Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 3:00am

Graham Spanier, former president of Pennsylvania State University, on Friday sued the university to demand access to e-mail records from 1998 to 2004, The Patriot-News reported. The records were thought to have been destroyed when the university switched e-mail systems, but the e-mail files recently have been recovered. Spanier's suit says that he didn't have access to the files when he testified before a grand jury looking into alleged molestation of boys by Jerry Sandusky, a former football coach. Much of the molestation allegedly took place on Penn State's campus, and the issue of what senior administrators knew has become a major issue in the case against Sandusky and (potentially) other cases. Spanier's suit says he cannot meet with independent investigators looking into the case without access to the old e-mail messages, but Penn State says that it has been informed by a state assistant attorney general that it should not turn over the records.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 3:00am

The State Department on Friday issued revised visa guidance on visa rules for those who work at Confucius Institutes, which are supported by the Chinese government and operate at many campuses in the United States. The new guidance essentially reversed earlier guidance that would have been very difficult for many of the centers. For instance, the earlier guidance said that the Confucius Institutes would need separate accreditation if their offerings weren't part of the language offerings of the universities at which they are located. The new guidance says that the university's overall accreditation is sufficient. Generally, institutes whose employees were receiving visas prior to now should be fine.

 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 3:00am

Adjuncts at Kalamazoo Valley Community College have voted, 162 to 38, to unionize, The Kalamazoo Gazette reported. The new union will be affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers. Catherine Barnard, a part-time psychology instructor for 15 years, explained the union push this way: "Years of service and dedication to our students should be rewarded. We have earned the right to fair compensation, academic freedom, and timely semester appointments. Our level of education, professionalism, and commitment to our students is equivalent to that of the full-time tenured faculty."

Friday, May 25, 2012 - 3:00am

Neither a Republican nor a Democratic bill to keep the interest rate on federally subsidized student loans at 3.4 percent could muster the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate on Thursday, meaning that rates are still scheduled to double on July 1. The Republican proposal would have paid for the $6 billion extension by eliminating a preventive care fund in the health-care overhaul; it failed, 34-62. The Democratic proposal would have changed a tax provision that allows some small business owners to avoid paying payroll taxes; it failed to advance on a 51-43 vote.

Friday, May 25, 2012 - 3:00am

Charles B. Reed announced Thursday that he would retire as chancellor of the California State University System after 14 years. During that period, Cal State has grown in size by about a quarter (to 427,000 students), implemented several programs that have become national models (including a major initiative to expand outreach to minority and low-income high school students), and shepherded the campuses through one massive budget cut after another. Along the way, even his well-honed political acumen -- he was a former chief of staff to the governor of Florida -- was not enough to satisfy many critics, especially members of Cal State's faculty union.

Reed spent 13 years as chancellor of Florida's public university system before moving to Cal State, meaning that he has overseen two of the country's biggest public university systems for more than 25 years in total.

Friday, May 25, 2012 - 3:00am

The University of Missouri System announced Thursday that the University of Missouri Press will be phased out during the fiscal 2013 year. Officials cited the difficulty of providing financial support for the press, which currently receives a $400,000 annual subsidy. A spokeswoman said that the university was studying its contracts with authors whose books have been signed by the press, but whose works have not yet been published. In recent years, the press has attempted to cuts costs through a variety of measures (including layoffs) but savings were not sufficient, the university statement said. Numerous staff members at the press did not respond to calls seeking comment. Several presses have closed or suspended operations in recent years.

 

 

Friday, May 25, 2012 - 3:00am

The American Association of University Professors announced Thursday that it has authorized a committee to investigate a decision by Southern University at Baton Rouge last year to declare a financial exigency and a proposed  reorganization that could lead to at least 35 faculty members losing their jobs. “The declaration of financial exigency and the reorganization plan went forward without adequate faculty input,” said Jennifer Nichols, senior program officer at the AAUP. “The declaration of this exigency gives the administrators more leeway in terminating tenured faculty members.” Nichols said that at least 10 tenured faculty members had received notices of termination so far.

According to The Advocate in Baton Rouge, the restructuring aims to cut about $8 million from the university’s budget in the next school year. Employees at the university were subjected to furloughs for the current fiscal year.

Administrators at the university have said that state budget cuts made the declaration of a financial emergency and a reorganization necessary, and they received input from faculty members during the process.

Friday, May 25, 2012 - 3:00am

Robert J. Birgeneau, the chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley, on Thursday issued a statement opposing a proposed state constitutional amendment that would limit out-of-state (including international) enrollment to 10 percent -- roughly twice the limit Berkeley uses. "Our policy of increasing non-resident undergraduate enrollment to 20 percent of our student body is crucial to ensuring a predictable and reliable revenue stream and maintaining affordability for our California students while also enriching the educational experience for our students," Birgeneau wrote. "Students from other parts of the United States, and from around the world, are valuable members of the Cal community and it has been my long-held view that an increase in out-of-state and international undergraduate students is a critical educational goal at Berkeley. In addition to generating funds for educational support and financial aid, they also bring perspectives, experiences, and cultures to the campus, that benefit all students."

State Senator Michael Rubio, who proposed the amendment, said that he wanted to ensure that "California students get a fair shot at attending our University of California system -- and not be turned away simply because a wealthy student from the East Coast or abroad shows up with a checkbook in hand."

 

Friday, May 25, 2012 - 3:00am

Wesleyan University president Michael S. Roth announced in a Washington Post blog post that the university will offer a three-year undergraduate degree. Roth says a three-year degree could save students about 20 percent off the cost of a degree. Roth, who graduated in three years when he was a student at Wesleyan in the 1970s, said the program is not for everyone but could be a pathway embraced by students concerned about the cost of education. While many colleges offer three-year degree programs, most of them have been at public universities rather than small, private liberal arts colleges, many of which have stressed the intangible benefits of the four-year undergraduate experience.

Friday, May 25, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Paul Newhouse of Vanderbilt University explains research that suggests nicotine may have beneficial effects on aging brains. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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