Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 31, 2014

A Michigan Senate subcommittee has proposed taking $500,000 away from Michigan State University's budget if it continues to run a training program for unions, The Lansing State Journal reported. Language in the budget bill would punish universities that if they “participate in any instructional activity that encourages or discourages union organizing of employees.” A number of public universities have such programs, and supporters note that most universities offer extensive programming for business leaders on a range of topics, including labor relations. The blog of the American Association of University Professors calls the budget provision a "major attack on academic freedom in Michigan."

 

 

March 31, 2014

Pearson Embanet could earn up to $186 million over 11 years from its deal to manage the new University of Florida online college, The Gainesville Sun reported. The article details efforts by the university to keep many details (including how Pearson Embanet's performance will be judged) private, saying that they are trade secrets.

 

March 28, 2014

A faculty member at Lone Star College taught the wrong chemistry course for a semester, KHOU News reported. The television station told the story of an A student surprised to find she was failing introductory chemistry. But the professor eventually said that she had been teaching a more advanced course. The student said that the professor made up for the situation by raising everyone's grade. The college and professor aren't commenting, but KHOU confirmed the story with another student in the class and through an email in which a department chair said that teaching the more advanced course was not intentional.

 

March 28, 2014

The University of Konstanz, in Germany, has halted negotiations with Elsevier over a new deal on journals, Science Insider reported. Officials said that the prices being offered were simply too high to justify continued negotiations. Elsevier declined to comment.

 

March 28, 2014

Williams College has agreed to pay $86,000 to settle a lawsuit over tips it withheld, The Berkshire Eagle reported. Payments of $40 to $6,000 will go to 58 current and former waiters and bartenders who worked for the college's dining service. The suit claimed that the college was imposing a mandatory service charge, suggesting that the funds were used in place of tips, but that the funds were never given to the staff members. The settlement stipulates that the college denies wrongdoing.

 

March 28, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Neil Johnson, professor of physics at the University of Miami, discusses the patterns of children's cries and how he used that information to make some interesting conclusions. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

March 28, 2014

The president of Al-Quds University, an Arab university in the West Bank, announced his retirement on Wednesday, three days after hundreds of Hamas supporters held a protest on campus, Haaretz reported. In a statement, Sari Nusseibeh, Al-Quds’ president for 20 years and a leading Palestinian political moderate, cited his age and long tenure in office as his reasons for retiring and said he would stay on as a philosophy professor. 

An earlier Islamist rally on the Al-Quds campus cost the university its partnerships with Brandeis and Syracuse Universities. Brandeis suspended its partnership following a November demonstration in which protestors reportedly used the traditional Nazi salute and honored “martyred” suicide bombers. A report authored by faculty affiliated with Brandeis's International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life has called for the resumption of the partnership

March 28, 2014

The University of Iowa has turned down a request from HBO to film "Girls" on campus, The Iowa City Press-Citizen reported. Hannah Horvath, the lead fictional character in the show, has recently been accepted to Iowa's very real Writers Workshop. But details of the plot lines that would be pursued at Iowa were not available, and university officials declined to elaborate on why they turned down the request.

 

March 27, 2014

South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Glen McConnell says he can overcome the backlash that erupted after he was named the next president of the College of Charleston, a public liberal arts college. McConnell, who has been criticized for not being an academic and for his affiliation with Confederate historical causes, said time as leader of the state Senate taught him how to bring together divided constituencies. McConnell, a former student government president at the college, said students who staged a protest after his selection that was the largest in recent memory just need to get to know him. “Most of those people have never met me,” he said. ”They don’t know anything about me. They just know what somebody told them. When you operate on a misconception, then you don’t know the truth.” (McConnell did not respond to a request for an interview for the story linked to above, but reached out after it was published Wednesday.)

The student government has already taken a “no confidence” vote in the college’s trustees. The Faculty Senate is expected to take one next month. One of the concerns is that McConnell got the job through a rigged search process – he was selected despite not being one of the search committee’s finalists, according local media reports. McConnell said in a phone interview he didn’t know for sure about that.

Faculty also worry the trustees are looking to merge the college with a separate state-run medical school in Charleston. McConnell said he wants to expand the College of Charleston's research and post-graduate work to ensure that the state doesn’t force a merger. “I’m a product of a liberal arts college – the College of Charleston,” he said.

Faculty also say the board did not do enough to stick up for academic freedom after the state’s House moved to dock the college’s allowance over freshman reading material that lawmakers found to be gay-themed and therefore offensive. The book, Fun Home, is a memoir by a lesbian; it has been widely acclaimed and was recently turned into a musical. McConnell said he believes in academic freedom but would have handled the situation differently and not gotten into a tussle with House lawmakers and instead promised to take their concerns back to the faculty. But, he said, it’s not his job to tell faculty which books to assign. “Look,” he said. “I’m not qualified to tell a professor what to teach in their course.”

March 27, 2014

The University of South Florida backed off of plans to hire Steve Masiello as head basketball coach after finding out that he never earned the bachelor's degree he claimed to have from the University of Kentucky, The Tampa Tribune reported. The search firm used by the university for the search uncovered the falsehood. (Masiello attended but never graduated from Kentucky.) South Florida requires its head coaches to have bachelor's degrees. Masiello hasn't commented on the issue, but he may now be in danger at his current institution, Manhattan College, where his official biography has included the degree from Kentucky. The New York Daily News reported that Masiello has been placed on leave. A statement from the college said:  "As a result of a background check commissioned by the University of South Florida, Manhattan College has learned there is a question of the validity of head men’s basketball coach Steve Masiello’s undergraduate degree from the University of Kentucky. Masiello is currently in the process of reviewing his degree status with the University of Kentucky. Manhattan College has placed Masiello on leave while he completes this process with the university."

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