Higher Education Quick Takes

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Elizabeth Furdell of the University of North Florida discusses how she
uses the historical record to diagnose ailments in individuals from the distant past. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - 3:00am

University of New Mexico officials thought they had a plan to save about $70,000 by eliminating the job of a vice provost (at a salary of $192,000), and replacing him with three part-time administrators. But The Albuquerque Journal reported that officials brought on the part-timers before they realized that the vice provost already had been given (and had signed) a contract for the year. So now the university has the vice provost (being assigned new duties) and the three part-time administrators on payroll.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - 3:00am

New Zealand's University of Auckland is rejecting calls that it fire Margaret Mutu, head of the Maori studies department, over controversial statements she recently made. Mutu called for the country to limit immigration by white people, saying that they bring "an attitude of white supremacy" that hurts people from indigenous groups. News 3 New Zealand reported that Stuart McCutcheon, the vice chancellor, issued a statement focused on academic freedom. "The vice-chancellor understands the concerns raised ... but believes very strongly in the right of academics to comment on issues in which they have expertise, even when those comments may be controversial," he said.

Friday, September 2, 2011 - 3:00am

The U.S. Education Department has published guidance about the package of new federal regulations known as its "program integrity" rules, in the form of a new website with questions and answers about each of the regulations: gainful employment, state authorization for institutions that operate outside their borders, and incentive compensation, to name a few.

Friday, September 2, 2011 - 3:00am

The resignation of two senior officials at Columbia University -- both of them African American -- has led to questions from some faculty members about the institution's commitment to diversity, The New York Times reported. The two officials did not cite issues of race in leaving Columbia, and only the second resignation was acrimonious, but faculty members said that they had many questions. June Cross, an associate professor of journalism, said, "I’m not saying race is the issue, but it is the subtext.” Noting the resignation of Michele Moody-Adams as undergraduate dean, in a dispute over authority, Cross said: “Michele Moody-Adams was advertised as, ‘Here’s our commitment to diversity.’ If you’re not going to stand behind what you say you hired her to do, what does that say about your commitment?” Other faculty members -- and President Lee Bollinger -- said that the university has a strong track record on support for diversity, and that the dispute over Moody-Adams did not suggest otherwise.

Friday, September 2, 2011 - 3:00am

Baltimore International College, a nonprofit college that focuses on culinary and hospitality education, is finding it more difficult than expected to save its accreditation by merging into a for-profit institution. After the Middle States Commission on Higher Education revoked recognition, Baltimore International announced plans to merge into Stratford University, with the hope that Maryland officials and Stratford's accreditor, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, would approve the switch. But Middle States rejected the college's bid to hold on to its accreditation until a switch can be made, forcing Baltimore International into court this week to obtain a restraining order to stay accredited. Now in order to win an injunction to preserve accreditation from Middle States while it pursues the merger and new accreditation, the college may need to offer evidence that it has quality that Middle States previously doubted, The Baltimore Sun reported.

Friday, September 2, 2011 - 3:00am

A regional director of the National Labor Relations Board has rejected a bid by the United Auto Workers for the right to hold an election to unionize graduate research and teaching assistants at New York University's Polytechnic Institute. The ruling cited past findings by the NLRB that graduate student workers at private universities should generally be considered to be students, not employees. However, the ruling also noted that there are ways that the graduate students at NYU-Poly interact with the university as students, and that there are other ways that represent more of an economic relationship. With regard to research assistants, the ruling cited more reasons -- based on their support with external grants -- why they should not be considered eligible for collective bargaining.

The UAW -- which wants a way to challenge the precedents cited in the ruling -- is expected to appeal the decision. Union officials did not respond to e-mail or calls seeking comment. A spokesman for NYU, James Devitt, issued a statement praising the NLRB ruling. "The ruling not only follows the precedent [of the ruling finding teaching assistants to be students] ... but also acknowledges that even if that decision was overturned, research assistants would still not be considered employees under the National Labor Relations Act -- a conclusion consistent with four decades of precedent."

The UAW is also seeking to organize teaching assistants at NYU's main campus, and expects to use that case to push for a reconsideration of these issues by the NLRB.

Friday, September 2, 2011 - 3:00am

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced in Thursday's Federal Register that it would extend by a month the period in which researchers and others can comment on the federal government's plan for new regulations governing protections for human subjects in research studies. In an article last month, Inside Higher Ed analyzed the early work done as part of the government's first major review of its so-called Common Rule.

Friday, September 2, 2011 - 3:00am

The decision by the Association of American Universities to expel the University of Nebraska at Lincoln from its membership last spring showed the "growing disconnect between the elites of American higher education and contemporary reality," the university's chancellor said in his first comments on the decision since the controversy first flared in May. In his State of the University speech Thursday, Harvey S. Perlman, Lincoln's chancellor, focused most of his attention on what the university needs to do to raise its ambitions as it joins the Big Ten Conference, where its peers will include many of the country's strongest public research universities. (Among his goals: by 2017, increasing enrollment to 30,000 from 25,000, tenure-track faculty to 1,300 from 1,140, and the six-year graduation rate to 70 percent from the current 64.)

But he also acknowledged lingering disappointment about the AAU snub, though he asserted that it said more about the group of research universities than it did about Nebraska itself. "Our path is the right one for a socially relevant and forward-looking public research university," he said. "That path simply diverged from the new course that some AAU members have set. We'll let history judge which path will pay greater dividends."

Friday, September 2, 2011 - 3:00am

AlcoholEDU, the widely used survey and educational tool that colleges distribute to incoming freshmen, can reduce harmful drinking during students’ first semester – but come spring you wouldn’t know it, according to the results of a new National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism study. Students who took the online course at 30 colleges nationwide reported “significantly reduced” alcohol consumption and binge drinking during fall semester as compared to spring, the NIAAA said Thursday. But the researchers, at the University of California’s Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, also reinforced the strong belief among many prevention educators that the tool is best used in combination with other environmental prevention strategies.

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