Higher Education Quick Takes
Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, on Sunday evening vowed at a closed-door fund-raising event that he would substantially shrink the Education Department if he is elected, NBC News reported. In his campaign, Romney has not made many policy proposals on education. But he was more detailed Sunday in outlining two possibilities for the Education Department. "The Department of Education: I will either consolidate with another agency, or perhaps make it a heck of a lot smaller. I'm not going to get rid of it entirely," Romney said. He said that one reason to keep the agency was to have a federal role in pushing back against teachers' unions.
Officials at Thompson Rivers University, in Canada, are apologizing for the actions of a staff member who tore down a student's photograph (part of a student exhibition) showing a woman in Islamic dress and holding a bra, CBC News reported. The woman in the photograph has her face and body covered, and is holding and looking at a bra. Saudi officials have criticized the photograph. A statement from Thompson Rivers said that "the university is committed to honoring artistic expression and on a campus with many international stakeholders it is important that we balance cultural sensitivity with freedom of speech, and we value the conversations that this piece of art and all our others inspire."
Iowa Republicans, like their counterparts in Virginia, are questioning the policy of public universities using some of their tuition revenue to pay for aid for low-income students, The Des Moines Register reported. Republican lawmakers say that the policy (common nationally) of paying for some student aid with tuition revenue makes it more difficult for middle class families, who don't qualify for the aid. State Senator Brad Zaun told the Register: "I want this program eliminated. I am hearing from many people that are shocked and did not know this was happening.”
The University of California at San Diego has agreed to institute new procedures to prevent racial harassment and to investigate allegations of such harassment, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The moves settled investigations by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education. The inquiries started after several racial incidents, including a "Compton cookout," an off-campus party that mocked Black History Month by having students dress in the stereotypical attire of poor black people.
The Middle East Studies Association has written a letter to the Ministry of Justice in Bahrain to object to the treatment of students and faculty members in the country. The letter details the arrests of numerous students on "ambiguous" charges, as well as arrests and suspensions of professors at the University of Bahrain. "The appalling maltreatment of these university personnel is part of what we are forced to conclude has been an orchestrated campaign of assaults upon academic freedom," the letter says. Bahrain's embassy in the United States did not respond to a request for comment.
The Canadian government has slashed funds that have supported Canadian studies programs in the United States, The Vancouver Observer reported. "This is the first year in history that the government has denied funding dozens of grant applications from across the U.S.," said Nadine Fabbi, associate director of Canadian studies at the University of Washington. "These grants have significantly strengthened Canada's voice in the U.S. on issues that range from the Keystone XL pipeline to water resources to Arctic sovereignty."
The former student editors of the University of Missouri at Columbia newspaper had faced campus discipline because their April 1 parody edition included a slur against lesbians, the Student Press Law Center reported, before the university canceled those hearings. The managing editor, Abby Spudich, resigned this week after apologizing for jokingly retitling The Maneater as The Carpeteater. She said she didn't know that was an offensive phrase for lesbians. The editor in chief, Travis Cornejo, resigned shortly after that.
That seemed to be the end of it until Missouri's Office of Student Conduct contacted both former editors to schedule disciplinary hearings. The Maneater is an independent student publication. It wasn't immediately clear what university policy Spudich and Cornejo were accused of breaking. Students convicted of violating the university's standards of conduct can be suspended or expelled. The Student Press Law Center called on Missouri to drop the hearings, saying the language in the newspaper is protected by the First Amendment even if it was offensive. University officials didn't say why they canceled the disciplinary hearing.
StraighterLine today announced that it is building a "next generation market" for its low-price online offerings, according to a news release. Burck Smith, the founder and CEO, said via e-mail that the new platform would allow students to "build their own course pathways by choosing different elements at varying prices." That could mean choosing between self-paced or professor-led courses, whether or not to use tutoring services or, in the future, selecting courses from other content providers, potentially even other colleges, Smith said.
For now, StraighterLine is adding nine new courses to its 38 self-paced, general education offerings. The provider also said it had received $10 million in private financing to help build the new platform. StraighterLine's courses cost $99 a month, and the American Council of Education recommends that other institutions recognize StraighterLine credits.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association, bruised by a year of scandals, is looking to improve its image. Ad Age reported that the NCAA is requesting proposals from agencies for a public relations campaign. A request for proposals obtained by Ad Age included this acknowledgment that some people might not think as positively about the NCAA as its leaders would like: "Market research and media analytics show that misperceptions persist and opportunities exist to inform public opinion, increase confidence in the association, and boost awareness and advocacy for the positive values of intercollegiate athletics."