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.
Faculty leaders are questioning why the University of Toledo is putting money into an economic development unit -- University of Toledo Innovation Enterprises -- when budget cuts are increasing class sizes and eliminating sections, the Toledo Blade reported. Critics also are pointing to the $307,000 paid last year to Rick Stansley Jr., a former chair of the university's board. University officials said that there is no improper conflict, and that the agency is needed to promote the region's economy. But Mike Dowd, president of the Faculty Senate, said: "I don’t know how many universities have the former chairman of the board of trustees take a paid position from the university. Is providing funding for Rick Stansley’s activities a higher priority than providing the resources for the instructional mission of the university?"
The University of Puerto Rico announced Saturday that it will eliminate an $800 fee that has led to numerous student protests, the Associated Press reported. University officials said that they could manage without the revenue generated by the fee because of government pledges to increase financial support for the university.
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.