Higher Education Quick Takes
The Board of Trustees at Cedarville University, a Baptist college in Ohio recently shaken by intradenominational arguments and the resignation of two administrators, voted Friday to cut the college's philosophy major and to approve the unexplained resignation of its vice president for student life. The college said the major needed to be cut due to low student interest, and that a philosophy minor will remain an option; students and alumni argued that eliminating the major damages the college's credibility as a liberal arts institution.
“The last few weeks have been difficult for our university family,” the college's acting president, John Gredy, said in a statement announcing the change. “Please join me in praying that God will bring healing to our brokenness, peace to our hearts and unity to our community.”
The Grainger Foundation has pledged $100 million for engineering programs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The funds will be used for endowed chairs, scholarships and facilities.
Elementary and secondary schools must ensure that students with disabilities can participate in sports or provide comparable options for those students, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights said via a “dear colleague” letter Friday. While OCR applies the directive in the context of elementary and postsecondary education, it also states that students in postsecondary education enjoy the same rights.
(Note: This paragraph has been updated from a previous version.)
While the letter's immediate effect in higher education is unclear, its effects will be felt at colleges and universities, said Scott Lissner, president of AHEAD: Association on Higher Education and Disability.
Students who are otherwise qualified may not be prevented from trying out and playing on a team, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. “Schools don’t have to change the essential rules of the game, and they don’t have to do anything that would provide a student with a disability an unfair competitive advantage,” he wrote. “But they do need to make reasonable modifications (such as using a laser instead of a starter pistol to start a race so a deaf runner can compete) to ensure that students with disabilities get the very same opportunity to play as everyone else.”
Some compared the order to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and preceded a sharp increase in female athletic participation. Lissner said that while there aren’t often formal complaints of collegiate athletic programs discriminating against students with disabilities, the same was true of sexual discrimination before Title IX, and participation skyrocketed anyway.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if it was an untapped interest,” said Lissner, who is also Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator at Ohio State University. “In three, four, five years, we’re going to start seeing students who went through high school with participating in athletics at different levels readily available to them. Why wouldn’t they expect that when they get to college?”
Further, Lissner said, the directive relies on the entire Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, not just the sub-sections that apply specifically to primary and secondary education, suggesting the same principles should be applied at colleges and universities.
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is planning a new commission that will study the issues facing public universities and consider ways to bolster them in an era of reduced tax support, The Los Angeles Times reported. The new commission will be announced today. It will be led by Robert J. Birgeneau, who is retiring in June as chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley. In honor of the president who signed the legislation in 1862 that led to the system of land grant universities, the new effort will be called "The Lincoln Project: Excellence and Access in Public Higher Education."
The University of the District of Columbia is eliminating nearly 100 positions -- most of them administrative but some faculty jobs as well -- to deal with financial problems, The Washington Post reported. Few details are available on which jobs will be cut. The cuts are projected to save $8.5 million a year.
Xiamen University, in China, will open a branch campus in Malaysia in 2015, The New York Times reported. The primary language of instruction will be English.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made a $350 million donation to Johns Hopkins University, his alma mater. The new gift brings his lifetime giving to Hopkins to $1.18 billion -- making him the first person to top $1 billion in gifts to an American college or university. The new funds will be used for two primary purposes. The bulk of the money will be used to endow professorships for interdisciplinary work in vital areas. The initial appointments will be in water resource sustainability, individualized health care delivery, global health, the science of learning, and urban revitalization.
The university will use $100 million from the gift for need-based aid for undergraduates. Hopkins is among the more prominent private universities in the United States that have not declared a need-blind admissions policy (meaning that applicants are reviewed and admitted without regard to financial need). Ronald Daniels, the president, has stated that he has a goal of making Hopkins need-blind. An article in The New York Times about Bloomberg's relationship with Hopkins said that he has financed 20 percent of need-based financial aid for undergraduates in recent years.
Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat who plays a key role in Congress on higher education issues, has announced that he will not seek re-election in 2014. Harkin is chair of the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and of the appropriations subcommittee for education and health. In those roles, he has been a strong advocate for increased spending on student aid programs and biomedical research. He has been a frequent critic of for-profit higher education, and has backed tougher regulation of for-profit colleges. Harkin said that his proudest legislative accomplishment was having been chief sponsor of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which greatly expanded the rights of people with disabilities in education as well as other parts of society.
Most of The New Republic's interview with President Obama, published Sunday, is about political issues and his plans for the second term. But the magazine also asked the president, a sports fan, about whether he takes "less pleasure" in watching football, given the dangers faced by the players. Obama said he was concerned about the athletes, and urged the National Collegiate Athletic Association to consider these issues. "[I]f I had a son, I'd have to think long and hard before I let him play football," the president said. He added: "I tend to be more worried about college players than [National Football League] players in the sense that the NFL players have a union, they're grown men, they can make some of these decisions on their own, and most of them are well-compensated for the violence they do to their bodies. You read some of these stories about college players who undergo some of these same problems with concussions and so forth and then have nothing to fall back on. That's something that I'd like to see the NCAA think about."