Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, May 3, 2013 - 3:00am

California State University's Channel Islands campus will be closed today after a local wildfire caused officials to evacuate students and staff, the Ventura County Star reported. By Thursday afternoon fire had spread to the campus northwest of Los Angeles, charring landscaping but damaging no buildings, the newspaper reported.

 

 

Friday, May 3, 2013 - 4:09am

Columbia University's business school said Thursday that the billionaire investor Ronald O. Perelman had pledged $100 million, and that it would name one of its two new buildings on its new Manhattanville campus for him. The gift from Perelman, chairman and CEO of MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc, is tied for the largest the school has received; the other was a 2010 gift from Henry R. Kravis, for whom the other new building will be named.

Friday, May 3, 2013 - 3:00am

The University of New Hampshire has terminated the contract of Marco Dorfsman, an associate professor of Spanish, after he admitted to altering a colleague's student evaluations. Provost John Aber said in a statement that the "decision reinforces UNH’s commitment to upholding and teaching ethical behavior." In an e-mail to the faculty, Dorfsman blamed an "emotional breakdown ... related to a personal tragedy in my family and other personal and professional pressures that created a perfect storm in which I acted out from a very dark and vulnerable place."

Thursday, May 2, 2013 - 3:00am

Faculty members at Marshall University passed a vote of no confidence Wednesday in President Stephen Kopp. Of the 420 faculty members who participated, 290 voted no confidence, 107 voted in support of Kopp, and 23 abstained. The vote at the West Virginia public university comes in the wake of Kopp’s decision to move funds from departmental accounts to a central account to analyze revenues and expenditures, a move that generated a backlash among faculty members. Kopp previously apologized and returned the funds.

In the wake of the vote, Marshall’s governing board released a statement expressing its continued support for Kopp. “Dr. Kopp has succeeded in achieving the goals set by the Board of Governors for Marshall University and he has exceeded the board’s performance expectations in numerous areas,” the board chairman Joseph B. Touma wrote in a letter released Wednesday after the vote. “The board also believes that he is the right person to keep our great university moving in the right direction.”

The lack of administrative reaction is similar to other recent votes of no confidence at New York University, Saint Louis University and Louisiana State University.

Thursday, May 2, 2013 - 3:00am

Two men charged in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings on Wednesday were in the U.S. on student visas and classmates of the surviving suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, The New York Times reported. Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, 19-year-old citizens of Kazakhstan, were charged with conspiring to obstruct justice and destroy evidence, specifically a computer and backpack containing fireworks, both belonging to Tsarnaev. A third suspect, Robel Phillipos, 19, of Cambridge, Mass. and a former UMass Dartmouth student, was charged with making false statements to authorities.

Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov are also accused of violating their student visas. Kadyrbayev is no longer enrolled at UMass Dartmouth, while Tazhayakov, a current student, has been suspended in light of the charges. 

Since the Boston Marathon bombings, there have been some signs of a backlash from the political right against the student visa system, despite the fact that, until Wednesday, there were no indications that international students were involved in the plot (the elder of the alleged perpetrators was a permanent resident and the younger a naturalized U.S. citizen). Most notably, Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, issued a letter questioning whether student visas should be suspended, at least for students coming from “high-risk areas” of the world. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013 - 3:00am

The denial of tenure for Cherian George, an associate professor of journalism at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, has attracted criticisms from scholars around the world, as well as from his current and former students, who have praised George's strong record as a scholar and teacher and suggested that it could only be objections to the sensitive subject of his research – press freedoms and state power in Singapore – that have blocked his tenure bid. Now, following the rejection of George’s appeal, four of his colleagues at NTU – including two former deans of the school of communication and information -- have added their voices to the chorus.

“Both the two former deans, Emeritus Professor Eddie Kuo and Professor Ang Peng Hwa, are of the view that Cherian has been one of the most valuable additions to the School in teaching, research and service,” states the letter, which is addressed to the NTU president. “He has launched some of the most innovative programs that have brought fame and funds to the School.” (Those programs are outlined in some detail in the letter.)

“It is against this backdrop that we are perplexed as to what exactly NTU expects of its staff in order to earn tenure. Those of us who are not yet tenured need to know: what more than Cherian do we have to do? Those of us who are counselors to younger staff need to explain in clear and precise terms what Cherian has failed to achieve so they may do better when their turn comes. Those of us who have helped build the School’s reputation, and indeed NTU’s integrity, need to respond to the numerous critics with unimpeachable reasons why their suspicions are misplaced. The controversy that Cherian’s case has generated is unprecedented in the School’s history and one that is causing serious damage to our academic reputation and professional integrity. It also has serious repercussions on NTU’s ability to attract top communications scholars, coming at a time especially when the School has 10 faculty vacancies to fill.”

NTU has declined to comment on George’s case, citing the confidentiality of employment matters.

Thursday, May 2, 2013 - 3:00am

The Florida Senate passed a measure Wednesday designed to allow outside groups, including the providers of massive open online courses, to offer credit-bearing courses to Florida public college students. The measure has been amended significantly since it was first introduced by a Republican senator as a way to take on the accreditation system. The new version of the bill, which the Senate inserted into a digital education bill the House had sent the Senate earlier, substitutes the phrase “Florida Approved Courses” for the old phrase “Florida-accredited” courses and adds requirements that outside course providers must meet to qualify their courses for the new pool, including limitations on the subject areas that MOOCs can be used for.

Thursday, May 2, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, John Ragosta of Hamilton College explores the historical roots of the National Day of Prayer. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Thursday, May 2, 2013 - 3:00am

Pacific Lutheran University has become the latest to object to a possible union of non-tenure-track faculty members, saying that collective bargaining could infringe on the institution's religious mission, The News Tribune of Tacoma reported. Several other religious universities are currently making the same argument in various cases before the National Labor Relations Board. They cite court rulings limiting NLRB authority at religious institutions. Union organizers argue that adjuncts want to negotiate over pay and benefits, not religion.

 

Thursday, May 2, 2013 - 3:00am

Dining hall workers at Pomona College voted Tuesday, 57 to 26, to unionize and to be represented by Unite Here, The Los Angeles Times reported. The vote followed a three-year campaign, marked by numerous campus protests by students backing the workers.

 

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