Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, January 28, 2013 - 3:00am

Elementary and secondary schools must ensure that students with disabilities can participate in sports or provide comparable options for those students, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights said via a “dear colleague” letter Friday. While OCR applies the directive in the context of elementary and postsecondary education, it also states that students in postsecondary education enjoy the same rights.

(Note: This paragraph has been updated from a previous version.)

While the letter's immediate effect in higher education is unclear, its effects will be felt at colleges and universities, said Scott Lissner, president of AHEAD: Association on Higher Education and Disability.

Students who are otherwise qualified may not be prevented from trying out and playing on a team, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. “Schools don’t have to change the essential rules of the game, and they don’t have to do anything that would provide a student with a disability an unfair competitive advantage,” he wrote. “But they do need to make reasonable modifications (such as using a laser instead of a starter pistol to start a race so a deaf runner can compete) to ensure that students with disabilities get the very same opportunity to play as everyone else.”

Some compared the order to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and preceded a sharp increase in female athletic participation. Lissner said that while there aren’t often formal complaints of collegiate athletic programs discriminating against students with disabilities, the same was true of sexual discrimination before Title IX, and participation skyrocketed anyway.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if it was an untapped interest,” said Lissner, who is also Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator at Ohio State University. “In three, four, five years, we’re going to start seeing students who went through high school with participating in athletics at different levels readily available to them. Why wouldn’t they expect that when they get to college?”

Further, Lissner said, the directive relies on the entire Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, not just the sub-sections that apply specifically to primary and secondary education, suggesting the same principles should be applied at colleges and universities.

Monday, January 28, 2013 - 3:57am

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is planning a new commission that will study the issues facing public universities and consider ways to bolster them in an era of reduced tax support, The Los Angeles Times reported. The new commission will be announced today. It will be led by Robert J. Birgeneau, who is retiring in June as chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley. In honor of the president who signed the legislation in 1862 that led to the system of land grant universities, the new effort will be called "The Lincoln Project: Excellence and Access in Public Higher Education."

Monday, January 28, 2013 - 3:00am

The University of the District of Columbia is eliminating nearly 100 positions -- most of them administrative but some faculty jobs as well -- to deal with financial problems, The Washington Post reported. Few details are available on which jobs will be cut. The cuts are projected to save $8.5 million a year.


Monday, January 28, 2013 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Kevin Shakesheff of the University of Nottingham explains an innovation that allows better observations of embryonic development in the lab. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Monday, January 28, 2013 - 4:01am

Xiamen University, in China, will open a branch campus in Malaysia in 2015, The New York Times reported. The primary language of instruction will be English.


Monday, January 28, 2013 - 3:00am

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made a $350 million donation to Johns Hopkins University, his alma mater. The new gift brings his lifetime giving to Hopkins to $1.18 billion -- making him the first person to top $1 billion in gifts to an American college or university. The new funds will be used for two primary purposes. The bulk of the money will be used to endow professorships for interdisciplinary work in vital areas. The initial appointments will be in water resource sustainability, individualized health care delivery, global health, the science of learning, and urban revitalization.

The university will use $100 million from the gift for need-based aid for undergraduates. Hopkins is among the more prominent private universities in the United States that have not declared a need-blind admissions policy (meaning that applicants are reviewed and admitted without regard to financial need). Ronald Daniels, the president, has stated that he has a goal of making Hopkins need-blind. An article in The New York Times about Bloomberg's relationship with Hopkins said that he has financed 20 percent of need-based financial aid for undergraduates in recent years.


Monday, January 28, 2013 - 3:00am

Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat who plays a key role in Congress on higher education issues, has announced that he will not seek re-election in 2014. Harkin is chair of the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and of the appropriations subcommittee for education and health. In those roles, he has been a strong advocate for increased spending on student aid programs and biomedical research. He has been a frequent critic of for-profit higher education, and has backed tougher regulation of for-profit colleges. Harkin said that his proudest legislative accomplishment was having been chief sponsor of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which greatly expanded the rights of people with disabilities in education as well as other parts of society.

Friday, January 25, 2013 - 3:00am

A white paper from the Committee for Economic Development, another entry in an effort by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to redesign federal financial aid to focus on completion, calls for a radical change to student aid: turning the Pell Grant and other need-based aid into block grants for states. The paper, "A New Partnership: The Road to Reshaping Federal & State Financial Aid," calls for requiring states to match 20 percent of federal funds with need-based aid of their own. States would also be required to hold down tuition at public institutions in order to be eligible for federal aid. Grants would be portable across state lines.

The report, one of many released this month from organizations that received Gates grants, proposes the biggest changes so far of any Gates recipient. It also calls for eliminating tax credits for higher education and automatically enrolling student loan recipients in income-based repayment, both ideas that other groups have also proposed.

Friday, January 25, 2013 - 4:19am

Dolours Price, who was once a key figure in the Irish Republican Army, was found dead in her home Thursday, and her death could change a fight over oral history records held at Boston College, the Associated Press reported. Scholars have been fighting to prevent the papers about the conflict in Northern Ireland from being turned over to British authorities, who have demanded access to the documents, saying that they are needed for criminal investigations. Many scholars have urged courts to block the records' release, saying that pledges to those interviewed -- including Price -- to maintain their confidentiality for set periods of time should not be broken. It is unclear how the death of Price -- which some are suggesting was suicide -- will affect the legal issues of the case, an appeal of which has been filed by researchers with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ed Moloney, who led the collection of the oral history records, and Anthony McIntyre, who conducted the interviews, pledged to continue to fight the release of the papers. "Throughout the last two years of our fight to prevent her interviews being handed over to the police in Belfast, our greatest fear was always for the health and wellbeing of Dolours,’’ Moloney and McIntyre said in a statement. ‘‘Now that she is no longer with us, perhaps those who initiated this legal case can take some time to reflect upon the consequences of their action.’’


Friday, January 25, 2013 - 4:23am

The University of Pittsburgh Press is printing new copies of two collections of poetry by Richard Blanco, the inaugural poet selected by President Obama, and the press is preparing to release a new volume, which will include the inaugural poem, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. Orders are coming in fast. The books currently available from Pitt are City of a Hundred Fires and Looking for the Gulf Motel.




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