Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012 - 3:00am

Internet2, the higher education technology consortium, on Tuesday announced new master agreements with 16 companies in what the consortium is calling a major step toward eliminating the “transaction costs” that have made campus-based technology deployments unduly expensive for universities and vendors alike. Instead of negotiating individual contracts, Internet2’s 221 member colleges essentially will be able to opt in to a licensing agreement the consortium negotiated with more than a dozen providers of cloud computing services, including Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Desire2Learn.

The agreements are part of Internet2’s Net+ Services project, which it unveiled last year. The goal of the project is to work with technology companies to tailor versions of their cloud-computing services to match the needs of colleges and universities, then enable institutions to buy licenses for those services through Internet2, rather than negotiating with companies on an individual basis -- a tedious, redundant exercise that was driving up the cost of doing business for everyone involved, says Shelton Waggener, the CIO of the University of California at Berkeley.

Internet2’s negotiations on behalf of its members do not merely constitute a group discount deal, but a “new operating paradigm for delivering services to higher education,” says Waggener. Campus technology budget makers “cannot trim [their] way to success,” he says. “It’s about creating models that allow us to keep the dollars in the classroom and the labs and not spend them on lawyers for contracts or shipping costs or wasted capacity.”

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 - 3:00am

A faculty-administration agreement has cleared the way for a faculty union (including both tenure track and non-tenure-track faculty members) at the University of Oregon. The union -- organized jointly by the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers -- first submitted cards indicating that the professors wanted to unionize. The administration objected to the make-up of the bargaining unit, but negotiations resolved those differences, and the process of union certification is now expected to proceed. The new union is the result of a campaign by the AFT and the AAUP to jointly organize more faculty members at public research universities. Union organizers pledged to use collective bargaining to improve working conditions for all instructors in ways that would also improve the quality of education.

Robert Berdahl, interim president of the university, issued a statement in which he said that "we have acknowledged from the beginning that our faculty has the right to organize. We did not oppose the organization effort nor did we support it. We simply recognized the rights of those who chose this route." His statement added: "While the University of Oregon has a long history of working with collective bargaining units on our campus, a faculty union will present unique questions that must be addressed. This will be particularly true when we account for tenured and tenure-related faculty. For example, tenure-related issues typically involve peer review. The peer review process is an essential means by which universities have always assured the achievement of quality; it must remain central to how we evaluate faculty in the future, even with a union overlay."

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 4:28am

A proposal released by a research center at the University of California at Berkeley and endorsed by Berkeley leaders on Monday would give individual University of California campuses control over setting their own tuition rates for graduate and out-of-state students, deciding what share of students should come from outside of the state and the ability to decide on construction projects, The Los Angeles Times reported. "The present monolithic structure of governance inadvertently results in lost opportunities for the campuses. The situation calls for many elements of governance to be closer to the local level," says the proposal. While the system's Board of Regents would maintain control over other key issues, the proposal would represent a major shift toward campus autonomy. Campus such as Berkeley, UCLA and the University of California at San Diego -- all major players in research and private fund-raising -- would likely see immediate benefits from such a system, but smaller campuses are expected to raise concerns. Mark G. Yudof, president of the system, said Monday that he could not back the proposal in its current form, but was willing to talk about issues raised by the plan.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 3:00am

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Monday that a consortium led by New York University is the second winner in the city’s Applied Sciences NYC Initiative, in which the city sought competitive bids from universities to develop applied-sciences campuses in the city. The larger prize was awarded in December to a partnership of Cornell University and Technion–the Israel Institute of Technology after a highly publicized competition between the pair and Stanford University.

Together with a consortium of academic and corporate partners, NYU and NYU-Poly plan to develop a Center for Urban Science and Progress at a city-owned building in downtown Brooklyn. The center will focus on studying and developing solutions to urban challenges in an interdisciplinary manner. NYU will be responsible for the cost of relocating the city equipment housed at the site, estimated to be about $50 million, though the city is granting the university about $15 million in benefits.

The consortium is composed of NYU and NYU-Poly, Carnegie Mellon University, the City University of New York, the Indian Institute of Technology - Bombay, the University of Toronto, and the University of Warwick, as well as corporate partners including IBM, Cisco, Siemens, and Xerox.

On a related note, a profile of Stanford University published Monday in The New Yorker spelled out some of the tensions that emerged between the city and the university, which was favored by many to win the competition until it pulled out days before Cornell was selected as the winner.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 4:30am

Westminster College, in Missouri, announced plans Monday to open a campus in the fall of 2013 in Mesa, Arizona. The college plans to offer majors in international business, environmental studies and transnational studies. Mesa has been encouraging colleges from elsewhere to set up programs in the area.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 3:00am

The Aspen Institute on Monday released a list of 120 community colleges that made the cut to be considered for the second annual Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, which comes with a $1 million payout. The institute changed its criteria for evaluating community college performance, and this year's list includes 40 different institutions, meaning one-third of last year's eligible colleges were bumped. The process is based on graduation rates, degrees awarded, student retention rates and "equity in student outcomes." Josh Wyner, executive director of the institute's College Excellence program, said the formula was tweaked to better reflect steady performance rather than short-term spikes in numbers. The institute plans to name 10 finalists in September.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 4:34am

The University of Wisconsin at Madison has agreed to change the language in a letter it sends to accepted graduate students, following a complaint that one part of the letter was deceptive, The Wisconsin State Journal reported. The letter references a stipend and tuition waivers, and the wording that has been questioned also pledged "an additional year of support" for completing a master's degree. What the letter didn't reference was that the additional year involved a smaller stipend and a requirement to work as a teaching assistant.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 3:00am

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has cited Kean University for rules violations including impermissible financial aid and extra benefits to athletes. According to the public infractions report, the former women’s basketball head coach is responsible for “a significant number” of the violations that took place from 2007-11, including cash payments and a grade change that allowed an otherwise ineligible student to compete. But because of more widespread violations of financial aid rules, the university’s self-imposed penalties included 2011-12 postseason bans for the men’s and women’s soccer teams and the women’s volleyball team, as well as a 2012-13 postseason ban for the women’s basketball team. The former basketball coach, Michele Sharp, has been placed under a four-year “show-cause penalty,” meaning that any institution that wants to hire her must demonstrate to the NCAA why the penalties against her should not be carried over. The team vacated all records from last season, including its NCAA tournament appearance. Kean itself was cited for a lack of institutional control and a failure to monitor the sports program, and is on four years’ probation.

In its report, the NCAA Committee on Infractions also issued a warning to other colleges in Division III, whose member institutions may not award financial aid based on athletic ability. Kean allowed prospective students to list extracurricular activities including athletics on their scholarship applications, the report says, “resulting in athletics leadership, ability, participation or performance being considered as a criterion for the awarding of financial aid,” and it awarded financial aid to athletes at disproportionate rates. “All member institutions are put on notice that, from this point forward, the committee will consider imposing significantly harsher sanctions when these cases are brought to us in the future,” the report says.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 3:00am

Harvard University’s faculty has taken a public stand against commercial journals that sell subscription “bundles” as a way to get libraries to spend more on journal subscriptions than they otherwise might. In a memo, addressed to the campus and posted on the Harvard Library website, the library’s Faculty Advisory Council said the amount the university spends on subscription “bundles” is approaching $3.75 million. “The Faculty Advisory Council to the Library, representing university faculty in all schools and in consultation with the Harvard Library leadership, reached this conclusion: major periodical subscriptions, especially to electronic journals published by historically key providers, cannot be sustained: continuing these subscriptions on their current footing is financially untenable.”

The memo did not single out any publishers by name, but said that it was "untenable" for the library to renew its current agreements with "at least two major providers." The faculty council advised researchers to raise the issue of exploitative journal pricing with their professional organizations and with each other and consider submitting to open-access journals instead of those “historically key providers.”

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, William Connell of Seton Hall University shares a recent discovery that is shedding light on the ups and downs of Niccolo Machiavelli’s political life. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.



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