gates, in which his lawyer describes how Gates says he cooperated and was still arrested at his own home.

July 21, 2009

New Jersey has certified that postdoctoral fellows at Rutgers University have voted to unionize, affiliating with the joint American Federation of Teachers-American Association of University Professors union that represents more than 5,000 faculty members and graduate students at the university. The Rutgers postdocs are the third such union nationally, following those at the Universities of California and Connecticut.

July 20, 2009

Greensboro College is $19 million in debt and has been forced to use its campus and most of its endowment as collateral, The Greensboro News-Record reported. The college's president, Craven Williams, quit suddenly this month amid faculty frustration about a lack of information about the college's finances. One former trustee told the newspaper that the news was "shocking" and "great cause for concern."

July 20, 2009

John Silvanus Wilson Jr. was named Friday as the next director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Wilson is an associate professor of higher education at George Washington University, and has previously held administrative positions at GW and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Wilson has extensive ties to black colleges. He is a graduate of Morehouse College, a trustee of Spelman College, and has served on various advisory boards or been an informal adviser on various efforts of the United Negro College Fund, the Kresge Foundation and the Mott Foundation to help black colleges.

July 20, 2009

Bruce Kone, the former dean of the University of Florida medical school, has resigned his faculty position in return for $517,000 over three years, The Gainesville Sun reported. Kone left the deanship last year after a scandal over the admission of a politically connected applicant with questionable qualifications. Since then, some candidates for positions at the university have received anonymous e-mails that the university says are from Kone, but which he denies sending. One e-mail said the university "is in a classic death spiral" and called President Bernie Machen a "dictatorial ass." Another said: "The UF administration has the sorriest group of average, bureaucratic, hangers-on as administrators who are obstructionist, conniving, and just look out for their own jobs."

July 20, 2009

Baylor University has removed its alumni association from the university's Web site, e-mail service and toll-free phone lines, The Waco Tribune reported. The alumni association and the university have fought previously and have also previously agreed on financial independence for the alumni group. But while the university characterized its latest moves as related to that independence agreement, alumni leaders said that they weren't consulted and that they feared the changes would hurt fund-raising efforts.

July 17, 2009

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia has amended rules for the state's need-based scholarships for attending public institutions, so that home-schooled students can be eligible, The Washington Post reported. The standard requirement has been a 2.5 grade point average in high school, effectively excluded home-schooled students. Under the new rules, home-schooled students are eligible with at least a 900 on the SAT or 19 on the ACT.

July 17, 2009

The battles over Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal law requiring gender equity in education programs receiving federal funds, frequently focus on numbers. This week the College Sports Council, which argues that Title IX is encouraging colleges to eliminate men's teams, issued a new report to advance its cause. As reported by the Associated Press, the report analyzed 19 sports in which men and women both compete and found that women have more opportunities to earn college scholarships. As the article noted, that method of comparison manages to leave out one arguably significant sport in analyzing gender and athletic opportunities: football.

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