Higher Education Quick Takes
The 2012 Pulitzer Prizes were announced Monday, and a number of the winners have higher education connections.
The Harrisburg Patriot-News won the local reporting prize for "courageously revealing and adeptly covering the explosive Penn State sex scandal involving former football coach Jerry Sandusky." And John Sullivan, a senior lecturer in journalism at Northwestern University, co-led the team at The Philadelphia Inquirer that won the public service award for "exploration of pervasive violence in the city’s schools."
Academics tend to be well-represented among the winners in the Pulitzer's cultural categories, and this year was no exception:
- The late Manning Marable, who was the M. Moran Weston and Black Alumni Council Professor of African American Studies and a professor of history and public affairs at Columbia University when he died last year, won the prize for history for Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (Viking).
- John Lewis Gaddis, the Robert A. Lovett Professor of History at Yale University, won the prize for biography for George F. Kennan: An American Life (The Penguin Press).
- Tracy K. Smith, of the creative writing faculty at Princeton University, won the prize for poetry for Life on Mars (Graywolf Press).
- Stephen Greenblatt, the Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University, won the prize for general nonfiction for The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (W.W. Norton and Company).
- Kevin Puts, who is on the composition faculty of the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University, won the prize for music for "Silent Night: Opera in Two Acts."
The Modern Language Association has launched the Academic Workforce Data Center, making it easy to compare colleges on the percentages of their faculty jobs that are tenured, tenure-track, and non-tenure-track, as well as the share of those off the tenure track in full-time and part-time positions. The center provides federal information, college by college, from 1995 and 2009, to allow academics to also examine trends over time. The MLA project in some ways updates the work of a similar analysis in 2006 by the American Association of University Professors. The data provided by the MLA cover all academic disciplines, not just those in the modern languages.
During a recent radio appearance, Representative Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican who leads the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, said she has "very little tolerance" for students who borrowed tens of thousands of dollars to attend college. "I worked my way through," said Foxx, a former president of Mayland Community College in Spruce Pine, N.C., on G. Gordon Liddy's radio show. "It took me seven years. I never borrowed a dime of money... I have very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with $200,000 of debt or even $80,000 of debt because there’s no reason for that."
In the wake of an independent report that criticized the administration's and the police force's handling of a peaceful protest at the University of California at Davis, the chancellor has vowed that officials are "moving swiftly" on the issues raised. The report was an examination of why pepper spray was used on a non-violent protest (a move which the report found "objectively unreasonable"). In a statement, Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi said that parallel internal reports would soon be done on police officer conduct (possibly leading to personnel actions) and on police procedures. "Efforts to improve administrative coordination, collaboration and communication are also underway," she said. Katehi said that she would meet to discuss progress with authors of the outside report, and with others. "These actions are only a start; they will be part of a comprehensive action plan that will be shared with the campus community," she said.
Marijuana enthusiasts have long visited the University of Colorado at Boulder for a pot-smoking celebration on April 20. The university announced Monday that it would be shutting its campus to outsiders on April 20 this year -- part of a move to discourage the event. Students and employees will need identification cards to get on campus. “The gathering disrupts teaching and research right in the heart of the campus,” said CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano. “The size of the crowd has become unmanageable, and limits our faculty, staff and students from getting to class, entering buildings and doing their basic work. It needs to end.” A legal challenge to the campus restrictions is possible. Officials from the American Civil Liberties Union told The Denver Post that the annual event is not just a party, but a political protest against drug laws, and that public universities cannot bar peaceful protests (or peaceful protesters) from campuses.
Politecnico, a leading Italian university, is switching the language of instruction to English, The Independent reported. The rector, Giovanni Azzone, said that the shift would "contribute to the growth of the country" and "respond to the needs of businesses." While some academics are supporting the move, others are angry. Luca Serianni, a linguist at La Sapienza University, said the move was "excessive and not only in the ideological sense."
California State University campuses are withholding grants to about 20,000 graduate students with financial need, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The grants typically cover tuition for the students, and Cal State is instead offering the students a federal loan with a 6.8 percent interest rate. Cal State officials cite looming state budget cuts, which they say require them to hold on to their cash for now, while they consider all options. Graduate students say that many be unable to enroll without the grants. One student told the newspaper: "I was horrified. I started crying once I realized it was happening to everyone."
Fitch Ratings, which analyzes some colleges' credit worthiness, on Friday released an analysis challenging the idea that tuition increases are doing damage to many Americans' ability to enroll, and to higher education generally. "[T]he increase in cost of attendance at U.S. colleges and universities, which began during the mid-1990s and accelerated through the end of the past decade, has not yet had a meaningful impact on enrollment at most institutions," the ratings service said. "The lack of a negative enrollment trend, we believe, underscores fundamentally robust societal demand for postsecondary education and the non-discretionary nature of a college degree."
Athletic cuts at the University of Maryland at College Park have already received considerable attention, but an article in The Washington Post notes that one of the teams slated for elimination is part of a trend that Maryland pioneered -- competitive cheer. Supporters view the athletic accomplishments of squad members on par with those of many other sports, but the activity has struggled for recognition, especially as related to federal gender-equity rules.