Higher Education Quick Takes
Rebecca M. Blank, acting U.S. secretary of commerce, was named Monday as the next chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, pending formal approval by the Board of Regents. Blank's career as an economist has included positions in government and academe. From 1999-2008, she was dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. David Ward, a former chancellor, has been serving as interim chancellor at Madison since July 2011. At that time, Carolyn A. (Biddy) Martin ended a three-year term -- which included controversy over her proposals to give Madison more autonomy from the state -- to become president of Amherst College.
A former student found shot to death in his dormitory room at the University of Central Florida killed himself after abandoning a plan to attack the campus, The Orlando Sentinel reported. Authorities said that James Oliver Seevakumaran had failed to register for spring classes but had remained in the dorm. They said he had multiple weapons and explosives and had reportedly pulled a fire alarm early Sunday morning, with the aim of shooting students as they sought to leave the dorm. But he apparently altered his plan, returned to his room, and shot himself in the head.
Union County College is suing its former president, Thomas Brown, for $409,000 that he received during the course of nearly two decades at the college, The Star-Ledger reported. The dispute concerns funds used for Brown's retirement accounts. The college contends that contributions of $23,000 a year for his retirement funds were supposed to come out of his salary, but instead came as extra payments. Brown denies the charges.
Professors who study fracking have been at the center of much public debate over the controversial method of obtaining natural gas. On Friday, the University of Tennessee won preliminary state approval to authorize fracking on its land, The New York Times reported. The university says that the plan will generate revenue and also create an opportunity to study the impact of fracking. Many environmental groups say that, based on what is known about fracking, the university should not be using its land in this way.
The College of the Ozarks is known for its system of providing students with jobs rather than charging them tuition. Now the college is taking things a step further, and refusing to certify private student loans, which some students were still taking out, The Springfield News-Leader reported. The college itself does not use debt, and raises money for buildings before constructing them. President Jerry C. Davis said that he wants to discourage all borrowing. "The driving force behind this is that debt is bad and we should not allow these students to do that," he said.
Joseph Corlett is suing Oakland University for $2.2 million for kicking him out after he wrote an essay called "Hot for Teacher" about one of his instructors, The Detroit Free Press reported. The university is not commenting on the lawsuit. His instructor had encouraged students to be frank in their essays, but in this case, some believed he went too far. Corlett maintains that his free speech rights were violated. When Inside Higher Ed wrote about the dispute last year, some commenters said that they sympathized with the instructor and would have been concerned by the student's essay.
An administrative law judge ruled Friday that Columbia College Chicago had engaged in numerous unfair labor practices in negotiations with the union representing the college's part-time faculty members, which is affiliated with the National Education Association. The judge ordered the college to resume bargaining in good faith, to provide basic information that the union needs to bargain effectively, to compensate the head of the union for classes she lost in what the judge found to be unfair retaliation against her. The judge ordered the college to stop "making regressive contract proposals that retaliate against the union and its members for exercising their [rights]," and to stop "insisting on contract proposals that essentially give [the college] unfettered control over a broad range of mandatory subjects of bargaining, including the effects of decisions regarding those mandatory subjects of bargaining." College officials did not respond to e-mail requests Sunday for comment on the ruling.
A bus crash Saturday morning killed the coach of the women's lacrosse team at Seton Hill University, and the driver of the bus that was taking the team to a game at Millersville University. The coach, Kristina Quigley, was pregnant at the time and the unborn baby was also killed. The university is offering counseling for students and others.
Florida A&M University, still trying to recover from a deadly hazing scandal and much criticism of its finances, on Friday suspended a search for a new president, The Orlando Sentinel reported. The move came five days before the board was planning to start interviewing candidates. Solomon L. Badger III, chair of the board, said that the decision had nothing to do with the quality of the candidates. Rather, he said it was more important that he and Interim President Larry Robinson work on steps that would lead to the removal of Florida A&M's probationary accreditation status.