Higher Education Quick Takes
Central Michigan University administrators said late Sunday that the university would hold classes this morning despite the vote by its faculty union earlier in the day to strike. Leaders of Central Michigan's Faculty Association said university administrators had adopted a "take-it-or-leave-it" attitude in negotiations over renewing the contract for its 600-plus members, prompting them to file unfair labor practice charges. Campus officials said that they would seek a court's injunction this morning to bar what they called an "illegal work stoppage," and that students should report because fixed-term faculty members and graduate teaching assistants would "still hold classes as scheduled."
The United States Department of Education has fined Washington State University $82,500 for improperly reporting two reported sex assaults, the Associated Press reported. The university is appealing the fine -- the result of an audit of crime reporting procedures -- but also says that it has improved its system since the inquiry. In one incident, a reported assault was recorded as a "domestic dispute" when it may have involved a rape. In the other, the university's police report of an alleged assault listed it as "unfounded" after the victim decided not to provide details, but the person who made that determination did not have the authority to do so.
For the first time, students will pay more in total to attend the University of California in 2011-12 than the 10-campus system will receive in state funding, the Los Angeles Times reported. While this has been true for other public colleges and universities for some time, UC's historically low tuition and California's historically strong support for public higher education have kept these lines from crossing only now. But with California's budget in tatters, UC, like many public institutions, has raised tuitions to make up for the lost state funds. "When these things happen, how often do they reverse themselves?" the Times quoted Patrick Lenz, the university's vice president of budget and capital resources, as saying. "Never."
The Faculty Senate of Southern University at Baton Rouge has rejected a request to approve furloughs for professors, and to shorten the time required before jobs may be eliminated, The Advocate reported. The vote followed statements from President James Llorens that he is likely to ask the Southern board to declare financial exigency in the next week, unless he could get furloughs accepted. That would allow the university, among other things, to dismiss tenured professors. Faculty leaders said that more money could be saved with administrative cuts before furloughs would be needed or declaring financial exigency would be appropriate.
James Perry retired as dean and chief executive officer of the University of Wisconsin Fox Valley campus this year. Gannett Wisconsin Media reported that the retirement was under strong pressure, following alleged inappropriate conduct while accompanying those on a three-week study abroad trip in Namibia. According to documents obtained by the news service, Perry "drank, swore, made crude remarks to women on the trip, overstepped his authority and got into a physical altercation with an assistant professor and a student." He was then given the choice of retirement or return to the faculty. Perry said that the incidents in Namibia were not as bad as the report made them sound, and he characterized them as nothing more than "a shouting match." But he added that he realized retirement was a good option. "I just know how things go," he said. "Once something gets messed up, it's hard to kind of back out and rethink things. It's just better if everybody says, 'OK, that's enough. Let's just call it a good career.' "
Drexel University has called off plans to build an undergraduate campus in California, far from the institution's Philadelphia home, The Sacramento Bee reported. Drexel has started (and plans to continue) graduate programs in Sacramento. The undergraduate campus was to have been financed by a donation of land that would have been developed. But real estate values have fallen sharply, making the plan's underlying assumptions no longer valid, officials said.
Pope Benedict XVI used a speech to university professors in Madrid on Friday to denounce the pressures on higher education to focus on job skills as opposed to a broader education. "At times one has the idea that the mission of a university professor nowadays is exclusively that of forming competent and efficient professionals capable of satisfying the demand for labor at any given time. One also hears it said that the only thing that matters at the present moment is pure technical ability," he said. "This sort of utilitarian approach to education is in fact becoming more widespread, even at the university level, promoted especially by sectors outside the university. All the same, you who, like myself, have had an experience of the university, and now are members of the teaching staff, surely are looking for something more lofty and capable of embracing the full measure of what it is to be human. We know that when mere utility and pure pragmatism become the principal criteria, much is lost and the results can be tragic: from the abuses associated with a science which acknowledges no limits beyond itself, to the political totalitarianism which easily arises when one eliminates any higher reference than the mere calculus of power. The authentic idea of the university, on the other hand, is precisely what saves us from this reductionist and curtailed vision of humanity."
The full text of the address is available from Vatican Radio.
McGill University has found a way to keep the tuition of its M.B.A. program at $29,500 -- a huge increase from the previous rate of $1,700 and a shift that had Quebec threatening to hold back funds from the university. McGill has said that the program does not depend on provincial funds and should be able to set rates comparable with top international programs. The Globe and Mail reported that by designating its program as one focused on international business, McGill has turned its M.B.A. into specialized program not covered by the province's standard tuition rules.