The State Board of Higher Education in North Dakota voted Monday to buy out the contract of Hamid Shirvani, the system chancellor, The Bismarck Tribune reported. Shirvani has faced a series of conflicts in the state in which various campus and political officials have questioned his managerial style. He has maintained that he was hired to push a reform agenda, knowing that some would disagree. He said that he respected the board's decision, and that he had asked board members to either issue a strong show of support or to “please just buy out my contract and thank you very much."
Higher Education Quick Takes
The University of Chicago and the Marine Biological Laboratory, in Woods Hole, Mass., are moving toward a partnership that would involve substantial collaboration but keep the laboratory a freestanding institution. The laboratory's corporation -- largely made up of scientists who currently or formerly used the facilities there -- voted to endorse the move this weekend, and that sets the stage for negotiations over a formal agreement between the boards of the two institutions. The laboratory has been looking for an affiliation that might give it a more stable financial basis, and the University of Chicago has a history of working with laboratories (such as Argonne National Laboratory) that are closely affiliated but not owned by the university. Currently much of the activity at the laboratory takes place in the summer and one possibility for a collaboration is more support that would allow for a full program of teaching and research year-round.
American Commercial Colleges, a for-profit higher education business in Texas, has agreed to pay the federal government up to $2.5 million to settle claims that it falsely certified that it was in compliance with certain requirements to receive federal student aid. A statement on the settlement from the Justice Department said that American Commercial Colleges had "orchestrated certain short-term private student loans" that the college repaid in order to appear to comply with the "90/10" rule. That rule requires that colleges seeking to participate in federal student aid programs receive at least 10 percent of their revenues from sources other than federal student aid. H. Grady Terrill, a lawyer for American Commercial Colleges, told The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that he anticipated the institutions soon reapplying for authority to operate.
Washington University in St. Louis has agreed to stop using cats in medical training, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The university has used cats to teach medical students how to place a tube in an infant's throat. Animal-rights groups have been focusing on Washington University, saying that most other medical schools have replaced the use of cats with mannequins. The former television host Bob Barker, a longtime animal rights advocate, in April said he would pay for the mannequins if the university would stop using cats.
Some groups of Roman Catholics regularly criticize Catholic colleges and universities for not being (in the views of these groups) Catholic enough. And plenty of bishops have from time to time criticized certain commencement speakers or campus events. But in what may be a new tactic, William Peter Blatty, best known as author of the novel and film The Exorcist, on Friday filed a complaint against Georgetown University with Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who oversees the archdiocese of Washington. In the complaint, Blatty charges that Georgetown is so insufficiently Catholic that the cardinal should either force changes or force the institution to stop calling itself Catholic. The complaint has not been released, but is 198 pages and 124 "witness statements." The Cardinal Newman Society, which pushes Catholic colleges to closely adhere to what it considers to be Catholic teachings, also supplied a 120-page "dossier" on Georgetown, also not released. In a statement, Blatty said that Georgetown has become a "Potemkin village" of Catholicism.
A spokeswoman for Georgetown said that the institution has not seen the complaint and so can't comment. But Georgetown officials -- when faced with similar criticisms in the past -- have noted that Georgetown has masses every day (up to seven on Sunday) and a wide range of programs that reflect the university's Catholic and Jesuit identity.
Ivy Tech Community College -- a well-regarded statewide network in Indiana -- is considering closing up to 20 of its 72 campus locations, The Indianapolis Star reported. The system is facing a $68 million deficit, the result of several years in which enrollment increased substantially without the colleges' receiving per-student appropriations sufficient to keep up with the growth.
Study abroad officials are carefully tracking events in Turkey, where large protests in Istanbul and elsewhere have led to clashes with police. Syracuse University has 20 students in Istanbul, about to finish up a semester program. Margaret Himley, associate provost for international education and engagement, said via e-mail that students are scheduled to leave Sunday and "we are carefully monitoring the situation and talking with students about what these demonstrations mean and about what precautions they should be taking." A number of other institutions have summer programs about to start in Turkey. Jim Butterfield, a professor of political science at Western Michigan University, said that he is scheduled to accompany five students to Istanbul in three weeks. He said that "we're monitoring developments." Julie Anne Friend, associate director for international safety and security at Northwestern University, which will be sending students to Turkey for a program that starts July 1, said via e-mail that "we are not considering suspension at this time, but will, of course continue to monitor the situation."
The faculty union at the University of Hawaii System on Friday issued a letter denouncing the National Education Association, with which it was until recently affiliated. The letter -- "To NEA: Thank you for trying to destroy our union" -- says that since the leaders of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly voted to end its affiliation with the NEA, the national union has "bombarded" the local union with visits, seeking to cast doubt on the decision. The Hawaii union also says that the NEA has been threatening to encourage a "decertification" vote, which would end the local union's collective bargaining rights.
The letter is unusually critical for a public statement by one union against another. "We realize you need our $686,649 in annual dues because your membership is dropping. NEA has been reorganizing and laying off staff. Your clout must be slipping. President Obama sent Joe Biden, his Vice President, to your annual meeting last year. I guess if you want to see Obama, you’ll have to come out here to Hawaii and wait in line with him for shave ice (it’s a local thing). With a strong six-year contract in place, we tend to forget that UHPA leaders negotiated the contract without NEA help, and that 89 percent of our members stood up to the university administration when it thought we would cave in to a weak offer."
A statement from the NEA states that it wants to see all members of the Hawaii union vote on disaffiliation, rather than just leaders of the union. The statement says that many University of Hawaii faculty members want to remain affiliated with the NEA, but haven't had an opportunity to participate in the decision about affiliation. A spokesman for the NEA denied that there is any effort to decertify the local union.
On Saturday, the board of the Hawaii union voted to sustain its earlier decision and to end the NEA affiliation.
New data on an early MOOC course offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are being released today in the journal Research and Practice in Assessment. The data are about the course Circuits and Electronics, which already has been the subject of some analysis. In an article in the journal, researchers reported on the use of course resources by those who earned certificates (greatest use on weekends, when students presumably had more time and just before assignments were due), the use of discussion boards (most students were lurkers, and viewed others comments without adding any of their own), and the countries of origin of students, based on IP addresses and perhaps not completely accurate as a result (greatest enrollments from the United States, followed by India, Britain, Colombia and Spain).