Higher Education Quick Takes
Graham Spanier, former president of Pennsylvania State University, on Friday sued the university to demand access to e-mail records from 1998 to 2004, The Patriot-News reported. The records were thought to have been destroyed when the university switched e-mail systems, but the e-mail files recently have been recovered. Spanier's suit says that he didn't have access to the files when he testified before a grand jury looking into alleged molestation of boys by Jerry Sandusky, a former football coach. Much of the molestation allegedly took place on Penn State's campus, and the issue of what senior administrators knew has become a major issue in the case against Sandusky and (potentially) other cases. Spanier's suit says he cannot meet with independent investigators looking into the case without access to the old e-mail messages, but Penn State says that it has been informed by a state assistant attorney general that it should not turn over the records.
The State Department on Friday issued revised visa guidance on visa rules for those who work at Confucius Institutes, which are supported by the Chinese government and operate at many campuses in the United States. The new guidance essentially reversed earlier guidance that would have been very difficult for many of the centers. For instance, the earlier guidance said that the Confucius Institutes would need separate accreditation if their offerings weren't part of the language offerings of the universities at which they are located. The new guidance says that the university's overall accreditation is sufficient. Generally, institutes whose employees were receiving visas prior to now should be fine.
Adjuncts at Kalamazoo Valley Community College have voted, 162 to 38, to unionize, The Kalamazoo Gazette reported. The new union will be affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers. Catherine Barnard, a part-time psychology instructor for 15 years, explained the union push this way: "Years of service and dedication to our students should be rewarded. We have earned the right to fair compensation, academic freedom, and timely semester appointments. Our level of education, professionalism, and commitment to our students is equivalent to that of the full-time tenured faculty."
University of Chicago officials are condemning recent events at which fraternities planned activities that were disparaging of Latinos and women, The Chicago Sun-Times reported. In one case, a fraternity had pledges wear sombreros and mow the house lawn while Latin music played. Another fraternity announced a party with the theme "Conquistadors and Aztec Hoes."
In today’s Academic Minute, Brick Johnstone of the University of Missouri explains efforts to pinpoint the location of the religious experience through brain imaging. In Monday's Academic Minute, Bridget Chesterton of the State University of New York College at Buffalo discussed the common experience of European immigration to the Americas. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
The University of Michigan is seeking to join a federal suit challenging a new Michigan law that bars graduate research assistants from unionizing, The Detroit Free Press reported. The move to join the suit is somewhat unusual in that Michigan's senior administrators have spoken out against the unionization of research assistants during a recent organizing drive at the university. The administrators maintain that the graduate students who work as research assistants should be seen as students, not employees. And that was the same rationale cited by Republican legislators who pushed the new law. But the University of Michigan Board of Regents is controlled by Democrats, who back union rights for the graduate students, and who opted to have the university join the suit.
A new website called Not in My Country has been created to allow for reports of corruption, harassment or incompetence at universities in Uganda, The Wall Street Journal reported. The idea behind the website -- which also includes faculty ratings similar to RateMyProfessor.com in the United States -- is that a system for anonymous reporting is badly needed for higher education in the country.
When the University of Missouri System announced on Thursday that it was shutting down the University of Missouri Press, initial response was muted. Employees of the press did not return calls, and the university said that it could not identify the faculty advisory committee for the press. The university said that it couldn't continue to subsidize the press, which currently receives about $400,000 annually.
Over the holiday weekend, however, opposition started to materialize. A Facebook page -- Save the University of Missouri Press -- appeared Monday. One post there: "As an alumnus of the University of Missouri, I am disappointed and angry to learn that you have decided to close the University of Missouri Press. Where are your priorities? What has happened to the school’s standing as the state’s flagship university? Is the institution to be known more and more only for its athletic programs? Will Truman State become known as Missouri’s university most interested in academics?" (Truman State has a university press.)
Letters to the editor are also appearing in local publications, questioning why a $400,000 subsidy would be out of the question at a university that pays its head football coach $2.7 million.
The American Association of University Professors announced Thursday that it has authorized a committee to investigate a decision by Southern University at Baton Rouge last year to declare a financial exigency and a proposed reorganization that could lead to at least 35 faculty members losing their jobs. “The declaration of financial exigency and the reorganization plan went forward without adequate faculty input,” said Jennifer Nichols, senior program officer at the AAUP. “The declaration of this exigency gives the administrators more leeway in terminating tenured faculty members.” Nichols said that at least 10 tenured faculty members had received notices of termination so far.
According to The Advocate in Baton Rouge, the restructuring aims to cut about $8 million from the university’s budget in the next school year. Employees at the university were subjected to furloughs for the current fiscal year.
Administrators at the university have said that state budget cuts made the declaration of a financial emergency and a reorganization necessary, and they received input from faculty members during the process.
Robert J. Birgeneau, the chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley, on Thursday issued a statement opposing a proposed state constitutional amendment that would limit out-of-state (including international) enrollment to 10 percent -- roughly twice the limit Berkeley uses. "Our policy of increasing non-resident undergraduate enrollment to 20 percent of our student body is crucial to ensuring a predictable and reliable revenue stream and maintaining affordability for our California students while also enriching the educational experience for our students," Birgeneau wrote. "Students from other parts of the United States, and from around the world, are valuable members of the Cal community and it has been my long-held view that an increase in out-of-state and international undergraduate students is a critical educational goal at Berkeley. In addition to generating funds for educational support and financial aid, they also bring perspectives, experiences, and cultures to the campus, that benefit all students."
State Senator Michael Rubio, who proposed the amendment, said that he wanted to ensure that "California students get a fair shot at attending our University of California system -- and not be turned away simply because a wealthy student from the East Coast or abroad shows up with a checkbook in hand."