Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

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Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 3:00am

These meetings, conferences, seminars and other events will be held in the coming weeks in and around higher education. They are among the many such that appear in our calendar, to which campus and other officials can submit their own events. Our site also includes a comprehensive catalog of job changes in higher education; please submit your news to both listings.

Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 3:52am

Alberta College of Art + Design announced Wednesday that it has reinstated Gord Ferguson, days after dismissing the art instructor for his role in a performance art project in which one of his students killed a chicken in the college's cafeteria. The statement, issued jointly by the college and its faculty association after the two reached an agreement on the matter, said that the college’s decision to terminate Ferguson "was never intended to be about academic or artistic freedom," but that administrators conceded "the perception this action may have created." It went on to say that Ferguson "acknowledges that he wishes he could have had a greater opportunity to advise and support his student before he undertook his performance" last month, and that the incident had raised awareness about both the importance of academic freedom and the meaning of academic responsibility.

Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 4:12am

The U.S. Education Department has notified Yale University that it intends to fine the institution $165,000 for failing to report several sex offenses nearly a decade ago, the New Haven Register reported. In a letter to Yale President Richard Levin, a department official said that it planned to impose the maximum fine of $27,500 for each of the forcible sex offenses that Yale failed to report in 2001 and 2002, as well as additional fines for several other omissions of information from its reports under the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. Yale had admitted the violations over nearly a decade of investigation by the government, but university officials balked at the fine.

In a statement e-mailed to the Register, Tom Conroy, a Yale spokesman, said that the university took its reporting obligations seriously. “However, the University believes that the Department’s imposition of maximum fines is not warranted based on the particular situations that resulted in findings of violations,” the statement said, adding that Yale had asked the department to reduce the penalty. "These fines deal with reporting in 2004 or earlier.”

Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Claudia Buchmann of Ohio State University explains the growing gender gap that exists on college campuses. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 3:00am

Note: Western New England University announced Wednesday that Lois Lerner had withdrawn as the speaker at its law school commencement Saturday, citing her desire not to distract focus from the graduates.)

Officials at Western New England University's School of Law were surely excited when they announced early this month that one of their esteemed alumni -- a high-ranking federal official -- would give the school's commencement address this year. Suddenly, though, the choice isn't looking quite as good, now that Lois Lerner, who heads the Internal Revenue Service's Exempt Organization Division, is at the center of the white-hot controversy over the agency's questionable scrutiny of the political activity of conservative nonprofit groups. A Western New England spokesman told the Daily Caller that the university was proceeding with its plans to give Lerner its presidential medallion, for public service.

Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 3:00am

Florida Atlantic University has had more than its share of controversies in the last several months, over the naming of its football stadium for a private prison company owned by an alumnus and a professor's in-class exercise in which he invited students to step on a piece of paper with "Jesus" written on it, among others. (The university took heat from many in the public for the professor's actions, and from many faculty members for failing to defend his academic freedom to their satisfaction.)

President Mary Jane Saunders staunchly defended the university's actions throughout both of those situations, but late Tuesday Florida Atlantic's board accepted her resignation, which she attributed to the controversies. “There is no doubt the recent controversies have been significant and distracting to all members of the University community," she wrote in a letter to the board. "The issues and the fiercely negative media coverage have forced me to reassess my position as the President of FAU. I must make choices that are the best for the University, me and my family.”

Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 3:00am

LaGuardia Community College's enhanced GED preparation program substantially boosts GED pass rates and the likelihood of college enrollment, according to a newly released study by MDRC, a nonprofit social research firm. Students in the program, which is designed to serve as a pathway to college and careers, were more than twice as likely to pass the high school equivalency exam as were students in traditional GED prep courses. They were also three times as likely to enroll in college.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 3:00am

Individuals unhappy with Cooper Union's recent decision to end its 111-year practice of providing a full-tuition scholarship to all students issued a fake press release Tuesday as MetLife, which lent the university $175 million in 2006 to finance construction of a new academic building, promising to forgive the loan on the condition that the university remain free. 

 

THE FAKE PRESS RELEASE:

 

METLIFE FORGIVES $175 MILLION LOAN TO COOPER UNION, KEEPS TUITION “FREE AS AIR AND WATER.”

NEW YORK - May 14, 2013 - MetLife, Inc. (NYSE: MET) announced today that it will conditionally forgive a $175 million loan made in 2006 to the Cooper Union, a treasured New York institution currently consumed by a financial crisis. 

Cooper’s interest-only payments to date, which amount to approximately 72 million dollars, will be applied to the total, netting a total forgiveness of $103 million dollars. MetLife’s decision will allow the Cooper Union to preserve its 154 year meritocratic tradition of tuition free education. “Cooper occupies a special place in the soul of New York City, the city which MetLife calls home.” said MetLife CEO Steven Kandarian, “We had to do something.”

“The actions of the Free Cooper Union students who have occupied President Jamshed Bharucha’s office have inspired us to reject the inevitability of this situation. MetLife believes in the transformational power of capital to catalyze growth and increase opportunity. And we take that responsibility seriously; we see ourselves as stewards, in a sense, of our investments. So, though we don’t take lightly the moral hazard which today’s action represents, we didn’t feel we had any choice but to protect the legacy of empowerment Cooper Union embodies.”

“The institution is simply too big to fail,” Kandarian continued, “metaphorically speaking, of course.”

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art was founded by industrialist Peter Cooper in 1859. It’s mission reflects it’s founder’s fundamental belief that an education “equal to the best” should be accessible to those who qualify, independent of their race, religion, sex, wealth or social status, and should be “open and free to all”.

In recent years the board of trustees has pursued an expansionist agenda of which the ill-advised 2006 loan is a part. The loan, taken in part to fund an exorbitant new, $111.6 million “landmark” building by Thom Mayne of Morphosis Architecture which a capital campaign had failed to adequately fund, requires annual interest-only payments of approximately $10.3 million, the majority of Cooper’s operating budget shortfall. In addition, a majority of Cooper’s managed endowment assets were recklessly invested in hedge funds which have diminished the endowment substantially since 2006. In light of these facts, in April 2013 Board of Trustees Chairman Mark Epstein announced that the Board had approved a plan to reduce the full tuition scholarship by half, ending a 154 year tradition and effectively abandoning the Cooper Union’s founding principles.

“In retrospect,” said Kandarian, “when we were offered Cooper’s ‘golden goose’ as collateral for a risky loan, we should have passed.”

MetLife’s actions are intended to stabilize the institution and allow it to continue offering a top quality education which is “as free as water and air,” however they should not be mistaken for a panacea. “These are drastic measures,” said Kandarian, “and as such they are conditional on Cooper’s continued status as a top quality tuition free college. The tuition free model is an essential part of the character of the institution and it’s stakeholders understand that without it the school will be unable to count on the high quality student body to which it is accustomed. The Free Cooper Union students and their faculty and alumni supporters are fighting for this unique, and uniquely American, institution.”

“My concern,” continued Kandarian, “ is that the current President [Jamshed Bharucha] and Board of Trustees do not appear to share in this vision. If Cooper is truly to emerge from this mess, they will need some new faces.”

MetLife continues to be the largest portfolio lender in the insurance industry with $43.1 billion in commercial mortgages outstanding at year end 2012.

“MetLife was a very active lender domestically and internationally in 2012, as we continued to focus on top quality properties in major markets,” said Robert Merck, global head of MetLife Real Estate Investors. “Our strategy for growth is based on prudent risk management and a long-term approach that enables us to execute quickly, process large transactions and provide our customers with world-class service.”

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 3:00am

Véronique Kiermer, executive editor of the Nature Publishing Group, says that there is more "sloppiness" than in the past in journal submissions, Times Higher Education reported. Kiermer made the remark in a speech at the World Conference on Research Integrity. Among the problems she said she is seeing more of are: missing control tests, poor use of images,  flaws in experimental design and reporting, and problems with the use of statistics.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 4:18am

State officials in Texas today unveil Compare College Texas, a website that gives students and policy makers easily comparable data on key higher education outcomes for all public institutions in the state.

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