Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - 3:00am

Haifa University has become the first university in Israel to give all students the day off on the most important Christian, Muslim and Druze holidays, Christmas, Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha, respectively, Haaretz reported. A new calendar will be issued that will not cut either the Jewish holidays off or the total number of class days.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - 3:00am

Student services employees at Evergreen State College went on strike Tuesday, The Olympian reported. The union and the administration differ on salaries and procedures for firing employees. Some faculty members moved classes off campus to avoid crossing picket lines.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - 3:00am

Faculty members at Transylvania University have voted, 68 to 7, no confidence in President Owen Williams, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported. Faculty members object to the president's refusal to grant tenure to two faculty members who had passed reviews and who, faculty leaders said, had performed the work they had been told would assure tenure. Professors also criticized the president's management style. Trustees responded with a unanimous vote expressing confidence in Williams.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - 3:00am

The Harvard University dean who authorized searches of the e-mail accounts of some resident deans (who are something like junior faculty members) has announced she will return to the faculty. Numerous press accounts seemed to suggest a link between the departure of Evelynn M. Hammonds as dean of Harvard College, and the controversy over the e-mail searches. But she told reporters that there was no such link. The Harvard announcement said that she had decided to return to teaching and research. Hammonds will lead a new program for the study of race and gender in science and medicine.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Christopher Nomura of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry explains the discovery of a new weapon in the battle against bacteria. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - 3:00am

ST. LOUIS -- In an opening plenary speech at the annual NAFSA: Association of International Educators conference on Tuesday, former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan recalled his time as an international student at Minnesota’s Macalester College, saying that it taught him “lessons which have remained indispensable throughout my career. Not all these lessons were learned, I must admit, in the classroom."

“I remember when I got to Minnesota, my first winter ever, coming straight from Africa to Minnesota, I had to put on layers and layers of clothes to stay warm. And I thought that was reasonable enough.” There was, however, one common item of clothing he was determined he would never wear: “the earmuffs,” as he called them. He would wear no such things. “They were inelegant,” he told a laughing audience.

“Until one day when the temperature had hit -23 degrees, with a wind chill factor, I went to get something to eat and I thought my ears were going to fall off. The next day I can assure you I went and bought my earmuffs.”

“I learned a precious lesson – that you don’t walk into a situation, you don’t go into a country and pretend you know better than the locals, you know better than the natives. You better listen to them and look at what they do," Annan said.

More than 8,000 professionals in international education are attending the conference, which continues through Friday. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - 4:27am

The group Friends of Roxbury Community College is opposing the selection of a new board chair because he is white, The Boston Business Journal reported. The group sent a letter to Governor Deval Patrick, a Democrat, saying that it was "insulting for Governor Patrick to appoint a white person to head up the body that is the primary decision maker for the college. He is sending a message that although we are a predominantly black institution, it will take a white person to give you the vision and leadership to take the college to the 'promised land' of education. That is the 'plantation' type mentality." The governor's appointee is Gerald Chertavian, who is the CEO of Year Up, a nonprofit that helps urban youth advance educationally. In an interview, Sadiki Kambon, the head of the Friends of Roxbury Community College, said that the organization had no objection to Chertavian personally and would welcome him on the board, just not as chair. The governor's office did not respond to a request for comment. Chertavian said he was focused on "serving the college and the students as best I can and making sure they achieve their potential."


Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - 3:00am

Half of new college graduates are surprised by their levels of college debt, according to a new national poll of graduates by Fidelity. And 39 percent of new graduates said that they would have made some different choices had they fully understood the level of debt they were building up in college.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - 3:00am

The new athletic director of Rutgers University, Julie Hermann, was brought in to restore credibility to a program tarnished by the news that the former basketball coach had engaged in repeated verbal and physical assaults on his players. But The Star-Ledger reported that, while she was a volleyball coach at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville 16 years ago, Hermann was accused of verbally abusing her players to the point that the entire team signed a letter of protest. "The mental cruelty that we as a team have suffered is unbearable," the letter said. It accused her of calling them "whores, alcoholics and learning disabled." A number of team members discussed the way they said Hermann had upset them -- distress that returned when they read stories about her being named athletic director at Rutgers. (She left Tennessee shortly after the allegations, and became assistant to the athletic director at the University of Louisville.)

In an interview with the newspaper, Hermann said she didn't remember the letter, or such accusations being made. "I never heard any of this, never name-calling them or anything like that whatsoever," she said. The word "whore," Hermann added, is "not part of my vernacular. Not then, not now, not ever."

New Jersey politicians are now questioning the ability of Rutgers to put its athletics house in order. The university was criticized a few weeks ago when it had to admit that its new basketball coach lacks the Rutgers degree that the university said he had earned. And that was before the latest uproar. The Assembly speaker, Sheila Oliver, said she had lost "any semblance of confidence" that Rutgers could fix its problems, The Star-Ledger reported. "The questionable decision-making at this program so heavily funded by taxpayers continues to astound me," she said. A former governor, Democrat Richard Codey, called for the removal of the Rutgers president, Robert Barchi. "This is becoming Comedy Central. It's an embarrassment to the students and alumni of a great university and it's time Mr. Barchi takes his show on the road." The current governor, Republican Chris Christie, said Sunday that he plans to ask Rutgers officials about the controversy.

On Sunday, Hermann issued a statement reiterating her commitment to the Rutgers job and denying that she abused players verbally. "I am truly sorry that some were disappointed during my tenure as coach. For sure, I was an intense coach, but there is a vast difference between high intensity and abusive behavior," she said.

And President Barchi issued a statement of support for Hermann. "Since the announcement of her selection, some media reports have focused on complaints about aspects of her early career," he said. "Looking at Julie’s entire record of accomplishment, which is stellar, we remain confident that we have selected an individual who will work in the best interests of all of our student athletes, our athletics teams and the university."

Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - 3:00am

Colleges have faced increased pressure in the last year from student and environment activists to sell off investments in fossil fuel companies, but most colleges that have acted on those requests have very small endowments, and relatively few such investments to start with. Brown University (which has a substantial endowment) on Friday announced that its board had discussed but not voted on the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies that the university sell holdings in 15 companies that mine or burn coal. A university statement said that no formal action was taken on the advisory panel's report.

A Brown statement said: "During the business meeting of the corporation, members asked the university to identify ways to work with students, faculty, staff, peer institutions, and other strategic partners to develop a robust response to climate change and to assume a greater leadership role on the issue of CO2 emissions. Corporation action on the issue of divestment was not expected at this meeting, and the corporation confirmed that the complexity of the divestment issue warrants further discussion before responding to the ACCRIP’s recommendation."


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