Higher Education Quick Takes
For many years, critics have derided "legislative scholarships" in Illinois that allow legislators to give scholarships to public universities to students in their districts, with very few limitations. On Wednesday, Governor Pat Quinn, a Democrat, signed legislation to kill off the program, The Chicago Tribune reported. Several Tribune investigations focused on the fairness of the program. In 2009, the newspaper found that in the five prior years, lawmakers gave at least 140 scholarships to relatives of campaign donors.
The newest sculpture at the University of California at San Diego looks like a cottage -- complete with a front lawn -- from some angles. From other angles, it looks like a tornado landed a cottage on top of an engineering building. The unusual work of art, "Fallen Star," is now open.
University presidents from institutions that are members of the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities wrote a letter to President Obama and Congressional leaders on Wednesday, urging them to take action to prevent the mandatory spending cuts that will kick in early next year if Congress does not act. Any agreement should continue support for scientific research and financial aid to students, while enacting changes to entitlement programs and the tax code, the college presidents wrote. "As national leaders in higher education, we urge you to show America and the world that our country's political system is capable of solving serious problems," the presidents wrote.
James H. Ammons announced Wednesday that he will resign as president of Florida A&M University in October. His letter did not detail intense criticism he has faced since last year's hazing death of a student. Since then, there have been numerous reports suggesting that the university did not act aggressively to prevent hazing in the marching band that has been linked to the hazing death and widespread hazing. The Florida A&M board has voted no confidence in Ammons, and state officials have also raised questions about financial and management problems unrelated to the hazing death.
Thirty-four percent of the presidents of Japanese universities said that class content is boring and not aligned with student interests, according to a survey by the Japanese government, Daily Yomiuri Online reported. Many presidents suggested that more participatory classroom activities were needed. Nearly 75 percent of presidents said that students weren't spending enough time studying.
Edward Blews Jr., president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Michigan, has been appointed the next president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He begins the new position Jan. 1, 2013. Blews hasn't previously represented Christian colleges and universities as such -- the association is made up of 116 regionally accredited Christian colleges and universities that hire only Christians as full-time faculty and staff. But the Michigan association has religious colleges as members and Blews received his undergraduate degree from Seattle Pacific University, a member of the council, and previously served on the council's governing board. Three members of the council are also members of the Michigan group.
Paul Corts, the current president, is retiring at the end of this year.
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools has voted to strip Mountain State University of accreditation. The action, if not reversed or successfully appealed, would make students at the West Virginia university ineligible for federal student aid, potentially making it impossible for the institution to function. A statement by the Higher Learning Commission identified numerous, serious violations of the commission's standards. The commission said that Mountain State doesn't meet the requirement that an "institution operates with integrity to ensure the fulfillment of its mission through structures and processes that involve the board, administration, faculty, staff, and students," and fails to meet a requirement that "the institution’s allocation of resources and its processes for evaluation and planning demonstrate its capacity to fulfill its mission, improve the quality of its education, and respond to future challenges and opportunities.” For instance, the commission found that Mountain State "has not planned realistically to address challenges ... [and] lacks adequate human and financial resources to fulfill its mission."
Mountain State's board issued a statement vowing to appeal the decision. "We are surprised because the report ignores the significant progress that has been made since the Higher Learning Commission notified the University of its concerns a year ago. Major changes have been undertaken in all of the areas of concern that were cited by the Higher Learning Commission and significant progress has been demonstrated in implementing these changes," said the board statement.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on Tuesday rejected a harassment lawsuit against Southern Illinois University by a student who complained of inappropriate remarks and actions by an emeritus professor. While the court found that the actions by the emeritus professor, if accurately described, were "despicable," the university "responded reasonably" to the complaints, and could not be found liable as a result.
Hundreds of Canadian scientists staged an unusual protest Tuesday, wearing their lab coats to Parliament, where they rallied against government policies that they said were leading to the "death of evidence," The Globe and Mail reported. They criticized a number of policies of Canada's conservative government, including the elimination of funds for a research station that has collected data relevant to climate change, and what the scientists said was the government's policy of favoring job creation over environmental research.