Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 26, 2009

Faculty members at the University of New Mexico voted 329 to 106 Wednesday that they have no confidence in President Schmidly. The resolution cited a "substantive increase of administrative lines and costs at the expense of necessary faculty lines, thus weakening the university's ability to cover its core mission of teaching, research, and service" and also said that Schmidly "has breached his administration's commitment to public transparency and shared governance." In a statement, the president said: "While the decisions we have made may have not been popular with some, we have nevertheless so far managed to avoid any layoffs or furloughs, unlike so many other colleges and universities. ... Nevertheless, the University of New Mexico is a family, and as I said yesterday, we will redouble our efforts to reach out and gain the support and confidence of every member."

February 25, 2009

A conflict over the state funding formula for community colleges is getting bitter in Nebraska. Metropolitan Community College, in Omaha, has been kicked out of the Nebraska Community College Association. Metro says that it wouldn't pay for lobbying against its own interests. “They threw us out because we were unwilling to pay for their lobbyist who lobbies against us,” Dave Newell, chair of the college's board, told KETV News. Metro argues that the funding formula used by the state needs to change because it doesn't link funding sufficiently to enrollments. Rural legislators like the formula as it is, saying smaller institutions need extra help. One lawmaker has proposed legislation that would cut funds from colleges that aren't member of the Nebraska Community College Association, the group that kicked Metro out.

February 25, 2009

Tennessee's public colleges and universities are facing huge budget cuts. So students at Middle Tennessee State University are not amused about their institution spending $10,000 on a public relations campaign to get students to vote for a student fee hike to pay for a new parking garage. The idea that money that the students have already paid is being used to urge them to spend more has many of them angry. "Lobbying the students for a fee increase with student money is unethical and incorrigible. Students should vote “NO” to unethical administrators," wrote one blogger. Administrators say they have no choice and that they needed outside help to reach students.

February 25, 2009

As the Obama administration prepares to unveil a bare-bones version of the federal budget for the 2010 fiscal year today, Congress is moving ahead with polishing off the 2009 budget. The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed an omnibus spending bill, largely along party lines, that would increase funds for Pell Grant and several science agencies, but keep most student aid programs at their 2008 levels.

February 25, 2009

The Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act has new life in a new Congress. On Tuesday, U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) introduced the bill, which would authorize $80 million in grants for study abroad, to be administered by a new foundation. An earlier version of the legislation fell short of passage in the 110th Congress after clearing the House of Representatives. The bill is based on recommendations from the Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program, which set an oft-cited goal of upping the number of Americans studying abroad to one million.

February 24, 2009

The Rev. Joseph Martino, bishop of Scranton, on Tuesday asked Misericordia University to specify how sexuality is taught at the institution, and whether those teachings are consistent with Roman Catholic teaching. The statement followed an appearance at the university by Keith Boykin, an advocate for gay rights. The bishop had asked that the talk be called off, and he is now asking the university to "seriously consider" abolishing its Diversity Institute, which invited Boykin. "The Bishop’s rationale is that students should learn respect for all races and cultures, but that viewpoints that are in direct opposition to Catholic teaching should not be presented under the guise of 'diversity,' " said a statement from the bishop. "Doing so within a formal structure sanctioned by the institution gives the impression that these viewpoints are acceptable, or that all morality is relative." The university issued a statement indicating that it would be happy to meet with Bishop Martino, and that Misericordia is "committed deeply to its Catholic mission."

February 24, 2009

As a growing number of Texas lawmakers push to give college students to the right to carry concealed weapons on campus, an unofficial spokesman has emerged at the University of Texas at Austin to oppose such a move. The Dallas Morning News reported that John Woods, a graduate student, has been speaking out on the issue from his personal experience as a Virginia Tech graduate whose girlfriend was shot and killed in the massacre there. Students with guns can easily have emotional breakdowns or gun accidents, he notes. "Crime on campus is, statistically, incredibly low. Virginia Tech got very, very unlucky," Woods told the newspaper. "If students have guns on campus, that can only create more danger." But State Sen. Jeff Wentworth isn't convinced and is introducing legislation this week to allow students to carry guns. "I don't want to wake up and read in the paper that Texas students were mowed down like sitting ducks on campus because they weren't allowed to defend themselves," he said.

February 24, 2009

Canadian officials are moving to recruit and enroll many more international students. The Toronto Star reported that Immigration Minister Jason Kenney recently noted that Australia allows 10 times the students from India that Canada does, and vowed to change that ratio. "We are not receiving enough foreign students," he said, adding that foreign students are "a source of revenue." In Britain, university leaders are worried that planned increases in visa fees will discourage foreign students from applying and enrolling, The Guardian reported.

February 23, 2009

The Ontario branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees -- which represents teaching assistants in the province -- has voted to boycott Israel universities to oppose that country's policies in Gaza, CBC News reported. The union backed away from a proposal to boycott individual Israeli scholars and now says it is only opposed to institutional ties to Israel universities.

February 23, 2009

President Obama on Friday chose a University of North Dakota official to head the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services agency that, among other things, oversees the federal health professions programs that help train nurses and other health workers. The president announced the selection of Mary Wakefield, director of the university's Center for Rural Health and associate dean for rural health at North Dakota's School of Medicine and Health Sciences. She is a former nurse and a former aide to U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota.

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