Sara Jayne Steen, the president of Plymouth State University, sent an e-mail to students telling them they could skip classes today if they wanted to stay off campus to avoid a pro-gun protest, the Associated Press reported. Opponents of the university's gun ban have vowed to hold a protest today, and to attend the protest with loaded guns. The university plans to enforce its ban.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The YU Beacon, an online student publication at Yeshiva University, has lost its university funding in the wake of a controversy over a first-person sex article by an anonymous student at the Stern College for Women, the undergraduate women's division at Yeshiva. The article, "How Do I Even Begin to Explain This," is an account of "[p]eeling off my Stern-girl exterior" and meeting a man (who normally wears a yarmulke) for sex at a hotel. The essay is tame by the standards of college newspaper sex columns, but was a shock at Yeshiva. Many of the student comments are negative. One such comment: "That story was extremely disturbing, and it too exemplified ideas that are completely contrary to the Torah. The reason this article has generated more controversy is simply because pseudoerotica has more fans than murder descriptions." Others were more sympathetic, with one student writing that "I thought this article had a lot of merit because it touched on a serious issue that exists in the modern orthodox community in general and the YU/Stern community in particular: the schism between what our educators view as reality and the reality that exists for our generation."
The home page of the Beacon announces that, in the wake of the article, "YU and The Beacon have agreed to separate." Fox News quoted a Yeshiva spokesman as saying that the student government, and not the university, made the decision to cut off funds.
The board of Florida A&M University voted Thursday to reprimand James Ammons, the president, in the wake of the hazing death of a student in the institution's marching band, the Associated Press reported. Board members also complained that Ammons had not kept them informed or dealt with the accreditation problems facing some academic programs. When the AP asked Ammons after the meeting if he had "dodged a bullet," he said "I heard the bullet loudly and clearly."
Datatel and SunGard Higher Education announced Wednesday that the U.S. Justice Department has cleared a proposed combination of the two companies. Both companies are major players in providing back-office software and a range of other services to colleges and universities. The planned merger was announced in August, but needed government approval to proceed. The companies anticipate a formal combination early in 2012.
Rob Francis, the head baseball coach at St. Petersburg College, was arrested Tuesday after authorities said he drove to a meeting in Orlando he set up with someone who identified in a chat room as a 14-year-old girl, The Orlando Sentinel reported. In fact, there was no 14-year-old but a police officer. Francis was charged with two felony counts of obscene communication and transmission of harmful material to a minor via an electronic device. The college has placed Francis on leave and barred him from campus.
As expected, the University of Texas at Austin on Wednesday formally asked the U.S. Supreme Court not to hear an appeal of lower court rulings upholding the institution's right to consider race and ethnicity in admissions decisions. Those challenging the Texas policies argue that because the university has attracted diverse students with a race-neutral approach (admitting those in the top 10 percent of their high school classes), Texas should not be permitted to consider race. The university argues that the lower courts got it right in that some level of success in one diversity strategy does not preclude a university from adopting other strategies to enhance diversity. The Supreme Court is likely to announce early next year whether it will hear the case, which would be its first consideration of affirmative action in higher education since 2003.
Some new evidence in the continuing debate over the impact of large classes on teaching and learning: The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario has just released a report that notes a lack of consensus on whether class size alone is a key factor in learning. However, the report concludes that "if size matters ... teaching methods and course design probably matter more."
Simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to include only information already provided to the IRS would increase the number of upper-income families eligible for aid at the state and federal level, according to a report released Wednesday by the College Board and the Lumina Foundation for Education. The study, which looked at FAFSA data from five states, found that the expected family contribution for students at higher income levels -- greater than $75,000 per year -- would decline, but that simplification would have only a modest effect on eligibility for Pell Grants and state need-based aid.
"These modifications would lead to relatively small changes in eligibility for the state grant programs studied in this analysis," wrote the authors of the report, "Can Simple be Equitable?" "Further, these types of changes could result in federal and state grant application and eligibility systems that are simpler and more predictable for filers."