Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, March 5, 2012 - 3:00am

Rick Santorum, the Republican presidential candidate, is moderating his rhetoric in criticizing President Obama's call for all Americans to get at least one year of higher education. In several recent appearances, he called President Obama "a snob" for having that goal, and suggested that colleges are "indoctrination" units designed to make students liberal. A Fox News program Saturday indicated that the college-bashing may not be playing well. According to an account in The Los Angeles Times, an Ohio State University student told Santorum: "Your comments about Obama being a snob for wanting everyone to have the chance to go to college didn't really sit well with my campus." While not backing off his earlier statements, Santorum expressed support for everyone having the chance to go to college. Said Santorum: "His quote was, repeated often in the media, was that everybody should go to college. You see, there's something different than saying people should have the opportunity to go to college. That's fine. All my political career I've supported [that]. In fact, we do need a lot of people to go to college and get the education, and in some cases the training, that's necessary. But the idea that everybody should go to college -- again, it was this attitude: that we know better what's best for you."

Monday, March 5, 2012 - 4:25am

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees on Sunday scheduled an emergency meeting for today to talk about growing criticism of Michael Hogan, president of the system, The Chicago Tribune reported. A spokesman said that no action is expected at the meeting, but that board members want to talk about "issues that have been reported in the paper lately." Last week, 130 endowed professors and department chairs at the university's flagship campus in Urbana-Champaign wrote to the board expressing a lack of confidence in Hogan. The president, brought in after an admissions scandal led to the departure of his predecessor, has been clashing with faculty members over his plans to centralize enrollment management. Further, his chief of staff resigned after being accused of sending anonymous e-mails seeking to influence faculty deliberations.

 

Monday, March 5, 2012 - 3:00am

Donald Ratcliff, a professor of Christian education at Wheaton College, in Illinois, is being held on child pornography and weapons charges, The Chicago Tribune reported. Authorities said that Ratcliff was found to be trading in child pornography, including images of children younger than 13. Authorities also found two handguns and 1,600 rounds of ammunition in Ratcliff's possession. His lawyer said that the guns were family heirlooms, but declined to comment further. Wheaton has suspended Ratcliff.

Monday, March 5, 2012 - 3:00am

Brown University's board on Friday named Christina Hull Paxson, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, as Brown's next president. She will take office July 1, succeeding Ruth Simmons. At Princeton, Paxson's scholarly work has been on the intersection of health care and economics. She came to Princeton in 1986, rising through the faculty ranks and leading the economics department as chair. Graduate students at the Woodrow Wilson School have given her five awards for teaching excellence.

Monday, March 5, 2012 - 4:28am

A few colleges, the Associated Press reports, have an optional part of undergraduate applications: a letter of recommendation from a parent. Officials say that they get unique details that only a parent might know, and sometimes reflections on a child date back to the time the applicant was in utero.

Monday, March 5, 2012 - 3:00am

Faculty leaders in the Texas A&M University System are protesting plans to outsource hundreds of nonacademic jobs, The Eagle of Bryan/College Station reported. A Faculty Senate letter says that many of those who will lose jobs are longtime employees, that many of them are minority, low-income individuals and that many will be hurt by failing to reach key vesting milestones in the state retirement system. But Chancellor John Sharp is defending the plans. "I'm trying very hard to find something I agree with in that letter and I just can't do it," Sharp said. "I will continue to do all I can to redirect monies where possible to classrooms and research, even though that is apparently opposed by the Faculty Senate."

Monday, March 5, 2012 - 3:00am

Sandra Fluke, a law student at Georgetown University, received a highly publicized call from President Obama after the conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh called her a "slut" (among other things) for backing the president's health-care proposal that would require employers to cover contraception. She also received a strong statement of support on Friday -- for her right to speak out without being slurred -- from the president of Georgetown.

The statement from John J. DeGioia, Georgetown's president, didn't endorse Fluke's point of view on the health law. DeGioia noted that many -- including, significantly for a Roman Catholic university like Georgetown, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops -- have offered differing perspectives. But he said that what deserved attention was the way Fluke spoke out, and the way others attacked her.

"She was respectful, sincere, and spoke with conviction. She provided a model of civil discourse. This expression of conscience was in the tradition of the deepest values we share as a people. One need not agree with her substantive position to support her right to respectful free expression," the Georgetown president wrote. "And yet, some of those who disagreed with her position – including Rush Limbaugh and commentators throughout the blogosphere and in various other media channels -- responded with behavior that can only be described as misogynistic, vitriolic, and a misrepresentation of the position of our student."

DeGioia quoted Saint Augustine, who said: "Let us, on both sides, lay aside all arrogance. Let us not, on either side, claim that we have already discovered the truth. Let us seek it together as something which is known to neither of us. For then only may we seek it, lovingly and tranquilly, if there be no bold presumption that it is already discovered and possessed." Added DeGioia: "If we, instead, allow coarseness, anger – even hatred – to stand for civil discourse in America, we violate the sacred trust that has been handed down through the generations beginning with our Founders. The values that hold us together as a people require nothing less than eternal vigilance. This is our moment to stand for the values of civility in our engagement with one another."

Limbaugh apologized for his statement on Saturday.

Monday, March 5, 2012 - 4:31am

A former student has sued Stonehill College, charging that it drove her into suicidal depression by failing to deal with a roommate who had sex in the room while the plaintiff was present, MSNBC reported. According to the suit, the college didn't respond to complaints or requests for a private room. A college spokeswoman said that Stonehill responded "swiftly and professionally" to complaints about the roommate in question, but was never informed that the "concerns involved her roommate's sexual activity."

Monday, March 5, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Dennis Gilbert of Hamilton College examines the murky definition of middle class in political rhetoric. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Monday, March 5, 2012 - 3:00am

The editor in chief of The Kansas State Collegian has apologized for the paper running an op-ed questioning the presence of international students on the campus. "[E]ditors should have raised concerns about the content and style of the column," wrote Caroline Sweeney, the editor in chief. The original column said that Kansas and federal funds were being used to educate foreign students, many of them from countries that don't always agree with the United States. "I have nothing against citizens from Afghanistan, China, Iran, Iraq or Turkey. I just truly believe that nearly $7 million of taxpayer money should not be spent to educate students who could, in the near future, become the enemy," wrote the student author of the piece, Sean Frye. The column outraged many international students and others at the university. The online version now features an apology from Frye, on top of the essay, in which he notes errors in his column. Among them, he didn't note that the university benefits financially from the international students, who pay much higher tuition rates than Kansans do. He also praised his resident adviser from last year, a Chinese student.

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