Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 25, 2013

Evan Dobelle, president of Westfield State University, is under fire for what Massachusetts officials consider to be extravagant or inappropriate spending. The Republican quoted sources saying that Dobelle is exploring the idea of using the state's whistleblower protection law to protect himself. The theory is that since he self-reported some of the questionable spending, he is a whistleblower. A spokeswoman for the university said she didn't know of any legal strategy being considered. But the newspaper noted that Dobelle has of late been telling people "I self-reported."

 

September 25, 2013

The Institute of International Education on Tuesday announced an expansion of its consortium aimed at raising funds to provide emergency scholarships and fellowships to Syrian students and scholars. The partnering organizations have committed $3 million and are hoping to raise another $4 million in university commitments and funds to, among other things, pay for 600 scholarships for Syrian students: 200 scholarships for Syrian students in Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq, 100 in other countries in the Middle East and North Africa region, 100 in North America, 100 in Europe, and 100 in Latin America. 

IIE estimates that in 2012-13, the first year of the effort, the consortium raised $3.8 million in assistance for approximately 100 Syrian scholars and students.

September 25, 2013

Moody's Investors Service on Tuesday announced that it has downgraded Howard University's credit rating from A3 to Baa1 (or from a low to moderate credit risk). Moody's cited a number of financial challenges facing Howard, including budget problems at the university hospital, declines in enrollment, and dependence on federal support at a time that such support will be difficult to grow. Sidney A. Ribeau, president of Howard, said in a statement to The Washington Post that the university has "a robust strategy to mitigate soft enrollment,” and plans for long-term changes in the hospital.

 

September 25, 2013

The National Association of the Deaf has sued the University of Maryland at College Park, charging that it is violating the Americans With Disabilities Act by failing to provide captions in athletic facilities with the information being provided via public address systems. The association says that it has told Maryland previously that it should add caption systems, and the suit asks that they be added to the large scoreboards that convey other information for the fans.

“Athletic events are tremendously popular for the general public to attend, and this is true also for deaf and hard of hearing fans,” said a statement from the association's CEO, Howard A. Rosenblum, "All professional and collegiate sports teams need to recognize that many fans, not just those who are deaf or hard of hearing, need captioning in sports stadiums and arenas to understand what is being announced. Every sports team should implement quality captioning systems visible to everyone not only to comply with the law but also to meet the needs of everyone.”

A spokesman for the university told The Washington Post that Maryland believes it complies with the law by creating a website for the captions, so that fans with hearing disabilities can read the captions on their smartphones or tablets. The spokesman also said that Maryland will provide game-day loans of tablets to those who need them.

September 25, 2013

Academics were among the new class of MacArthur Fellows named this morning. The fellowship -- for which one can't apply and for which one receives $625,000 over five years, no strings attached -- is commonly called the "genius" award. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation named 24 winners, including Colin Camerer, a behavioral economist at the California Institute of Technology; Craig Fennie, a materials scientist at Cornell University; and Sara Seager, an astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

 

September 25, 2013

Lafayette College has announced new rules for alcohol violations by athletes, with various levels of sanctions based on a variety of factors. But The Express-Times noted that the new rules do not eliminate a "Good Samaritan" policy under which athletes can report a friend in trouble without fear of facing any charges. An earlier version of the rules did eliminate that policy, prompting considerable anger from athletes at the college.

September 25, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Kenneth Noll of the University of Connecticut reveals why termites would not be a threat to your home without the help of microbes. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

September 24, 2013

The State University of New York has toughened admissions requirements for the teacher preparation programs on 17 of its campuses. To enter an undergraduate major or a graduate program, a Graduate Record Examination or equivalent test will now be required, as only some campuses have done in the past. There will also for the first time be a uniform 3.0 grade-point-average requirement (such requirements also varied by campus). The 3.0 would apply to the first two years of college work for undergraduate programs that accept students as juniors, to high school grades for programs that accept freshmen, and to undergraduate work for graduate programs.

September 24, 2013

Kenneth P. Ruscio, president of Washington and Lee University, has ordered a review of the way the university reports admissions statistics, The Washington Post reported. The review follows an earlier report in the Post that the university has counted as applicants many who never finished their applications. The university's decision to count those partial applications decreased the university's admit rate, suggesting that it is more selective than it would be otherwise. “I believe that we are acting in accordance with the applicable guidelines and in a manner consistent with how other colleges and universities approach this process,” said a statement from Ruscio. “Nevertheless, if there are questions about our policy, we will address them forthrightly and transparently. Our credibility is fundamental to everything that we do.”

The review will focus on which applicants are counted in certain categories. The questions that have been raised are about that decision, not the accuracy of the data overall.

 

September 24, 2013

Providence College administrators have called off a lecture organized by several academic departments by a philosophy professor at Wayne State University who is an advocate of same-sex marriage rights, The New York Times reported. Hugh F. Lena, the provost and senior vice president at Providence, sent out an e-mail announcing that the lecture by John Corvino could not take place. In his e-mail, Lena cited a document created by American Roman Catholic bishops in 2004, "Catholics in Political Life," which questioned the appropriateness of honoring political leaders who take positions that disagree with church teachings. Lena also said that the college requires that "both sides of a controversial issue are to be presented fairly and equally."

On his blog, Corvino questioned the provost's statement. Corvino noted that he was not being given some award but was invited by academic departments to give an academic talk. Further, he noted that the organizers had invited a theology professor at the college to speak immediately after him, explaining the church's views on marriage, and that the professor had accepted the offer. So, Corvino wrote, his appearance complied with the various rules in place. "The provost seems to want to have it both ways: the appearance of a commitment to vigorous academic dialogue, combined with an isolationist approach to disfavored views; in other words, a Catholic identity defined primarily by what it excludes rather than what it includes," Corvino wrote. "Pope Francis, the Catholic Church’s new leader, has been justly celebrated for his welcoming tone toward gays and lesbians. Notwithstanding my abrupt dis-invitation, I remain hopeful that Providence College may soon better reflect that tone."

 

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