Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, January 12, 2012 - 3:00am

INDIANAPOLIS -- Education Secretary Arne Duncan made clear his displeasure with the National Collegiate Athletic Association at its annual convention Wednesday in a keynote address that, while ultimately conveying a message of encouragement, called out the organization for everything from sex abuse scandals to "New Testament"-length rulebooks. He chided institutions for their frantic conference realignment, which peaked this year as colleges sought multimillion-dollar TV deals or panicked about getting left behind. Duncan seemed astonished that even as institutional spending on athletes far outpaces spending on other students, none of the $20 million that colleges receive for playing in a Bowl Championship Series game goes toward academic purposes. He mocked the near-comical excess of the 426-page NCAA rulebook (giving a recruit a bagel is allowed, but add cream cheese and it's a violation), and lamented that a quarter of this year's BCS teams graduate fewer than half their athletes. All of the above (and let's not forget violations in recruiting and myriad other rules) have combined, Duncan said, to create a "disturbing" and "dangerous narrative" in the public that college sports lives in an insular world that's all about the money.

Duncan did commend the NCAA for its new academic reform measures, which set higher standards for athletic eligibility. "It seems clear that they are steps in the right direction," he said. "Raising the bar is always the right way to go.... Keep going, and please, please, resist the temptation to tinker or temper with your core principles." It will come down to courageous leaders, he said: while addressing these issues may be a political challenge, "This does not take a Nobel Laureate to solve."

Asked whether all this was even the NCAA's problem, Duncan (before answering in the affirmative) even got in a dig at the legislature. "If any of us are looking for Congress to solve this," he said, "good luck."

Thursday, January 12, 2012 - 4:22am

Rodney Erickson, the new president of Pennsylvania State University, pledged to alumni Wednesday that the institution eventually would honor Joe Paterno, who was fired as football coach in November amid a scandal over Penn State's handling of child sex abuse charges against one of his top assistant coaches, Jerry Sandusky. USA Today reported that Erickson, speaking to hundreds of alumni at a town hall meeting in Pittsburgh, said: "There is no plan in place at the present time, but there will be. I can't tell you yet what it will be or when it will be, but we will publicly honor Joe and his wife, Sue, for all the many things they have done for the university, both from an athletic standpoint and an academic standpoint."

The meeting was the first of several in which the university is trying to repair its relations with alumni frustrated over the scandal. A Reuters account of the meeting said that many alumni criticized the university for not being more open about its response to the scandal, and many also questioned why Paterno was fired. Erickson pledged to be more transparent. He said that the university spent $360,000 on crisis communications during November.

 

Thursday, January 12, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Christopher Berry of the University of Glasgow examines the global economic climate in light of Adam Smith’s views on economics and the social good. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, January 12, 2012 - 4:25am

An independent panel has found numerous management problems in the massive building campaign by the Los Angeles Community College District, The Los Angeles Times reported. The newspaper drew attention to the problems in a series of articles last year -- the findings of which were initially disputed by the district. But the independent review has found many of the problems identified by the newspaper -- problems that led to numerous cost overruns and delays.

 

Thursday, January 12, 2012 - 3:00am

Education researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have been conducting interviews with tenure-track fathers about the pressures they face balancing work and family responsibilities. The findings, published in the journal Psychology of Men and Masculinity, are that these men experience conflict and stress, and that many feel that parenting responsibilities aren't factored into the expectations they face from their departments.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - 3:00am

The Georgia Board of Regents on Tuesday approved a plan to merge 8 of the 35 institutions in the University System of Georgia. The consolidations of four pairs of colleges will take 12 to 18 months, said the system's relatively new chancellor, Henry (Hank) Huckaby. The system hopes to increase academic offerings and cut back on administrative costs with the mergers. Some jobs will be eliminated.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - 3:00am

Wisconsin authorities have charged an inmate with -- while behind bars -- running a diploma mill, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. In one case, the inmate convinced a fellow inmate to have his mother mail in a check for $1,700 so he could be enrolled in what was a fake university.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - 3:00am

An alumnus called off a planned $1 million donation to Kent State University after the student newspaper there started looking into inquiries by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission into his business 12 years ago, The Plain Dealer of Cleveland reported. The withdrawal came a day before the university was to honor the donor at a men's basketball game. The student newspaper's article about its investigation may be found here.

 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - 3:00am

A woman was killed and 22 people were injured at the University of Johannesburg when a stampede broke out among students desperate for a limited number of new spaces to enroll, BBC reported. The woman was the mother of a student who had been waiting with him. The university recently announced that it had an additional 800 places, but more than 9,000 people applied for them. Ihron Rensburg, the vice chancellor, told journalists: "We're deeply saddened and I'm personally anguished about this."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Gerard Puccio of Buffalo State College of the State University of New York reveals the importance of highlighting your creativity when crafting your résumé. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

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