Higher Education Quick Takes
The Press-Enterprise describes an awkward situation recently at a high school in Riverside, California when the winner was announced for a scholarship for black students. The winner was white. The student had applied for every possible scholarship, and the application form said only that black students were "encouraged to apply," without any statement that the funds were only for black students. In fact, as materials sent to the high school indicated, the scholarship was only for black students. The original winner returned the funds.
The New York Times Company is closing down the Knowledge Network, its five-year-old venture into online learning, a company spokeswoman said on Friday. The Times announced the venture with much fanfare in 2007, believing that the esteem with which it is held in higher education and especially the depth of its content would give it a leg up in the increasingly crowded distance education market (and, like many newspaper companies, hoping to generate new lines of revenue as its traditional businesses sagged). The company established partnerships with a relatively small number of colleges and other organizations to offer courses jointly as well as offering its own, but the business apparently did not take off.
"I can confirm that after July 31, Knowledge Network courses will no longer be available online," said Linda Zebian, manager of corporate communications at the Times Company. "We’re examining our education businesses to see how we will structure them in the future to best serve readers and others who are interested in learning with The New York Times."
The University of Virginia announced Sunday that President Teresa A. Sullivan, in office for just under two years, will resign on August 15. The announcement shocked many at the university, with faculty leaders and prominent campus officials reporting that they had seen no sign of any imminent change in the works, and several said on background that they believed Sullivan had been doing an excellent job.
In a statement, Sullivan cited an unspecified "philosophical difference of opinion" with the board.
A statement from Helen Dragas, the rector (U.Va.'s title for board chair), praised Sullivan, but also suggested a board view that she was insufficiently bold. "[T]he board feels strongly and overwhelmingly that we need bold and proactive leadership on tackling the difficult issues that we face. The pace of change in higher education and in health care has accelerated greatly in the last two years. We have calls internally for resolution of tough financial issues that require hard decisions on resource allocation. The compensation of our valued faculty and staff has continued to decline in real terms, and we acknowledge the tremendous task ahead of making star hires to fill the many spots that will be vacated over the next few years as our eminent faculty members retire in great numbers. These challenges are truly an existential threat to the greatness of UVA," the statement said.
The statement continued by outlining the goal of being in "the top echelon" of universities. "To achieve these aspirations, the board feels the need for a bold leader who can help develop, articulate, and implement a concrete and achievable strategic plan to re-elevate the University to its highest potential. We need a leader with a great willingness to adapt the way we deliver our teaching, research, and patient care to the realities of the external environment. We need a leader who is able to passionately convey a vision to our community, and effectively obtain gifts and buy-in towards our collective goals."
Inside Higher Ed will have a full article on Sullivan's departure tomorrow morning.
Matt Arnold, a Republican running for the Colorado Board of Regents (Colorado is a state where regents are elected), says it is irrelevant that he has claimed to have a master's degree he did not earn, The Denver Post reported. Arnold has in the past claimed a master's degree from the School of Advanced International Studies, part of Johns Hopkins University. He now says that he did the coursework, but didn't do the required thesis -- and that those questioning his false claim are engaged in "minutiae." He explained that "I was more interested in getting on with my life than trying to, quite frankly, waste more time in pursuit of academic BS that no one cares about." Arnold added that "I think that's one of the big problems, quite frankly, with education these days. We're graduating a bunch of people who hang letters after their names, but they have no useful skills."
Three people were killed, and three others injured in a shooting Saturday night at an apartment complex near Auburn University that houses many students. Two of those killed were former football players, and one of them was still a student at the university. One of those injured is still on the football team. The university released these statements about the shootings, and is providing extra counseling services on campus.
The University Center of Samaria, an Israeli institution in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, is pushing to be declared an official university on par with those in Israel proper, and the request has angered many Israeli academics as well as Palestinians and others who oppose building up Israeli institutions in the West Bank, Haaretz reported. The center currently has temporary status as a "university institution," which provides for it to receive more money than colleges do in Israel, but not as much as universities. That status expires in July, setting off a debate over the future of the institution. The center enrolls nearly 13,000 students. Israeli politicians who are skeptical of giving up the West Bank have backed the expansion of the center, and are pushing for university status.
More than 1,000 professors at universities in Israel have signed a petition opposing any elevation of the center's status, saying that they are opposed to "the attempt to enlist academia in service of the occupation." Some Israeli university presidents have also opposed a new status for the center, saying that such a change would lead to more money being spent there at a time that the other universities need more support.
Pasadena City College announced Thursday that it has placed two senior officials -- Richard Van Pelt, vice president of administrative services, and Alfred Hutchings, facilities services supervisor -- on administrative leave, pending the results of a bribery-related investigation by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, The Los Angeles Times reported. The D.A.'s office executed search warrants at the officials' homes and offices Thursday, in an investigations of alleged solicitation of bribes involving a contract from the college. No charges have been filed and the officials could not be reached for comment.
The board of Florida A&M University voted 8-4 Thursday that it lacks confidence in James Ammons, the university's president, The Orlando Sentinel reported. Ammons has faced much criticism for failing to deal with widespread hazing by the university's band -- hazing that has received considerable attention since the death of a student last year. But questions have also been raised about other issues, including the university's fragile finances and audits suggesting inadequate management controls. Ammons vowed at the board meeting that he would improve. "I hear you loudly and clearly," Ammons said before the vote. " I understand there are some measures I have to take as president of this university to fix things and I'm going to fix them. This is very serious. This is very serious for the future of this university and you have my commitment to fix them and get this job done." The board did not vote to suspend or fire him.
Colleges and universities (and the states that regulate them) need to embrace an entrepreneurial approach to reforms, according to a report issued Thursday by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Among the recommendations:
- States should give higher levels of funding to institutions with better student outcomes.
- Accreditation should "place the fewest possible restrictions on both new and existing providers to encourage innovation." Further, accreditation "should focus much less on inputs and much more on outcome measures, such as student performance and loan default rates."
- Online instruction "should be largely deregulated as long as minimum course-level outcomes are specified."
- Universities "should identify and financially incentivize those professors whose time would be more productively spent in the classroom rather than conducting and publishing scholarly research."