Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 14, 2014

The Association of Art Museum Directors has taken the unusual step of adopting sanctions against Randolph College and its Maier Museum of Art. The group took the action because the college recently sold a masterpiece of American painting, the 1912 work "Men of the Docks," by George Bellows, for $25.5 million in funds for the endowment. Art ethics codes require that museums sell art only to build up collections, not for general financial support for institutions. Under the sanctions, members of the art museum association will stop collaborating with the Maier Museum of Art on exhibitions, either by borrowing or lending work. The News & Advance reported that four museums are expected to cancel plans to borrow works from the Randolph museum. College officials have defended the sale as crucial to the college's long-term financial health.


March 13, 2014

Some Harvard University students are objecting to the choice of Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, as commencement speaker. The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper, is divided about the choice, and so ran an editorial endorsing it, but also a dissent criticizing the selection. The dissent cited Bloomberg's support for "stop and frisk" policing that has been criticized as racially based by many black and Latino New Yorkers. "Had Bloomberg been asked to the Institute of Politics, we would have urged our classmates to engage in a respectful dialogue with the former mayor, and to challenge him on his record. But commencement is not a night at the JFK Jr. Forum — every graduate should feel celebrated and included. We realize that no speaker will be acceptable to every single graduate, but to extend an invitation to someone who alienates entire segments of the student body is ill-advised and worthy of condemnation," said the dissent.

The main editorial, however, said that there is value in having a controversial speaker. "Michael Bloomberg is not a dull choice, and that reality is part of what makes him somebody worth listening to," the editorial said. "Whether or not his policies were mistaken or even offensive to some of the student body, he can and will deliver a thought-provoking commencement address. It would be far more troubling if the University chose someone who would deliver a milquetoast speech, devoid of both substance and controversy."

The debate at Harvard comes as some students and faculty members at Rutgers University are questioning the selection of Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, as the speaker there.


March 13, 2014

The University of Tennessee can't ban the Knoxville campus's annual "Sex Week," the system president has told state legislators, the Associated Press reported. The week, similar to those at other campuses, features a range of events, and Republican legislators have threatened to punish the university financially because of the program. In particular, lawmakers have objected to a panel discussion on pornography and a contraception scavenger hunt. Joe DiPietro, the system president, said in a letter to lawmakers that the First Amendment protects the event, and that the university can't ban it. Further, DiPietro said that he worried that “the attention focused on this matter by the General Assembly is quickly reaching a point that will cause greater harm and damage to the long-term interests of the university than any programming that may occur as result of Sex Week.”

March 13, 2014

The top education adviser for Republicans on the House of Representatives education committee will leave his post to lead a trade association that represents private student lenders, loan servicers and collection agencies.  

James Bergeron, the director for education and human services policy under House education committee chair Representative John Kline of Minnesota, will next month become president of the National Council of Higher Education Resources, the organization announced Wednesday. Bergeron will succeed the current president of three years, Shelly Repp, who is scaling back his workload at the organization, according to a press release. 

March 13, 2014

The National Science Foundation has selected Fay Lomax Cook, a professor at Northwestern University, to be assistant director for the Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences. The NSF is a major player in supporting social science, although some Republicans in Congress have questioned that role. Cook is a faculty fellow of the Institute for Policy Research and a professor of human development and social policy in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern.

March 13, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Charles Marshall, professor at the University of California at Berkeley, discusses the mitigating factors that can contribute to the eventual dying out of a particular species of animal. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


March 13, 2014

An employee group at South Puget Sound Community College, facing criticism, has called off a diversity happy hour to which the white people were not invited, KING5 News reported. The email invitation said that there were other ways for white people to gather. "If you want to create space for white folks to meet and work on racism, white supremacy, and white privilege to better our campus community and yourselves, please feel free to do just that," the invitation said. College officials said it was a "mistake" to organize an event that excluded anyone based on race or ethnicity.


March 13, 2014

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education has told Sojourner-Douglass College that is has until September 1 to show why it should not lose its accreditation, The Baltimore Sun reported. The accreditor cited high debt and questions about financial viability. College officials did not respond to requests for comment.


March 13, 2014

Marietta College, a private institution in Ohio, is eliminating 20 full-time positions to deal with a budget shortfall, The Marietta Times reported. College officials said that they needed to make cuts to be able to make investments needed to promote the college's long-term sustainability.


March 12, 2014

Florida Memorial University, Oakwood University and Wiley College on Tuesday announced the founding of the Center for Excellence in Distance Learning, a collaborative aimed at helping historically black colleges and universities create distance learning programs. The center will work with Lumen Learning, an open educational resources support provider. Housed at Wiley College, the center has created 40 courses using OER and has another 30 in development to be released this summer.

Haywood L. Strickland, president of Wiley College, acknowledged in a statement that HBCUs have been slow to adopt online education. “Distance learning creates inherent challenges for small colleges where the educational experience is grounded in personal relationships that cultivate scholarship and leadership among the students we serve," he said.


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