Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 26, 2014

Modesto Junior College has settled a lawsuit with a student who was forbidden from handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution on Constitution Day in September. Army veteran Robert Van Tuinen had argued that administrators violated his First Amendment rights. Video captured campus officials telling Van Tuinen to book a “free speech area,” which would take at least three days. As part of the settlement, the college will revise its policies to allow free speech in open areas across campus and will pay Van Tuinen $50,000.

February 26, 2014

Some students and faculty members at St. Joseph's University, in Pennsylvania, are concerned about plans to deal with a deficit by increasing enrollment, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The university is facing an $8.7 million budget shortfall. Administrators have already imposed budget cuts throughout the campus, and argue that they can deal with some of the remaining financial challenges by increasing this fall's freshman class from 1,275 to 1,500. Critics say such an increase will lead to larger class sizes and/or lower admissions standards.

 

February 26, 2014

The University of Cambridge's Regent House (the governing board, made up largely of academics) has approved a controversial endowed chair to honor Stephen Hawking, Times Higher Education reported. The controversy is not over honoring Hawking, but because the size of the endowment will support a salary nearly double that paid to other professors. Further, the terms of the gift specify that the salary must be "equal to or greater than the average salary and benefits" for other professors "of similar years of service, or rank" in the department of applied mathematics and theoretical physics. Critics objected to the salary provisions, and the chair was approved by a margin of 746 to 606.

 

February 26, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Nicholas Leadbeater of the University of Connecticut concludes his three-day examination of the chemistry of the show "Breaking Bad." Leadbeater concludes the series with an examination of one of Walter White’s greatest escapes. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

February 25, 2014

Amherst College and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are renewing a search for a painting stolen in 1975, the Associated Press reported. Three paintings were stolen at that time and two were recovered in 1989. But college officials and the FBI hope that publicity will produce leads to the whereabouts of the third work stolen, "Interior with Figures Smoking and Drinking," by the Dutch artist Jan Baptist Lambrechts, believed to have been painted in the early 18th century.

 

February 25, 2014

Rutgers University, already the most prolific subsidizer of sports of all Division I public institutions, gave its athletics department nearly $47 million in 2012-13, USA Today reported, a 67.9 percent increase over the 2011-12 subsidy of $27.9 million. Rutgers athletics is $79 million in the red, but officials say that the university’s move to the Big Ten Conference will generate close to $200 million over its first 12 years as a member. The most recent subsidies make up 59.9 percent of the athletics department’s total allocations, and total more than the entire operating revenues at all but 53 of Division I’s 228 public sports programs.

February 25, 2014

Lesley University adjuncts have voted to form a union affiliated with the Service Employees International Union, becoming the second group of Boston-area adjuncts to do so. Tufts University adjuncts voted in favor of a union in September, as part of SEIU’s Adjunct Action campaign to organize adjuncts and improve their working conditions across multiple U.S. cities. Lesley's adjuncts voted 359 in favor and 67 opposed.

Norah Dooley, an adjunct instructor of business management and communications and Lesley graduate, said in a news release that the issues surrounding adjunct labor in higher education -- such as relatively low per-course pay compared to tenure-line colleagues and little to no benefits -- are “complex” but “not intractable.” And as an alum, Dooley said she wanted Lesley to take a “leadership role in this movement.” A Lesley spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. still no response from lesley? dl

February 25, 2014

Indiana has become the first state to join a national initiative aimed at making it easier for distance education programs to obtain the necessary regulatory approvals when they enroll students across state lines.

Indiana’s application was approved by the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, one of the four regional higher education interstate compacts that are implementing the state reciprocity initiative, called the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements. In order to join, a state has to meet certain minimum standards in how it authorizes programs and provides consumer protections for students. The goal is to streamline the state authorization process for distance providers who face a variety of different state regulations when they want to offer online courses outside the state in which they are headquartered. Marshall A. Hill, NC-SARA's executive director, last year set a goal of 20 member states by the end of 2014.

Beyond the patchwork of state laws governing distance education, the U.S. Education Department is also in the process of rewriting a regulation that would require online programs that want to participate in federal student aid programs to obtain permission from regulators in each and every state in which they enroll students. A previous version of that rule, known as the “state authorization” requirement, was struck down by a federal appeals court in 2012.

Department officials indicated last week, in kicking of the negotiated rulemaking process for the new rule, that they are interested in considering how state reciprocity agreements should be factored into the federal government’s state authorization requirements. 

February 25, 2014

Amid the flood of new gadgets unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Monday announced a partnership with the massive open online course provider edX to offer free courses in Rwanda. The initiative, known as SocialEDU, gives students in Rwanda access to edX content through the Facebook mobile app. Nokia and Airtel will offer inexpensive smart phones and data plans, respectively, to aid the effort. Facebook and Nokia are, along with a handful of other companies, members of the Internet.org organization, which works to provide internet access to developing countries.

February 25, 2014

At the request of President Neil D. Theobald, Temple University’s Board of Trustees voted Monday to reinstate its women’s rowing and men’s crew teams, after cutting the squads, along with five other sports, in December based on a recommendation by Athletics Director Kevin Clark. Although the cuts were motivated by both financial and Title IX considerations, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights announced last week it would investigate whether the university “is failing to provide equal athletic opportunity for female athletes compared to male athletes, with regard to locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities, housing and dining facilities and services, and in the area of athletic financial assistance.”

Campus officials had said the cost of renovating the crew and rowing teams’ facilities was too high to continue with the sports, but Theobald and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter also announced Monday that the city and a trustee have donated money to renovate the East Park Canoe House.

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