Colorado's Supreme Court has agreed to hear Ward Churchill's appeal of lower court rulings that upheld his 2007 dismissal from the University of Colorado, The Denver Post reported. Colorado fired the tenured professor in the wake of his controversial comments about the September 11 attacks, which opened the way to an investigation into scholarly misconduct that prompted his dismissal. Churchill challenged the action in a state lawsuit, but after an initial jury ruling in his favor, a judge and then an appeals panel ruled against him.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Enrollment in Reserve Officers Training Corps participation is up 27 percent over the last four years, The Los Angeles Times reported. The decisions of several elite colleges to restore ROTC units, in the wake of the Congressional vote requiring the end of military discrimination against gay people, have attracted widespread attention, but most of those units are expected to be small. Nationally, students are attracted to ROTC by the lucrative scholarships, and do not appear deterred by ongoing military actions in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The U.S. Senate's education panel will hold another in a series of hearings about for-profit colleges next week -- and the committee's Republican members have made clear again that they view the hearings as one-sided and will not participate. Little is known at this point about the June 7 hearing, although its title -- "Drowning in Debt: Financial Outcomes of Students at For-Profit Colleges" -- leaves little to the imagination. Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who heads the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, has been persistently critical of commercial colleges, and has staged a set of hearings dating to last summer that focus on various aspects of their operations. In a letter to Harkin Tuesday, his Republican counterpart, Senator Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, reiterated earlier concerns that the panel is focusing on for-profit colleges when the underlying problems -- "the rising cost of higher education, student debt and student outcomes" -- exist "throughout all sectors of higher education.... [U]ntil the Majority demonstrates a sincere willingness to hold fair proceedings on higher education, we will not participate in any hearings on this issue."
Cornell University has proposed replacing temporary fences on the bridges over gorges that are omnipresent on the campus with wire mesh nets. The fences were installed last year after a cluster of suicides -- in which students killed themselves jumping into the gorges -- stunned the campus, and led to debate over whether fences were needed. The university said it needed to take action to stop suicides, but many complained that the fences were a constant reminder of the suicides and marred the natural beauty of the campus. A statement from Susan Murphy, vice president for student and academic services, said: "We've taken care to submit designs that will preserve the aesthetic value of the bridges and vistas. We believe the designs also will make vulnerable members of our community feel safer and reduce the incidence of a highly lethal and potentially contagious form of suicide."
The question of whether law schools are adequately preparing their graduates for jobs after graduation -- and accurately informing them -- has been fodder for hunger-striking protesters and other critics. Now those issues are a matter for the courts, as a recent law graduate has sued California's Thomas Jefferson School of Law in state court, National Law Journal reported. The class action filed by Anna Alaburda alleges that "[f]or more than 15 years, TJSL has churned out graduates, many of whom have little or no hope of working as attorneys at any point in their careers," and that the school's placement statistics "were false, misleading, and intentionally designed to deceive all who read them." A spokeswoman for Thomas Jefferson told the legal newspaper that the institution follows American Bar Association guidelines on placement data and that its statistics are accurate. "This lawsuit is very much about a larger debate. This is part of the debate about whether it's practical to pursue a graduate degree in these difficult economic times," the spokeswoman said.
Spending on "529" savings plans for college is up 75 percent in the last two years, the Los Angeles Times reported. The state-sponsored plans provide tax breaks for contributions to various investment funds. The article attributed the surge to continued concern among families about college costs, but also to renewed confidence in the possibility of making money through investments.
Five weeks after a tornado forced Shaw University to end its spring semester early, the institution started a summer session on Monday, The News & Observer reported. Student housing on campus is still not available, but Saint Augustine's College is offering housing to Shaw students, and Shaw is providing shuttles between the two campuses.
Amid reports that legislators were not willing to back a plan for the University of Wisconsin at Madison to become independent of the Wisconsin system, Chancellor Biddy Martin acknowledged Friday that the idea -- which had her strong backing -- was unlikely to pass this year, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Martin backed the plan, arguing that Madison needs independence to thrive in an era of limited state funds. The rest of the university system, however, strongly objected, saying that the system functioned better for the state with Madison as a key part.
The leaders of the University and College Union, the primary faculty union in Britain, are backing the right of students to wear burqas, The Independent reported. Union leaders argue that this right will assure that the universities are welcoming to people of all faiths.