Higher Education Quick Takes
Representative John Kline, the Minnesota Republican who is chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, has asked Education Secretary Arne Duncan to explain the department's choice of negotiators for rule making panels this month on the federal student loan program. The department has said the negotiations, announced in October, will focus largely on technical issues. But the negotiators are also drawn from consumer protection groups, leading Kline and Representative Virginia Foxx, chairwoman of the higher education subcommittee, to ask for the department's rationale for why each constituency is relevant to the technical issues listed in the initial rule making notice, a list of all nominated negotiators, a description of the vetting process and the negotiators' credentials, as well as any new issues the department intends to address at the panel. "We are ... concerned about whether the panel represents the balanced perspective appropriate for any rule making process or is simply an attempt to raise new issues during the negotiation that furthers the policy goals of the administration," Kline and Foxx wrote.
In the aftermath of devastatingly high-profile confrontations between campus police officers and peaceful student protesters, University of California President Mark Yudof urged the system chancellors during a telephone meeting to review their incident response policies and procedures, confer with campus leaders before taking action, place a senior administrator at major demonstrations, and direct campus police chiefs “to show restraint when dealing with peaceful and lawful demonstrations.”
However, Yudof's taking time to “reiterate” those processes didn’t bring much comfort to Charles Schwartz, the University of California at Berkeley professor emeritus of physics who obtained Yudof’s e-mail recap of the discussion via state public records law. “Does the President of our University have no understanding whatsoever of the concept of nonviolent civil disobedience? Such acts are often deliberate violations of some law, carried out by nonviolent means for moral and political reasons,” Schwartz wrote on his blog. “According to Yudof’s principle, such demonstrations on this university’s campuses may well be met with violent (unrestrained) actions by our own police, acting under orders from the chancellors.”
With Newt Gingrich's poll numbers falling, he wasn't able to answer a barrage of political advertisements from his critics. But The New York Times noted that one of the ads on the airwaves that linked Gingrich to the evangelical movement wasn't paid for by Gingrich's campaign, but by Liberty University, which ran an ad spot in which Gingrich talks of his respect for the university. The ad is all about Liberty, but is running at a time that Gingrich would appear to benefit from associations with prominent religious institutions.
The article noted that some are wondering whether this move amounts to an endorsement of Gingrich -- an endorsement inconsistent with the laws governing nonprofit organizations. A Liberty University statement said that the ad was not an endorsement. "The ad was filmed October 27, 2010 and has been running since that time in various markets. Liberty University has a rotation of ads in its national advertising campaign and it adjusts the mix from time to time," said the statement.
Average grades have fallen at King's College of the University of Cambridge, and officials say that's because of the high level of involvement of students in protesting the British government's plans for higher education, Times Higher Education reported. Among Cambridge's colleges, King's fell to 20th from 14th (out of 29) in grades. The provost, Ross Harrison, said that the reason was protest. Undergraduates "flung themselves into resistance," he said. and "some of the most active political performers descended in their results as compared with last year."
A trial started Maryland on a suit by supporters of Maryland's historically black colleges who say that the state is failing to meet its obligations to them, The Washington Post reported. Under past desegregation agreements, the state pledged to enhance the colleges so they could compete for all kinds of students in an era when predominantly white colleges recruit black students. The plaintiffs argue that the state has been too slow to build up programs at the black colleges, while state officials argue that black colleges have seen larger increases in state support than have other institutions.
The "block plan," in which students take one course at a time for a few weeks, rather than four or five courses over a semester, is attracting interest in Canada, The Globe and Mail reported. Quest University has adopted the system and three institutions -- Acadia University, Algoma University and the University of Northern British Columbia -- have started to explore the use of block schedules. Among the small number of institutions in the United States that use the system are Colorado, Cornell (Iowa) and Tusculum Colleges.
While some mark the New Year by noting words that are annoying, Wayne State University issues a list of words that are "regrettably neglected." This year's list: antediluvian, erstwhile, execrable, frisson, parlous, penultimate, Sisyphean, supercilious, transmogrify and truckle. Details on the words may be found here.
The University of Miami has agreed to pay $83,000 to a bankruptcy trustee to cover the costs of gifts made by Nevin Shapiro, a one-time booster of athletic programs who is now in jail over a Ponzi scheme that among other things financed his gifts to various Miami athletes, The Miami Herald reported. The deal states that the trustee will not seek to recover additional funds from the athletes and former athletes, meaning that they will not be forced to publicly discuss the gifts. Those gifts are believed to have included Cadillac Escalades, jewelry, party invites, champagne, lap dances and the services of prostitutes.