Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, May 30, 2013 - 3:00am

WASHINGTON -- With one month remaining until the interest rate for subsidized Stafford loans is set to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, President Obama will gather students today at the White House to call on Congress to act to prevent the increase, the White House announced Wednesday. Obama and Congressional Republicans have both proposed long-term fixes to the problem that would be based on the interest rates for Treasury bonds, but can't agree on the specifics of the plans -- such as whether the rate should vary from year to year for all borrowers or remain fixed over the life of the loan. Meanwhile, Congressional Democrats want to postpone the increase for a year or two to give themselves time to rewrite the Higher Education Act.

Thursday, May 30, 2013 - 3:00am

In death as in life, Margaret Thatcher's relationship to her alma mater, the University of Oxford, is contentious. The Oxford college she attended is currently raising funds for scholarships to be named for the late prime minister. But on Wednesday, London Mayor Boris Johnson denounced the university for not doing more, BBC reported. He noted that Thatcher was the first Oxford graduate after World War II who became prime minister and was never awarded an honorary doctorate. Professors blocked a move to award her the honor in 1995.  Johnson called on Oxford to name a college after Thatcher. Many British academics hated Thatcher and her policies, which they viewed as taking away government support from the institution. But Johnson said that Oxford and other universities, which today depend on tuition revenue from foreign students, should remember that Thatcher's policies made it possible for universities to gain financially from such enrollments.

"I'm still waiting for the Oxford dons to accept the gravity of their error and, in the spirit of magnanimity, to award Baroness Thatcher not only a posthumous doctorate, but why not endow a college?" Johnson said. "Why not have a college in honor of their greatest post-war benefactress as they rake in the doubloons from international student fees?"

The university said that it has no plans to create additional colleges.

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."

 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - 4:29am

In what is believed to be a first, a man playing college basketball has identified himself as gay during his college years. Jallen Messersmith told his story to the website Outsports, which reported on his experiences coming out at Benedictine College, a liberal arts college in Kansas that plays in the NAIA. Messersmith described coaches and fellow athletes who have been totally supportive, as "100 percent for me." Other men who played college basketball have come out after the end of their college careers, but Messersmith is a junior. There are many out women in college basketball, although many report facing homophobia.

 

 

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. 

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