Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, December 19, 2011 - 3:00am

The Houston Athletics Foundation, an endowment that supports athletics programs at the University of Houston, lost more than 40 percent of its assets to a Ponzi scheme, the Associated Press reported. More than $2.2 million of the endowment's $5.1 million had been invested with a financial adviser for college basketball coaches who is believed to have set up the scheme and who committed suicide last summer.

 

Monday, December 19, 2011 - 3:00am

The University of Michigan on Friday promoted news coverage of an open letter on college costs by Mary Sue Coleman, president of the institution, to President Obama. "Higher education is a public good currently lacking public support. There is no stronger trigger for rising costs at public universities and colleges than declining state support," Coleman wrote. In the letter, she praised Obama for recently gathering a small group of college presidents to talk about college costs. But in offering this public advice to Obama, Coleman didn't note that she was one of the presidents invited to the White House, but sent her regrets. A spokeswoman said that Coleman's "schedule wouldn't permit" her to join the White House meeting.

 

Monday, December 19, 2011 - 3:00am

The faculty, key administrators and the board of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have all now approved a new system for faculty governance, potentially ending a long conflict between faculty leaders and President Shirley Ann Jackson. The dispute over faculty governance started in 2006, when the Faculty Senate voted to extend voting rights to non-tenure-track faculty members and the administration objected, saying that the Faculty Senate could not do so, given the role of faculty committees in topics such as tenure review. As the dispute escalated, RPI killed the body, replaced it with a new interim body, and was widely criticized by faculty groups such as the American Association of University Professors. The new constitution for faculty governance authorizes the election of non-tenure-track faculty members for some seats in the Faculty Senate and on some (but not all) committees.

The Albany Times Union reported that the adoption of the new constitution may signal an improvement of relations between professors and Jackson, although the article noted that the student government at RPI recently asked the institute's board to remove Jackson (a request the board rejected). The Times Union also noted that RPI's accreditor, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, has been pushing for a restoration of a faculty governance system.

 

Friday, December 16, 2011 - 4:29am

The Pentagon -- responding to criticism from Congress and higher education associations -- has agreed to delay by 90 days (until March 30) new rules on tuition benefits for service members. A letter to senators who opposed the new rules said that the additional time will be used to deal with concerns various groups have expressed. Many colleges say that the guidelines go too far in prescribing how programs must award academic credit and process student payments, among other issues. And many fear that the system -- if used for service members -- could be extended to veterans or other groups of students.

 
Friday, December 16, 2011 - 4:34am

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has arrested a student at Loyola University in New Orleans, charging that she threatened to blow up a building and to kill five professors -- all to avoid taking a test, The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported. The first of two e-mail threats said: "Mamba pistol with five bullets in it for five professors in Monroe Hall.... I have no sympathy for any accidental casualties!!!" The second e-mail said: "You are really trying my patience! I am on the verge of blowing that bitch up and you'll be renovating from the foundation!" The student, who is free on bail, denies intending to harm anyone and says that the messages were a joke.

 

Friday, December 16, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Michael Bergman of Bard College at Simon’s Rock describes one of the Earth’s most extreme environments, its inner core. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.


 
Friday, December 16, 2011 - 3:00am

The National Institutes of Health announced Thursday that it is accepting an Institute of Medicine panel's recommendations to cut back on most research involving chimpanzees. A statement by Francis S. Collins, director of the NIH, noted that scientists have valued research with chimpanzees as "the closest relatives" to humans. And he said key medical advances have been based in part on work with the animals. "However, new methods and technologies developed by the biomedical community have provided alternatives to the use of chimpanzees in several areas of research," he said. While further research with chimpanzees may still be needed in a few key areas, the NIH wants to move away from supporting work where the use of chimpanzees is not truly necessary, he said. While the NIH is developing procedures to to adopt this approach, the agency will not make new awards for research involving chimps.

 

 

Friday, December 16, 2011 - 3:00am

It turns out that Tiger Mother may be almost a pushover compared to Wolf Dad, the nickname of Xiao Baiyou, who has written a book about how he managed to get three of his four children prepared for and admitted to Peking University, NPR reported. He told his story in a book originally titled Beat Them Into Peking University. He extols the values of discipline. "I have more than a thousand rules: specific detailed rules about how to hold your chopsticks and your bowl, how to pick up food, how to hold a cup, how to sleep, how to cover yourself with a quilt," Xiao said. "If you don't follow the rules, then I must beat you."

Friday, December 16, 2011 - 3:00am

Governor Rick Scott on Thursday called for the board of Florida A&M University to suspend James Ammons as president, The Orlando Sentinel reported. The Florida A&M board reprimanded Ammons this week, but stopped short of suspending him, amid an investigation into a hazing-related death of a student from the university's marching band. The governor's announcement came shortly after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced that it was investigating "fraud and/or misconduct" in connection with its inquiry into the student's death. Ammons has said that he is working hard to prevent hazing.

 

Friday, December 16, 2011 - 3:00am

A committee of the Pennsylvania Legislature has recommended expanding the reach of two-year colleges in rural counties, and has proposed a new state institution that would include multiple campuses or learning centers. The Pennsylvania Commission on Community Colleges isn't sold on the idea, arguing that its members already offer the services the proposed college would. The commission also questioned whether a new institution would be the "best use of the state's limited funds."

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