Higher Education Quick Takes
A professor at the University of Texas at Austin is facing questions about his credibility after a nonprofit watchdog group said that he did not reveal ties to a drilling company as he led a study on hydraulic fracturing that found that the process produced no groundwater contamination. “UT promoted the study as an independent inquiry into fracking’s environmental risks, but PAI found that the study was actually led by a gas industry insider and UT faculty member, Charles ‘Chip’ Groat, who sits on the board of fracker Plains Exploration & Production (PXP),” according to the introduction to the report by the Public Accountability Initiative, the watchdog group.
After the watchdog group published its report, the Austin American-Statesman reviewed SEC filings and found that Groat had been paid $413,900 in cash and stock by the company last year and holds $1.6 million of the company’s stock. Groat called the report a mix of truth, half-truths and unfounded conclusions, according to StateImpact, an NPR project with local public radio stations that examines public policy issues. The university said Tuesday that it would ask outside experts to review the fracking study, according to StateImpact.
The Public Accountability Initiative recently raised questions about a study on fracking at the State University of New York at Buffalo, as more and more universities become battlegrounds for debates over the issue.
The American Bar Association has ordered the law school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to pay $250,000 as a punishment for producing years of false statistics to be used by ranking agencies and prospective students, The Wall Street Journal reported. The statistics were about the qualifications and admission rates for entering classes. The law school went public with the story last year, and corrected the data.
Peter Burnham, the former president of New Jersey's Brookdale Community College, on Tuesday admitted that he used college funds for personal expenses, and faces a five-year prison sentence as a result, The Star-Ledger reported. The personal expenses included personal hotel bills, clothing, electronics, alcohol and groceries. Further, the investigation found that Burnham urged his son to apply for a federal student loan to pay his tuition at Monmouth University, even though the son's tuition was already paid by the college as part of the president's employment contract.
A women's rights organization in China is accusing some universities of lowering minimum entrance-exam score requirements for male applicants, Xinhua reported. The organization cited Beijing Foreign Studies University for having a minimum admission score of 639 for women in Beijing who apply as German majors at the university, while for men it is 598. The group also said that Renmin University of China has set a minimum score in four language majors of 601 for male applicants but 614 for female applicants.
Spurred in part by a critical audit of the American system of monitoring student visas, a group of U.S. senators said Tuesday that they would introduce legislation aimed at tightening controls on institutions that enroll foreign students. The comments by Sen. Charles Schumer and others came at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which followed last week's release of a Government Accountability Office report finding that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which manages the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, has inadequate processes in place to investigate, identify and combat fraud.
Officials at the University of California at Davis will investigate accusations that two physicians at the university conducted unauthorized research on dying brain cancer patients, the Sacramento Bee reported. The newspaper reported Sunday on the alleged research, and Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi told the paper that the institution would conduct a "comprehensive review."
Protesters gathered on Saturday at Colby College and called for the resignation of Bob Diamond, chair of the college's board of trustees -- and until recently, chief executive officer of the British bank Barclays, which is embroiled in a interest-rate fixing scandal. Diamond resigned from his position at Barclays on July 3, a week after the bank was fined $450 million for attempting to fix the interest rate at which London banks lend to each other (abbreviated Libor) to profit on trading and also to make its borrowing costs look better during the financial crisis.
Protesters also wanted the college to say that millions of dollars in donations to the college came from alleged illegal profits he accrued while at Barclays. According to the Kennebec Journal, Diamond, a 1973 Colby graduate, donated about $14 million in recent years.
Michael Kiser, vice president for communications at the college, said the protesters were allowed to meet in front of the campus's Diamond Building, which was built after Diamond gave $6 million toward the construction of a social sciences and interdisciplinary studies building in 2003. He said the protest was not indicative of the larger Colby community's response to the scandal, adding that some alumni have contacted the college with questions, but not complaints.
Kiser said the protests don't reflect the college's stance, either: "We don't see any change in Bob's relationship to the college," Kiser said. "He's a stalwart alum."
Bain & Co. on Monday published a report and a database that the consulting company says show that a third of colleges in the country are on an unsustainable financial path. The report by the company, which has been increasing its profile in higher education by advising college and university administrations on where and how to restructure their budgets, argues that institutional debt is too handily outpacing revenues and educational expenditures.
The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating Universal Technical Institute over a former employee's complaint about potential violations of rules prohibiting incentive compensation in student recruiting as well as other potential violations, according to a corporate filing. The for-profit, which specializes in automotive technician training, also disclosed that the same former employee has claimed to have been subjected to retaliation by the company for being a whistleblower. The company said the employee was terminated for performance rather than for any retaliatory reason.