Higher Education Quick Takes
Close to 1,000 people held a rally at Pennsylvania State University Saturday to call on the institution's Board of Trustees to resign, The Centre Daily Times reported. Attendees were angry that the board fired Joe Paterno as head football coach last year and subsequently largely accepted the analysis of an investigation into the Jerry Sandusky scandal that, among other things, was critical of Paterno (who died before the inquiry concluded). Franco Harris, a college and professional football star (who played at Penn State under Paterno), referred to the night the board fired the coach this way: "It only took one night, just one night for the BOT to lay a path of destruction never before seen on any college campus."
The National Labor Relations Board, in a 2-to-1 vote, on Friday ordered the counting of ballots in a vote by adjuncts at Duquesne University on whether to unionize. The ballots have been impounded, uncounted, pending consideration of the board of an appeal by Duquesne, which argued that its adjuncts should not be permitted to unionize because the institution is Roman Catholic and a union might infringe on the institution's religious freedom. But the board order said that it made sense to count the ballots because, if the union bid is defeated, there would be no reason to consider the appeal. The decision said that Duquesne's appeal could proceed should the votes favor a union. The effort to unionize was organized with United Steelworkers.
The board of Brown University's Athletic Hall of Fame has decided not to remove Joe Paterno, the late football coach at Pennsylvania State University, from his place of honor. "Paterno, a member of the Class of 1950 (A.B., English, magna cum laude), was inducted into the Hall of Fame on May 18, 1978. His election to the Hall of Fame recognized Paterno’s outstanding career as a player at Brown, quarterbacking the celebrated varsity football team of 1949, and his contributions to college sports," said a statement from the board. "In choosing not to remove Paterno from the list of Brown’s Hall of Fame athletes, the Board of Directors did not intend to diminish the tragic events that occurred at Penn State toward the end of Coach Paterno’s career. It sought, rather, to acknowledge the recognition of the achievements for which it elected Paterno to the Hall of Fame nearly 35 years ago."
Emory University on Friday announced a series of program eliminations, saying that it needed to focus resources on a smaller number of academic units. The university will close programs in educational studies, physical education, visual arts and journalism. In addition, graduate admissions will be suspended in Spanish and economics, pending a "reimagining" of the role graduate education at Emory will play in those fields. Tenured faculty members in the departments will be assured of their lines moving to other departments. But staff and non-tenured faculty members are expected to lose jobs, and their positions are guaranteed only for the current academic year.
A letter from Robin Forman, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Emory, explained that "these steps are not in response to the deficit, and will play no role in reducing our expenses." Rather, the letter, said, "for the college to reach its intellectual goals requires more than simply breaking even; we must have the flexibility to make the investments that our aspirations require. All of the funds that will gradually become available through the changes I have described will be reinvested in the college, strengthening core areas and expanding into new ones."
A report much awaited by Australian academics has called for the nation's universities to double their enrollments of Aboriginal students, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. Such a doubling would bring Aboriginal enrollment to 2.2 percent, roughly the share of the Aboriginal population among Australians who are 15 to 64 years old.
A state judge in Wisconsin on Friday struck down many portions of a controversial state law that stripped most collective bargaining rights from public employees, The New York Times reported. Specifically, the ruling invalidates provisions of the law that limit collective bargaining rights of county, school and city employees, but not for state employees. For higher education faculty and other unionized employees, this probably means that collective bargaining could resume at locally run technical colleges, but not for the University of Wisconsin System. State officials plan to appeal the ruling, so the fate of unions in public higher education in Wisconsin is far from settled by the latest ruling.
California State University is planning to send letters to hundreds of thousands of applicants to the system's campuses, warning them that if voters in November defeat the governor's proposal to raise taxes, far fewer slots will be available, The Los Angeles Times reported. To drive home the point, Cal State has decided not to make admissions decisions until after Election Day. Typically, the university system starts admitting students in October. Anti-tax advocates are accusing the university of inappropriately campaigning for the governor's plan. But a spokeswoman for Cal State said that "we are just laying out the facts of what the budget is and what impact this will have on our budget."
WitsOn (for Women in Technology Sharing Online) will start October 1 as a six-week effort to encourage female undergraduates pursing science and technology degrees. The program will match students who sign up with a mentor for six weeks of online discussions, with the aim of encouraging these students to then find in-person mentors. The program is organized by Harvey Mudd College and Piazza (a social learning platform). While a number of colleges and universities have signed on as institutional participants (meaning they will publicize the effort) students at any college can join.
Three campuses -- the University of Texas at Austin, North Dakota State University and Hiram College -- received bomb threats Friday that were taken seriously enough to lead to mass evacuations, the Associated Press reported. But in all three cases, the threats appeared to be false and students and employees were permitted to return to the campuses.