The rector (or board chair) of the College of William and Mary has sent a letter to leaders of public colleges and universities in Virginia warning that the state's lack of gay marriage has created "a substantial incentive for our gay and lesbian faculty and staff to leave the Commonwealth’s public universities and colleges," The Washington Post reported. Jeff Trammell sent the letter after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a ruling that paved the way for gay couples in states that recognize single-sex marriage to have the full federal tax advantages of marriage that heterosexual couples receive. Trammell noted that some state officials have been hostile even to awarding partner benefits to gay employees.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Growing consumer reluctance to pay rising tuition rates are threatening to drive up private colleges' tuition discount rates, limit net tuition revenue, and lower matriculation rates and enrollments in ways that could hurt their financial ratings, Standard & Poor's said in a report issued Tuesday. The report, which like most of S&P's reports is available only to subscribers, says that the pressure on institutions will come particularly in the most competitive markets; data in the report find tuition discount rates rising fastest in the Northeast (from 31 to 34 percent since 2008), but net tuition levels and matriculation rates fell most sharply in the West.
Judges are speaking out against two law professors -- once a couple -- whose divorce and post-divorce litigation has taken up court time for the last 17 years, USA Today reported. The parties are Christo Lassiter, a law professor at the University of Cincinnati, and his former wife, Sharlene Boltz, a law professor at Northern Kentucky University. Judges have criticized both for their approach to the divorce, for allegedly breaking court rules and for using up court time. In a hearing last month, one Ohio judge said, "I am really shocked, because when I was in law school my professors were outstanding. They never would have told me that behaving the way you all have, both of you, over the past 20 years, is acceptable behavior."
Whether American college students are in some sort of new era of hook-ups has been the subject of much media speculation and criticism. Research being released today by the University of Portland at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association suggests that while there is plenty of sex in college, it's not remotely new or even hitting record levels. Martin Monto, a sociology professor, and Anna Carey, a recent graduate, compared data from a national survey about sex on campus from 1988-1996 and from 2002-10. In the recent time period, being called a hook-up era by some, only 59 percent of students report having sex at least once a week, compared to 65 percent in the earlier period. On other measures as well, there are not signs of a more hyper-sexual environment today than in earlier periods.
The board of Oakland University, in Michigan, has authorized a $230,000 deferred compensation bonus to Gary Russi even though the former president didn't meet the specific criteria established for the payment, The Detroit Free Press reported. The funds were only to be paid if Russi served through June 30, 2014. He quit unexpectedly this year when the university fired his wife, the basketball coach at Oakland. The board chair said that the payment was appropriate, given Russi's contributions to the university. But the chair also said he didn't know about the provision requiring that Russi work until next year to qualify for the deferred compensation.
McGill University is facing scrutiny and criticism over an increased emphasis on diversity in medical school admissions, The Montreal Gazette reported. In the context of Quebec, diversity at McGill (historically an institution serving the English-speaking minority) in part means recruiting more Francophone students. In 2010, McGill eliminated the requirement that applicants take the Medical College Admission Test, which is not offered in French. Since then Francophone enrollment has increased from 31.6 to 37.5 percent. Some at the university, however, say that highly talented Anglo applicants are being rejected unfairly in the name of diversity. In Canada, the vast majority of medical students enroll in their home province, so this shift raises issues for Anglo students who are unlikely to be admitted to Quebec's Francophone medical schools.
Purdue University at Calumet’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors alleges potential violations of shared governance in the planned layoffs of seven faculty members members last week, including six tenure-track professors. In a statement posted on its Facebook page Monday, Calumet AAUP President Marcus K. Rogers accuses the university of laying off the professors – which administrators blame on budget woes stemming from lower enrollments – while “actively hiring more administrators, increasing funding to the athletic program and hiring fitness assistants.”
Rogers also alleges that the layoffs “do not appear to have been conducted with the proper faculty input,” and urges university administrators to reconsider their decision.
In a statement to faculty issued Monday, Chancellor Thomas L. Keon said the faculty layoff notices were “regrettable but necessary,” and issued in in response to a $3 million campus revenue shortfall anticipated this fall, based on a 6 percent fall projected enrollment decline. As those layoffs -- including the professors’ would-be retirement funds -- only amount to $1 million, he said, other cuts to the university’s budget likely are forthcoming. “As I reported at the Town Hall meeting, I would be pleased to rescind any or all of the notices should we find that there are alternatives,” Keon said. “Additionally, the senior leadership team is committed to continue working with faculty and the Faculty Senate to explore other options.”
Capella University announced that the U.S. Department of Education has granted approval to two new, competency-based degree programs. The university's "FlexPath" online bachelor's of science in business and master of business administration degrees are so-called "direct assessment" tracks, which are not based on the credit hour standard. Students in the two programs can now access federal financial aid thanks to the department's green light. Southern New Hampshire's College for America is the only other institution to receive such approval, but Northern Arizona University is also seeking it. Regional accreditors have signed off on the direct assessment degrees at all three institutions.
President Obama over the weekend touted a new program from the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Veteran Affairs that broadly defines "best practices" for serving student veterans. So far more than 250 institutions, including many community colleges, have signed on to the "8 Keys to Success." The program includes calls for better coordination with government agencies, a uniform set of data tools and an early alert system aimed at student veterans.