In today’s Academic Minute, Jason Kring of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University describes the known and unknown challenges of long-term space flight. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Many German academics are frustrated by the impact of the Bologna Process, under which European nations have moved to make their degree programs consistent and to outline appropriate learning outcomes, Times Higher Education reported. The article quoted comments from a conference in Germany where academics said that the Bologna emphasis on job-related skills had resulted in less emphasis on encouraging critical thinking skills. “Employers complain that students are immature, unprepared and not comparable with former graduates," said Felix Grigat, a representative of the German Association of University Professors and Lecturers. “Students and staff are also complaining about a move away from an academic experience to one concerned with skills."
Anna Maria College last month withdrew an invitation to Victoria Kennedy, the widow of Senator Ted Kennedy, to deliver a commencement speech, citing opposition from the local bishop, who said that some of Kennedy's views conflict with Roman Catholic teachings. Now it turns out that the bishop won't be attending commencement either. A spokesman for the Rev. Robert J. McManus, bishop of Worcester, told The Boston Globe that college officials "felt the bishop would be a distraction to the event,’’ and so asked him not to attend. "He was going to attend, but that’s not going to happen now," the spokesman said.
J. Paul Reddam, owner of Saturday's Kentucky Derby winner, I'll Have Another, was once a philosophy professor at California State University at Los Angeles. He left academe to found DiTech, a mortgage loan company, and his sale of that company gave him the resources to become a major player in horse racing, The Louisville Courier-Journal reported. In an interview with the publication Thoroughbred Owners of California, Reddam gave this reason for leaving academe. "Money," he gave as the reason. "You know, I enjoyed the teaching, and certainly the hours were very flexible. But you can only make so much money at it, which isn’t very much, so I decided I needed to get a real job."
Both houses of Connecticut's legislature on Friday passed a bill that would require public colleges to embed remedial education in credit-bearing courses, with extra tutoring and assistance for students who need remedial help. The bill had worried some in the state, who felt that abolishing all remedial classes would be unworkable, considering the learning deficiencies of some students. However, the State Senate included an amendment that would allow for one semester of standalone remediation, assuaging some concerns about the bill, which now goes to the state's governor for his consideration.
The Alliance Defense Fund, which represents the interests of religious students and faculty members, has sent letters to 40 public universities, and plans to soon contact another 120 about policies that the fund says are unconstitutional. The fund says that some of the colleges are violating the rights of students and faculty members by limiting student speech, by applying anti-bias rules to all student organizations, and by discriminating against religious student groups in allocating student fees. The fund has in the past been successful in some of its campaigns -- either through publicity or the courts. But the fund has also lost some court battles on these issues.
Butler University has agreed to resolve concerns about gender equity in athletics raised in a compliance review by the U.S. Department of Education. The university will either demonstrate that it is already meeting female athletic interests, or submit a plan to do so, under the agreement. The review found that Butler's student body is 59.6 percent female. In contrast, female athletes make up only 36.5 percent of Butler athletes, and women receive only 53.4 percent of athletic scholarships. The agreement with the Education Department "does not require or encourage the elimination of any university athletic teams and that it is seeking action from the university that does not involve the elimination of athletic opportunities. The agreement also states that nothing in the agreement requires Butler to cut the amounts of athletic scholarships it offers to either sex, and that any such cuts are discouraged," according to a department statement. (Note: The headline on this article has been changed to clarify that the review was not prompted by a complaint.)
The University of Maine System is investigating hiring procedures in the wake of reports of the hiring of seven officials with political connections and backgrounds to high-ranking positions in the system, in some cases with waivers from standard requirements for broad searches, The Bangor Daily News reported. Officials at the system said that they were not prepared to say at this time that any of the hires were inappropriate, but that they agreed that a thorough review was needed.
University of California administrators announced Thursday that the system will centralize payroll and human resources for its 10 campuses and five medical centers at a new site in Riverside. The new center is part of a system-wide initiative designed to save $500 million in administrative costs and direct them back toward the university's academic mission. UC officials said the new center would save "as much as $100 million annually" and create up to 600 jobs when fully deployed, which they hope to be within three years. Part of the savings will come from eliminated positions on the individual campuses, but officials would not say how many people would be losing their jobs.