Higher Education Quick Takes
Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, has announced that he will not donate his papers to an institute named for him at Iowa State, The Des Moines Register reported. That institute may now change its name and focus, and money donated to it may be returned. The dispute centers on what Harkin and some see as limits on academic freedom. Agriculture research supported by the institute must be done in collaboration with other institutes at Iowa State. While university officials say that requirement is innocuous, others see it limiting academic freedom by preventing solo work by those affiliated with the institute.
A group of female students at Memorial University want to organize a sorority there, and a group of male students want to organize a fraternity. But as CBC News reported, the Newfoundland university's student union is blocking the efforts, saying that it will not recognize any group that discriminates on the basis of gender. Most American colleges with single-sex Greek organizations exempt them from gender bias rules, but the student leaders at Memorial won't do so.
Maxwell Page, a director at large at the student union, said the groups' applications were turned down because they are discriminatory. The student union, he said, "will not ratify any group that the council considers to be of homophobic, racist, ageist, sexist or otherwise discriminatory nature."
But Amanda Wilkins, the co-president of Nu Delta Mu, said her sorority focuses environmental and health causes and it deserves recognition. "We're looking at maybe working with animals or a cancer society, any way we can help the environment, we plan to get involved with those charities," she said.
A panel at Heinrich Heine University has decided to strip Germany's education minister, Annette Schavan, of her doctorate because the committee found her dissertation to be plagiarized, the Associated Press reported. Schavan denies the charges and plans to appeal. A former defense minister in Germany resigned in 2011 after revelations that he had copied portions of his doctoral thesis.
A California judge has ordered the University of California System to reveal how its investments in two venture capital funds have performed, The San Jose Mercury News reported. Reuters sued for the information, arguing that it is covered by the state's open-records laws, a point disputed by the university system.
A Haverford College student sent an e-mail to many on campus in the name of the interim president, Joanne Creighton, falsely announcing that the college would apply need-blind admissions policies and providing generous financial aid to those who lack the documentation to live legally in the United States, Philadelphia Magazine reported. The student created a Gmail account in the president's name for the announcement. The student is denying that the e-mail was an act of fraud, which could be seen as violating the college's honor code. On a website the student created, he explained the fake e-mail as a political act. When the e-mail in the interim president's name went out, he wrote, "The World As It Is and The World As It Should Be met for a brief second and said hello. They took a good look at each other and the World As It Should Be said, 'It pains me to look at you- so ugly, hateful, and unfair you are. Why don’t you accept me? Let’s be one in the same.' But The World As It Is decided this was not to be and yelled out, 'You are a fraud! How dare you show yourself?! I am The World As It Is, and we are indefinitely separate and different!'"
Subra Suresh, director of the National Science Foundation and a former engineering dean at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is the new president of Carnegie Mellon University. President Obama appointed Suresh as NSF in 2010, and he has been on leave as the Vannevar Bush Professor of Engineering at MIT since then. In 20 years at MIT, he was a chair and professor of materials science and engineering as well as engineering dean. On July 1, he will be Carnegie Mellon's ninth president, succeeding Jared L. Cohon after 16 years in office.
Mandatory cuts to domestic and defense spending are scheduled to take place March 1, but President Obama called on Congress to postpone the cuts Tuesday with a "smaller package of tax cuts and spending changes." The large-scale mandatory cuts, known as sequestration, were originally scheduled to take effect at the beginning of this year, but were postponed as part of the year-end tax deal.
Obama did not specify what types of cuts he'd like to see. Several higher education programs (although not the Pell Grant) would see cuts of 5.1 percent should the across-the-board spending adjustments take effect, and colleges report that federal research funding has already slowed as a result.
A federal law barring the awarding of federal financial aid to students with drug convictions negatively affected the college-going rates of affected students, in many cases delaying their enrollment in college after high school and in other cases appearing to deter enrollment altogether, a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research concludes. The researchers, from Cornell University, use evidence from the temporary ban on aid for those with drug offenses to make the case that "eligibility for federal financial aid strongly impacts college investment decisions."
A former president of Valdosta State University should be held personally liable for the wrongful expulsion of a student, a federal jury said Friday. The jury found that Ronald M. Zaccari violated the student’s due process rights and must cover the $50,000 due to Hayden Barnes, who was expelled after Zaccari claimed he had been indirectly threatened by a collage Barnes posted on Facebook to protest the construction of two parking garages. In forcing Barnes to withdraw, Zaccari ignored the advice of his staff and circumvented normal procedure that should have awarded Barnes with notice and a hearing before being removed. Zaccari also went to questionable lengths to find information that could be used against Barnes, such as medical records. Although the jury found Zaccari personally liable, the university could choose to pay the fine for him.
It's highly unusual and perhaps unprecedented for a president to be found personally liable in such a situation, said Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which helped Barnes litigate his case. Lukianoff, who wrote about the case in his recent book Unlearning Liberty, said this was one of the worst violations of due process he's seen.