Higher Education Quick Takes
Victoria Reggie Kennedy, a lawyer, activist and the widow of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, will speak at a commencement ceremony of a Roman Catholic college this graduation season after all. Anna Maria College rescinded an investigation to Kennedy when a local bishop objected to her appearance because she favors legal access to abortion and birth control. But Boston College's law school has announced that it has invited Kennedy to speak at its commencement, the Associated Press reported. Vincent Rougeau, dean of the law school, said Kennedy has been a "powerful advocate for the powerless" on issues such as education and gun control.
Legislation enacted in California in 2010 was supposed to assure smooth transfer from community colleges to California State University campuses, both by requiring the community colleges to create more transfer programs and the university system to make students who complete certain requirements automatically eligible for junior status. A new report by the Legislative Analyst's Office has found progress -- but only partial progress -- in meeting the goals. The community colleges are urged to create more transfer programs, and the Cal State system is urged to maximize the number of degree programs to which these transfer credits can provide junior-level status.
The Indian Cabinet on Thursday cleared two key pieces of higher education legislation that now can move forward for Parliamentary review, The Times of India reported. One bill would require accreditation for all higher education institutions. The other bill would set a process for designating some universities as research excellence hubs.
Ithaca College announced Thursday that it will no longer require undergraduate applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores. The college's announcement said that officials believed a test-optional approach was consistent with Ithaca's commitment to holistic reviews of applications. Further, the college statement said that "research on our past applicant pools and the performance of IC students demonstrates that a student’s standardized test score adds little predictive accuracy in understanding his or her subsequent success at Ithaca College." The college will continue to require test scores from applicants who were home-schooled or who attended high schools that do not give out letter grades.
Adjuncts at Utah Valley University are blasting what they call a "purging policy," which makes them re-apply for work -- even if they are teaching the same courses from semester to semester, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. The adjuncts, who say they already earn much less than full-timers and enjoy less job security, say that the requirement is demeaning and time-consuming. University administrators say that the application helps them collect data, and that department heads are free to keep hiring adjuncts who fill out the form. But one adjunct wrote in an op-ed in the student newspaper: "Instead of recognizing our essential contribution, the university not only discriminates against us, it humiliates us."
April 1 is typically the date many student newspapers run joke issues, and some of the jokes offend various groups. At the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, the tradition of The UMass Lowell Connector is to run a joke issue called The Disconnector on the last day of classes. The Lowell Sun reported that many students are outraged by an issue that was "rife with profanity" and "features a grotesque string of ribald tweets supposedly ripped from the actual Twitterverse, jokey items about gays, immigrants and race, a guide to the best brands of college booze, as well as an entire article filled with the excessive repetition of a derogatory term for a woman's anatomy." Megan Headley, the editor-in-chief, said she is sorry that some are offended, "but it's just a joke paper, and it's not meant to be taken seriously."
Nakba, the Arabic word for "catastrophe," is the name given by Palestinians to the day Israelis mark their anniversary as a nation. Tel Aviv University, resisting pressure from government officials and others, is permitting a student group to have a "Nakba Day" event today, The Jerusalem Post reported. Critics say that universities, as they are supported by the Israeli government, should not associate with activities many see as questioning the right of the Israeli state to exist, and Israeli law bars the use of public funds for such activities. The education minister called university officials to lobby them to cancel the event. University officials said that they were complying with the law by requiring the student organizers to pay for the event and associated security costs.
Students who set up the event said that free speech should include important discussions of the Palestinian perspective. Dan Walfisch, a history and philosophy major and an organizer of the ceremony, said of the event: "It will not include rejection of Israel’s right to exist. Our goal is only to recognize the suffering of the Palestinian people because we see mutual recognition as a condition of having a shared existence in Israel.”
A crash in New Zealand killed three Boston University students early Saturday and injured five others. The students were on a weekend trip to the countryside when the van in which they were traveling swerved off the road and crashed. Boston University has a study abroad program in Auckland, in which the students were participating (except for one of the injured students, who was participating in a BU program in Australia). Boston University has added extra counseling services for students on its main campus. Two New Zealand universities with which the BU program there is affiliated -- University of Auckland and the Auckland University of Technology -- have extended their counseling services to BU students who are studying abroad in the country.
A report Wednesday night in a reliable Texas blog that some members of the University of Texas Board of Regents were maneuvering to fire Bill Powers as president of the Austin campus had students and faculty members rallying behind Powers on Thursday. Regents who are close to Governor Rick Perry are reportedly angry that Powers has argued for small tuition increases for his campus, rather than the tuition freeze requested by Perry. Powers has also defended his faculty members from criticisms made by a think tank with close ties to Perry. Hours after the blog post revealed the tensions, students had created Facebook pages to line up support. In less than 24 hours, I Stand With Bill Powers had nearly 10,000 members, most of them students and alumni.
Many wrote that they trusted Powers's views of the university's budget needs and that they worried about the impact of the board rejecting his tuition requests or firing him. One woman who graduated last year wrote: "I full-heartedly support President Bill Powers as the President of our esteemed university. I know that if he leaves, the results will be devastating. There would be no top-quality candidate that would wish to work at a university where politics play such a heavy handed role, and where such a leader is not free to voice his opinion without fear of retaliation. President Powers has been an incredible driving force in raising the standard, rigor, and value of a University of Texas degree, and should continue to do so."
Faculty leaders were circulating a resolution Thursday, on which they hope to vote Monday, to back Powers. "Recognizing the extraordinary efforts exerted by UT Austin President Bill Powers and his administrative team in support of the recent proposal for a modest, well-documented, and crucial tuition increase, the Faculty Council strongly commends them for seeking to protect and enhance the quality of our students' education and the value of their degrees, as well as the research and public service achievements of the faculty. The fact that the regents ultimately rejected the proposal diminishes neither the campus's need for such financial support nor the efforts made to attain it," the resolution says.
Late Thursday, Powers released a short statement: "I love The University of Texas, and it’s an honor to serve as its president. I am deeply grateful for the support of our students, faculty, staff, and the thousands of members of the UT family. I will continue to work with the entire UT community to move the university forward. At this moment, I am focused on the more than 8,000 students who will graduate next week and make immeasurable contributions to society -- extending the university’s legacy of excellence and our positive impact on Texas."