Higher Education Quick Takes
Five nursing students at Georgia Southern University were killed Wednesday in a car crash, The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported. The students were en route to a hospital where they were receiving clinical training. Two tractor trailers and five cars were involved in a chain-reaction crash.
The Louisiana State University System is drafting a plan to declare financial exigency, The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported. Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican, has proposed massive cuts for higher education and the Legislature's various versions of his budget have added to the cuts, which now appear to total more than 80 percent of state funds for LSU. While various plans have circulated to restore some of the money, those plans haven't advanced, which has prompted the financial exigency plan. Under financial exigency, it is generally easier for a university to make deep cuts. And because such statements mean that the survival of an institution is in danger, the American Association of University Professors permits layoffs to include tenured professors.
F. King Alexander, president and chancellor of LSU, said that declaring financial exigency would send a terrible message about the state of the institution. “You'll never get any more faculty,” he said.
A bill considered by the Education Committee of the Iowa State Senate riled faculty members this week, after it was shared on the American Association of University Professors’ Academe blog. The bill -- which Rudy Fichtenbaum, professor of economics at Wright State University and AAUP president, called “the most outrageous proposal I have heard from a legislator anywhere” -- would have required that any professor at a public institution teach at least one course per semester and be rated by student evaluations such that if “a professor fails to attain a minimum threshold of performance based on the student evaluations used to assess the professor’s teaching effectiveness, in accordance with the criteria and rating system adopted by the board, the institution shall terminate the professor’s employment regardless of tenure status or contract.”
Additionally, the bill said, “The names of the five professors who rank lowest on their institution’s evaluation for the semester, but who scored above the minimum threshold of performance, shall be published on the institution’s Internet site and the student body shall be offered an opportunity to vote on the question of whether any of the five professors will be retained as employees of the institution.” The professor with the fewest votes would have been subject to termination, regardless of tenure status.
After receiving a substantial number of emails from outraged faculty members, Inside Higher Ed determined that the bill had died in committee -- six weeks ago.
Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat who is chair of the Iowa State Senate Education Committee and a professor of economics at Iowa State University, said via email that the bill “demonstrates little understanding of higher education and even less caring.” Fortunately, he added, “cooler heads have prevailed.”
Senator Mark Chelgren, a Republican who was the bill’s sponsor, did not immediately return a request for comment.
A conference at Queen’s University Belfast on the January murders at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has been canceled, Times Higher Education reported. Organizers of the conference said the university’s vice chancellor opposed the planned symposium due to concerns about security risks and the university’s reputation; Queen’s declined to comment on the matter.
Tufts University students on Wednesday took over the office of President Anthony Monaco and said that they would stay until the university sells its holdings in fossil fuel companies, The Boston Globe reported. While the university has said it will talk with the students, it has not moved toward divestment. The university noted that it has taken a number of steps to make Tufts more environmentally sustainable. Students are posting photographs of themselves in the president's office.
Language that would have greatly restricted the right of faculty members at public institutions in Ohio to form unions has been removed from a 3,000-page budget bill before the state House Finance Committee. Faculty members and unions across the state panned the provision after its insertion last week, calling it a fly-by-night attack on collective bargaining. State Representative Tim Brown, a Republican who’d been lobbying against the language, told Bowling Green's Sentinel-Tribune that the language was “slipped in” and deserved “a fair and proper vetting outside the budget process.”
John McNay, chair of the history department at the University of Cincinnati’s Blue Ash campus and president of the Ohio conference of the American Association of University Professors, said via email that he and other faculty members are “very pleased that the House Finance Committee listened to our concerns.”
“We want the Ohio legislature to begin to look at the real problems that are increasing costs for our students,” such as escalating spending on noninstructional services and salaries, McNay said. “We are not the problem. We can be part of the solution if they will work with us.”
A monthslong review by the University of Alaska at Fairbanks has concluded with a decision to eliminate six degree offerings in an effort to cut $14 million, Newsminer.com reported. The philosophy, engineering management and science management degrees will be eliminated, and certain degree offerings in chemistry, music and sociology will also be ended.
Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., is cutting its workforce by 5 percent to respond to declining enrollments, Forum News Service reported. The cuts are a mix of faculty and staff positions, and a mix of “separation agreements” and of not replacing people who have left the college.
Part-time lecturers at Boston University’s Center for English Language and Orientation Programs voted 23 to 2 to join a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union, they announced Wednesday. Some 750 other Boston University adjuncts voted to form a union affiliated with SEIU in February. The university did not immediately respond to a request for comment.