Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, April 16, 2012 - 3:00am

Some alumni of Gonzaga University have organized a petition drive to ask the institution to rescind its invitation to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Anglican cleric who was a leader in the fight to defeat apartheid, saying that his views are inconsistent with Gonzaga's Roman Catholic teachings. Hundreds of alumni have signed the petition that notes Archbishop Tutu's support in South Africa for legal abortion and gay marriage rights. "There are gifted and accomplished leaders from many fields who would be far more appropriate choices to receive such an honor from Gonzaga University. Instead Gonzaga has chosen prestige over principles and popularity over morality," the petition says. The university has not formally responded to the petition drive. When Gonzaga announced its selection of commencement speaker, the press release called Archbishop Tutu "an inspirational voice for justice, peace, truth and reconciliation throughout his ministry."

The student newspaper in the last week has run columns endorsing and criticizing the choice of speaker. "Tutu's public support for abortion, homosexual 'marriage' and contraception clearly identify him as a person who should receive no awards, honors or platforms from a Catholic institution," said one letter. But another wrote to say that many of the Catholic students at Gonzaga in fact share Archbishop Tutu's views, and that the university shouldn't reject graduation speakers who differ with church leaders. "It is especially the beauty of a Jesuit university such as this, encouraging healthy and intelligent discussions, not discrediting someone because we disagree. Last time I checked, disagreeing with Church doctrine didn’t mean you couldn’t participate, unless, of course, the Inquisition is still flourishing," said the author of that letter.

Monday, April 16, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Danny Winder of Vanderbilt University explains why the effects of alcohol can vary widely among individuals. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, April 16, 2012 - 4:18am

Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, on Sunday evening vowed at a closed-door fund-raising event that he would substantially shrink the Education Department if he is elected, NBC News reported. In his campaign, Romney has not made many policy proposals on education. But he was more detailed Sunday in outlining two possibilities for the Education Department. "The Department of Education: I will either consolidate with another agency, or perhaps make it a heck of a lot smaller. I'm not going to get rid of it entirely," Romney said. He said that one reason to keep the agency was to have a federal role in pushing back against teachers' unions.

Monday, April 16, 2012 - 3:00am

Officials at Thompson Rivers University, in Canada, are apologizing for the actions of a staff member who tore down a student's photograph (part of a student exhibition) showing a woman in Islamic dress and holding a bra, CBC News reported. The woman in the photograph has her face and body covered, and is holding and looking at a bra. Saudi officials have criticized the photograph. A statement from Thompson Rivers said that "the university is committed to honoring artistic expression and on a campus with many international stakeholders it is important that we balance cultural sensitivity with freedom of speech, and we value the conversations that this piece of art and all our others inspire."


Monday, April 16, 2012 - 4:24am

Iowa Republicans, like their counterparts in Virginia, are questioning the policy of public universities using some of their tuition revenue to pay for aid for low-income students, The Des Moines Register reported. Republican lawmakers say that the policy (common nationally) of paying for some student aid with tuition revenue makes it more difficult for middle class families, who don't qualify for the aid. State Senator Brad Zaun told the Register: "I want this program eliminated. I am hearing from many people that are shocked and did not know this was happening.”

Monday, April 16, 2012 - 3:00am

The University of California at San Diego has agreed to institute new procedures to prevent racial harassment and to investigate allegations of such harassment, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The moves settled investigations by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education. The inquiries started after several racial incidents, including a "Compton cookout," an off-campus party that mocked Black History Month by having students dress in the stereotypical attire of poor black people.

Monday, April 16, 2012 - 4:29am

The board of Santa Monica College has put on hold a two-tiered tuition plan that outraged many who saw an abandonment of community college values. But The Los Angeles Times reported that trustees are stunned by the reaction the plan received. Trustees say that they still view the plan as one of finding a way to raise money to educate low-income students -- and that they can't believe it was viewed as an attack on low-income students. The Times reported that one trustee viewed the plan as "socialism in action."


Monday, April 16, 2012 - 3:00am

The Saudi Ministry of Higher Education has told universities in the country to start to let women into political science departments, Al Arabiya reported. King Saud University plans to be the first institution to comply, and will allow women to enroll in political science next year.


Monday, April 16, 2012 - 3:00am

The Education Department's advisory panel on accreditation voted Friday to accept a final report on its recommendations for revamping the nation's quality assurance system for higher education, making few changes to a draft report that riled institutions and some members of the panel. The recommendations of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity call for maintaining the link between accreditation and institutions' eligibility for federal financial aid programs, despite a proposal from two of the committee's members -- Anne Neal, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, and Arthur Rothkopf, president emeritus of Lafayette College. But the panel recommends other changes to the nation's accreditation system, including setting minimum consumer protection standards for states and urging the department to "encourage a dialogue" about sector-based accreditation.

Monday, April 16, 2012 - 3:00am

Advocates for Hebrew are pushing Israeli universities, where many courses are taught and much research is published in English, to increase use of Hebrew, The Forward reported. The Academy of the Hebrew Language is lobbying the Education Ministry to require more use of Hebrew, and that effort has many academics worried. "Hebrew is the language of the Jewish people, but if you write your thesis in Hebrew, it is buried,” said Yehuda Band, head of the chemistry department at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. "A student who can’t write in English is severely limited — it’s the language of science."


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