Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

September 13, 2013

A student at Virginia College’s Augusta, Ga., campus has been arrested for allegedly giving her pregnant professor a tainted snack cake. Diane Ambrose was charged with reckless conduct after offering her professor a sealed cake she had injected with a foreign substance through the wrapper, WRDW-TV reported. The Richmond County Sheriff's Office says the 12-week-pregnant professor developed a stomach ailment two weeks ago, after eating the treat. Another student knew about Ambrose's alleged plan, but didn’t tell the professor until she knew she had become sick.

Virginia College did not return a call for comment on the condition of the professor and Ambrose's student status. Ambrose, arrested Wednesday, was out on bail Thursday.

September 13, 2013

Only 73 percent -- a new low -- of freshmen at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign this year are from Illinois, The Chicago Tribune reported. While some flagship universities (the University of Vermont, for example) have long had high percentages of out-of-state students, Illinois has not historically been such an institution. As recently as a decade ago, 90 percent of freshmen were from in-state. While the university has defended in general the push to admit more out-of-state students, Illinois officials said that their intent has been not to go below 75 percent from the state. But higher than expected proportions of admitted applicants from out of state (many of them international students) accepted admissions offers this year.

 

September 13, 2013

The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, an initiative to simplify the process by which distance education providers are authorized to operate in individual states, has begun staffing its central and regional offices. Marshall Hill, former executive director of Nebraska's Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Educa­tion, will lead the effort from its Boulder, Colo., office.

Should the initiative, which is backed by a $2.3 million grant from the Lumina Foundation, prove successful, institutions that offer distance education could be authorized to operate in every member state. That would save the institutions from the cumbersome and expensive process of demonstrating how their educational offerings satisfy each state's regulatory demands.

NC-SARA's work will be implemented through its four regional partners, the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, the New England Board of Higher Education, the Southern Regional Education Board and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. These organizations will first hire people to lead local chapters in the states they cover, then, once states sign on, turn them loose to recruit individual institutions. "No regional compact is at the point of inviting states to participate yet," Hill said. "I think we’re about two months off from that."

September 13, 2013

The Ig Nobel Prizes -- the annual spoof of the real Nobels -- were announced Thursday night. Prizes honored breakthrough discoveries on the impact on mice of listening to the opera, of beer on self-perceptions of one's physical attractiveness (it turns out that if you drink a lot you will think you are more attractive) and of the probability of cows lying down and standing up. Details are available here. (The real Nobels are announced next month.)

 

September 12, 2013

Improper oversight of money by a former top official at the University of Arkansas caused the university's advancement division to run up back-to-back multimillion-dollar shortfalls, according to a legislative audit released this week.

According to the audit, the former vice chancellor for the advancement division, Brad Choate, allowed the division to spend more than it had: $2.1 million more in the budget year that ended in summer 2011 and $4.1 million more in the budget year that ended in summer 2012.

Choate no longer works at the university. The university says that the shortfalls affected only the advancement division and that the university as a whole remained in the black. The university is now in the “best fiscal shape in its entire history," its officials said Wednesday. 

“Our own review and now the legislative and UA System audits found that the division was, in effect, borrowing on anticipated revenues to pay current bills -- that’s unacceptable and it cost two employees their jobs,” Chancellor G. David Gearhart said in a statement. “But no taxpayer dollars or private funds were lost, not one penny. All expenditures were for legitimate university needs in preparation for a major capital campaign. The division unfortunately overspent its projected budget.”

September 12, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Reinhard Stöger of the University of Nottingham reveals how pesticides can alter the DNA and behavior of honeybees. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

September 12, 2013

After several years of declines, California community colleges are seeing enrollment increases this year. Data released Wednesday by the community college system's chancellor's office indicated that the median percentage increase in enrollment is 2.5 percent, and a 5 percent increase in the number of sections. In contrast, last year at this time, the colleges were seeing an enrollment decline of 4.8 percent and a section reduction of 3.3 percent. College budgets are healthier in part due to a tax measure pushed by Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, approved by voters in November.

 

September 12, 2013

An article in The Crimson White, the student newspaper of the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, has set off considerable concern with its allegations that sororities at the institution reject potential members who are black. The article details the attempts of two black women with the credentials and characteristics sororities say they value who were the latest to fail to break what the newspaper called "an almost impenetrable color barrier." The national Pi Beta Phi, one of the sororities whose Alabama chapter was mentioned in the article, told USA Today that the organization was starting an investigation of the allegations. A black board member at Alabama is calling for the university to investigate.

 

September 12, 2013

Pennsylvania State University faculty could vote to urge a delay in Take Care of Your Health, the controversial new health care plan for university employees, by a year. implies that the faculty has the power to do this -- is that true? can't the admin continue to igno**********Yeah, I don't know. The faculty senate thinks it has authority but i don't know what uni says since they didn't comment. Have made that clearer at end.---CF

More than 100 members of the Faculty Senate -- a little less than half the body -- moved this week to hold a special meeting by the end of the month to vote on postponing the plan. Such an action is rare for the Faculty Senate, Brent Yarnal, professor of geography and body president, said in an e-mail.

Employees have complained about details of the plan since they were announced this summer, including punitive surcharges of up to $100 monthly each for not completing a biometric screening, smoking and covering spouses eligible for health insurance through their own employers. Faculty and staff members also have raised privacy concerns about the uploading of years of personal medical information onto a third-party provider's website and the nature of the questions in a mandatory, online wellness profile, such as those about drinking habits and mental health.

University administrators have repeatedly said that serious intervention is needed if the university is to tackle skyrocketing health care costs, predicted to increase by 13 percent next year, and that previous, voluntary programs to mitigate costs have not been effective. All information collected and its uses comply with federal health care privacy laws, Penn State has said, including that it is only reported to the university in aggregate form.

Brian Curran, professor of art history and president of the institution's new advocacy chapter of the American Association of University Professors, called the meeting "a major victory for us."

A university spokeswoman did not return a request for comment on the Senate matter. It is unclear if the body has the authority to delay the plan, even if it votes to do so.

September 12, 2013

Nassau Community College adjuncts have been on strike this week, following the Board of Trustees’ rejection of a proposed contract settlement it said it couldn’t afford.

The Adjunct Faculty Association, an independent union representing 2,600 adjunct faculty, has been without a contract since 2010. The union's proposed contract"The union's proposed contract"? -*****Yes---cfsj would have lasted through 2018, and offered a retroactive pay raise of 4.9 percent each year, costing $14.5 million, Long Island Newsday reported. The college said the total cost would have been $63.4 million.

Adjuncts went on strike Monday and plan on continuing to picket each afternoon. Public employees are prohibited from striking under the Public Employees Fair Employment Act and Nassau adjuncts will be fined two days' pay for each day they strike.

Union leaders could not immediately be reached for comment. In a statement on the union website, Charles Loiacono, president, called the fine “a very small penalty for standing up for the agreement that we have negotiated with the County; and it’s certainly nothing compared with the indignity and disrespect shown to us by the [board].”

In an e-mail, Alicia Steger, a college spokeswoman, said: "A professor who teaches a three-credit [course] gets about $5,100. That is the highest of the colleges in the area.  We have heard numerous reports from adjuncts who teach elsewhere that they would love to teach at NCC. So, that is our answer to the claim of unfair working conditions."

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