Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

August 19, 2013

An Associated Press inquiry into e-mail messages by Mitch Daniels when he was governor of Indiana have revealed he was not a fan of the late historian Howard Zinn, and talked of trying to block his book from being used in schools or in teacher preparation programs. A new AP article on Sunday, based on additional e-mail messages obtained under open records laws, reveals that Daniels (now president of Purdue University) had another history book that he wanted in Indiana's schools. That book is America: The Last Best Hope, by William J. Bennett, a historian who was education secretary in the Reagan administration. E-mail messages show Daniels pushing to get the book distributed and praising it.

Courtesy of Amazon, here's the Publishers Weekly review: "Bennett, a secretary of education under President Reagan and author of The Book of Virtues, offers a new, improved history of America, one, he says, that will respark hope and a 'conviction about American greatness and purpose' in readers. He believes current offerings do not 'give Americans an opportunity to enjoy the story of their country, to take pleasure and pride in what we have done and become.' To this end, Bennett methodically hits the expected patriotic high points (Lewis & Clark, the Gettysburg Address) and even, to its credit, a few low ones (Woodrow Wilson's racism, Teddy Roosevelt's unjust dismissal of black soldiers in the Brownsville judgment). America is best suited for a high school or home-schooled audience searching for a general, conservative-minded textbook. More discerning adult readers will find that the lack of originality and the over-reliance on a restricted number of dated sources (Samuel Eliot Morison, Daniel Boorstin, Henry Steele Commager) make the book a retread of previous popular histories (such as Boorstin's The Americans). This is history put to use as inspiration rather than serving to enlighten or explain, but Bennett does succeed in shaping the material into a coherent, readable narrative."

August 16, 2013

Under pressure from officials at historically black colleges and other institutions that serve large numbers of students from low-income backgrounds, the U.S. Education Department has announced that it will weigh appeals that may allow more families to qualify for federal loans for parents, the Associated Press reported. Changes made in 2011 to the underwriting standards for PLUS loans led to a spike in denials for families that had taken on debt because of the economic downturn, and the changes disproportionately affected students at HBCUs. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), had urged the Education Department to reconsider the underwriting standards.

In a letter sent to the Fudge on Tuesday, department officials said they would review their definitions in negotiations over federal rules for loan programs set to begin next spring, and would in the short term consider appeals from those who had been denied PLUS loans.

August 16, 2013

The presidents of 165 universities in July issued a joint letter calling on President Obama and Congress to adopt policies to promote research and to deal with an "innovation deficit" created by inadequate support for investments in science and technology. The letter -- organized by the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities -- was part of an effort by those organizations and many universities to encourage more support for federal research and technology programs. Some faculty members at Purdue University, which is strong in science and technology and where many programs rely on federal support, noticed that their president didn't sign the letter, The Journal and Courier reported. Mitch Daniels, the president, released a statement to the newspaper explaining why he didn't sign: "I have been and will continue to be an advocate of major federal investments in research, particularly basic research," Daniels said. "I will say nothing negative about this letter, but, like many other presidents, I abstained from signing it, in my case, because of its complete omission of any recognition of the severe fiscal condition in which the nation finds itself."

August 16, 2013

A Minnesota jury has ordered Globe University, a for-profit institution, to pay $400,000 to Heidi Weber, who said she was fired for accusing the institution of using false and misleading job placement statistics, The Star Tribune reported. Weber sued under a Minnesota law designed to protect whistle-blowers. Globe said that she was dismissed for legitimate reasons.

 

August 16, 2013

Pennsylvania's Clarion University, citing state budget cuts, on Thursday announced plans to dismantle the College of Education and to eliminate 40 jobs, 22 of them faculty positions, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. Some of the education programs will be relocated and some of the savings will be used to strengthen departments such as nursing. Elizabeth MacDaniel, chair of the English department and president of the campus chapter of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, predicted this campus reaction: "People are going to be angry. It's going to be horrible."

 
August 16, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Stephen Mucher of Bard College explains the motivations behind the first teacher observations of the 19th century. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

August 16, 2013

Jenny Sanford, who became nationally known when her then-husband and the then-governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford, admitted to cheating on her, is interested in becoming president of the College of Charleston, The Post and Courier reported. The current president, George Benson, is stepping down next year. Sanford has never worked in academe, but she said that she has relevant skills from running her former husband's campaigns and following higher education issues when he was governor. She said higher education is in a period of "transformational change."

 

August 16, 2013

A professor of English at the Virginia Military Institute is on paid leave indefinitely, following his refusal to work or quit, the Roanoke Times reported.

Kurt Ayau was one of seven professors who took issue last year with department leaders and affairs, including a new curriculum. Six have resigned or retired, but Ayau said the institute offered him a leave of absence for what he understood to be one year, and he took it to support himself as he looks for another job, according to the Times.

An institute spokesman said Ayau was on paid leave, but that the timeline was undetermined. Ayau’s salary is $59,642. The spokesman declined to comment on why Ayau was offered a leave of absence, citing personnel reasons. The institute’s Faculty Handbook says that extended leaves may be granted when “in the best interests of the faculty member and the Institute.”

Ayau did not return an e-mailed request for comment.

August 15, 2013

The Israeli government plans to provide scholarships to students who post pro-Israel messages on social media sites as part of a new online public diplomacy campaign. Haaretz reported that the Prime Minister’s office has joined with the National Union of Israeli Students to create “covert units” at each of Israel’s seven universities, each to be headed by a senior student coordinator who will receive a full scholarship; other students who are involved will receive smaller scholarships. The Prime Minister’s office has allocated about $777,000 for scholarships in the upcoming academic year.

August 15, 2013

President Obama is planning a New York State bus tour next week to Binghamton, Buffalo and Syracuse (plus a trip to northern Pennsylvania) to talk about college tuitions and costs, the Associated Press reported. The president has promised to offer ideas about how to make college more affordable.

 

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