Unite Here, a labor group, announced Tuesday that Harvard University was going to stop investing in HEI Hospitality, a company accused of unfair treatment of its workers (a charge it has denied). The Unite Here announcement said that Harvard was joining "a growing trend of universities across the country distancing themselves" from the company. The group released e-mail messages from Harvard officials to confirm the decision. But those e-mail messages said that the reason for the decision had nothing to do with the accusations made by Unite Here against HEI. An e-mail from the head of the Harvard Management Company said: "Harvard Management Company has decided not to reinvest in funds managed by HEI. Importantly, this decision was based on factors related to the HMC portfolio and its strategy and needs; not on concerns about HEI's practices."
Higher Education Quick Takes
The U.S. Education Department has told Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, in Indiana, to repay $42 million in grant and loans funds that the agency says the college was not eligible to award, the Associated Press reported. The department said that the college classified many students as being in telecommunications courses when their proper category was correspondence courses. The aid and loan funds provided are not permitted at institutions with a large share of students in correspondence courses. College officials said that they had done nothing wrong and would challenge the finding.
Professors at the University of Ottawa, in Canada, want the right to bar laptops from their classrooms, CTV Ottawa News reported. Marcel Turcotte, one of the professors pushing the idea, said of his students: "They are distracted and we are competing with that for their attention.... You see one student who is really not listening, would be watching the video and then it's kind of contagious." A faculty vote is planned for May.
Since 2008, California State University has settled seven cases brought by whistle-blowers who brought charges of wrongdoing to the attention of superiors, and said that they were subsequently punished for doing so, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The story focuses on Justin Schwartz, a lecturer at Cal State East Bay who reported that a colleague in the recreation department spent university funds to buy himself a $4,000 bike, gym passes and sailing equipment. The campus investigation confirmed the allegations. Schwartz is now out of a job (the university says that's because of budget cuts). The man he accused is still employed.
The Australian government today unveiled a new website designed to give would-be applicants (domestically and internationally) to the country's 39 public universities information about everything from their fees, faculty credentials and student graduation outcomes to their child-care services and campus pubs, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. Federal officials (sounding like their American counterparts) said they hoped the transparency provided by MyUniversity would "help drive universities to lift performance and quality." Campus officials told the newspaper (privately) that they are skeptical.
Israel's Council for Higher Education is expected to soon adopt a new rule that all of those named as university presidents must be professors, Haaretz reported. The move follows a controversy over the selection of a non-academic to be president of the University of Haifa. The new rule is not expected to be retroactive, so it would not invalidate the selection at Haifa.
Employers expect to hire 10.2 percent more new college graduates in 2012 than they did in 2011, the National Association of Colleges and Employers said in its spring outlook on Monday. That's slightly higher than the 9.5 percent increase that the employers projected when surveyed last fall, suggesting that their view of the economy is continuing to brighten. The job numbers are of increasing relevance to college officials as they seek to respond to growing concerns about recession-fueled student debt and to public pressure on them to report their job placement rates.
Canada's York University -- facing faculty opposition -- has announced that it will not accept a $30 million gift from a think tank to create a new teaching and research center. Professors objected to the idea of sharing decision-making over faculty hires with the think tank, arguing that principles of academic freedom and autonomy require such matters to stay within the university. A statement issued Monday by Patrick Monahan, the university's provost, reiterated administrators' belief that "this initiative held tremendous opportunity and promise." But the statement went on to say that "we know for this initiative to be successful, however, it required broad support from the university." The latest faculty vote against the plan "indicates that the necessary support is not present and, accordingly, we cannot proceed," Monahan added.
The editor of The Daily Free Press, the student newspaper at Boston University, on Monday published an apology for an April Fools issue that focused on rape and sexual assault -- subject matter that infuriated many on the campus that has struggled with charges that have been brought against two members of the university's hockey team. "We at The Daily Free Press want to apologize for the callous and ignorant stories we ran.... Our aim was to publish satirical material about Boston University as a whole, and we did not intend to perpetuate harmful stereotypes or inappropriately make light of serious issues. Simply put, we should have exercised caution. Our decisions were juvenile and insensitive. We deeply regret our heartless behavior and did not mean to personally offend anyone," said the apology. The joke issue appeared only in print, but The Boston Globe and Jezebel published excerpts from the issue.
A student has sued Grand Valley State University, charging that her rights are being violated by a ban on her keeping a guinea pig in her dormitory room for "emotional support," The Grand Rapids News reported. The university normally bars all pets except non-predatory fish. Kendra Velzen, the student, says her pet offered her help in dealing with depression and a heart condition. After the story broke, the university told the News that it had permitted the pet to stay, but that Velzen had rejected university requests that she agree not to take the guinea pig to class, to common areas, or to food service areas. The guinea pig has died since the dispute started. The litigation follows a suit against the University of Nebraska at Kearney by a student who wanted to keep a dog in her room.