Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

May 19, 2009

The University of Illinois board will this week consider a plan to scale back the system's new online campus, which has been controversial from the start, amid disappointing enrollment results, the Chicago Tribune reported. The campus was designed to be largely free-standing, prompting complaints from professors about insufficient ties to academic departments. Faculty groups also charged that administrators had unrealistic expectations about enrollment. The Tribune reported that the campus was supposed to have thousands of students at this point, but enrolls only 426.

May 18, 2009

The former girlfriend of Mike Burden -- until recently associate head coach of the University of Maine men's basketball team -- says she warned the university that he posed a danger unless he received counseling, The Bangor Daily News reported. Burden resigned last week after being charged with unlawful sexual conduct with one woman and assault against another who was trying to help the first woman. The coach's former girlfriend posted her story as a comment on the newspaper's story about the charges that were issued against Burden. A university spokesman confirmed that the letter had been received and said that Burden's supervisors discussed it with him, but declined to discuss whether any actions were taken as a result of the letter.

May 18, 2009

A statue of President James A. Garfield was decapitated last week, shortly after it was placed in a prominent location at Hiram College. The Record-Courier reported that the statue dates to 1914, and was recently brought to the campus after a trustee found it. The statue was placed in front of the college's Garfield Institute for Public Leadership, and the head was apparently removed sometime between 10 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m. Friday. The Record-Courier article features before and after photographs. Garfield attended the college and later taught there.

May 18, 2009

For all the raised voices (and a few arrests) over President Obama's appearance at the graduation ceremony of the University of Notre Dame Sunday, he was well received by the graduates and the audience, who gave the president repeated ovations. At one point early in the speech, hecklers shouted, but they were quieted. Obama spoke at length about the role of Notre Dame -- and of the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, its legendary former president, who was in the audience -- as an inspiring force in American society. Most of the criticism of Obama's appearance came from anti-abortion groups who said that the university was abandoning its Roman Catholic traditions by honoring a president who defends abortion rights. The Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame's president, noted the controversy in his introductory remarks, and explicitly said that the Catholic teachings differ from the president's views on abortion and stem cell research. But Father Jenkins praised Obama, and noted that he had accepted the invitation to Notre Dame even knowing that not all of his views are shared there. In his remarks, Obama noted the differences of views on abortion, but called for Americans to consider the views of those with whom they disagree on the issue. "Those who speak out against stem cell research may be rooted in admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their son's or daughter's hardships can be relieved," he said. The text of Obama's address may be found here.

May 18, 2009

Just after the last diploma was presented Saturday at the commencement of Green Mountain College, a small group of students streaked across the stage, with bandanas or masks as their only clothing, The Rutland Herald reported. While audience members -- especially trustees on stage who received the best views -- appeared surprised, the newspaper suggests that perhaps they should not have been. Streakers appeared last year so it appears that this may be a tradition in the making. A college spokesman told the newspaper: "Well, freedom of expression is part of a college experience.... What we are really concerned with is teaching the sorts of values spoken about today like environmental sustainability and that's something our students take very seriously."

May 18, 2009

The University of California at Los Angeles and Mostafa Tabatabainejad, a former student who was repeatedly stunned with a Taser by UCLA police while a student in 2006, have settled a suit against the university, the two parties announced. The incident took place when Tabatabainejad failed to produce an ID card. While UCLA officials said at the time that the use of the Taser was appropriate, many who saw videos of the incident were outraged and the university subsequently toughened its rules about when Taser shots would be used. The statement about the agreement was vague about terms. "The parties decided to resolve this matter in a way that will allow this student to complete his UCLA degree and move forward with his career. The university is committed to ensuring the safety of its student body, but it is also interested in assisting its students in succeeding in their post-university endeavors," the statement said. The Los Angeles Times reported that the settlement involves a $220,000 payment to Tabatabainejad.

May 18, 2009

Brandeis continues to maintain that its art museum's future has yet to be determined. But when it closed Sunday, it may have been the last time it was open to the public with temporary exhibits for which it is well known and with a full curatorial staff, The Boston Globe reported. Many visitors on Sunday wanted to see the art while the museum was functioning fully, and expressed dismay at the university's consideration of plans to sell the collection.

May 18, 2009

The Apollo Group, the parent company of the University of Phoenix, is considered a purchase of BPP, the only for-profit higher education entity in Britain with degree-granting authority, The Times Higher reported. Both government officials and educators in Britain view the potential purchase as significant, as it could be a springboard for Apollo's ambitions in the country.

May 18, 2009

For most of the academic year that just ended, Lambuth University has experienced administrative turnover and evidence of severe financial problems. Now, for the second month in a row, the university has failed to make payroll on time, The Jackson Sun reported. University officials said that a wire transfer was delayed, making it impossible to meet payroll on time, but that they hoped to be only a week late.

May 15, 2009

A few weeks back, several bloggers commented on reports that "Wife Swap," an ABC reality show in which the wives of two families are switched for a week, was seeking philosophers. Kieran Healy wondered which of two ways the show might go: "airy-fairy life of the mind vs huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ " or a contrast of philosophical beliefs, such as "Modal Realists vs Phenomenologists ('I thought you said all the beer was in the effing fridge'); Rawlsians vs Libertarians; or John Emerson goes to live with John Hawthorne." ABC was quiet at the time the rumors appeared, but the network now confirms that it is looking for philosophers -- and will pay $20,000 to those selected. Danielle Gervais, casting producer for the show, said in an interview said that "we thought it would be interesting to find parents who are philosophical" and who bring their philosophical outlook into their role as parents. How might that be evident? Gervais said philosopher parents might teach young children that "we don't believe in things like the tooth fairy" and would encourage children to "really question things" and to "ponder deep things." Gervais said she wasn't sure if the network would swap the wives in two philosophy couples or swap the wife of a philosophy duo with the wife of a non-philosophy duo. But the network wants to have couples where both spouses are philosophers and have similar approaches to raising their children. Several faculty couples have already applied, but interviewing is still going on and more candidates are welcome.

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