Higher Education Quick Takes
Jewish students, faculty members and organizations are angry at the State University of New York for changing its academic calendar so that Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur will no longer be holidays and spring break will no longer be scheduled to overlap with Passover and Easter, The Jewish Week reported. Charles Robbins, vice provost for undergraduate education, told the newspaper that the idea was to treat all religious groups the same (not offering any holidays as university holidays), while encouraging faculty members and others to be flexible with those whose observances require them to miss some classes. "We are trying to be respectful of all religions," Robbins said. "We want to be equally welcoming to everybody."
Rabbi Joseph Topek of the Stony Brook Hillel has posted on his blog a critique of the new calendar, the adoption of which he wrote is in contrast to a long history of support at Stony Brook for students of many faiths. "We are very concerned that this policy will result in large numbers of faculty and staff being unable to teach classes on major holidays and large numbers of students will miss important course work," he wrote. "New York State Education Law (Section 224-a) requires the institution to provide all students with an equivalent make up opportunity for any required work missed due to religious observance. We all know, however, that the student-teacher relationship is not an equal one, and many students are intimidated or frightened by the prospect of revealing personal information to a teacher in order to ask for make up work."
Many academics in Israel are angry over the selection of a business executive, Amos Shapira, as president of the University of Haifa, Haaretz reported. Supporters of the pick have argued that the university needs a leader who will promote change. But many in Israel believe that presidencies should go to academics. Danny Gutwein, a professor of Jewish history at Haifa, called Shapira's selection a step in "the Finance Ministry's hostile takeover of the universities." He rejected the idea that the business perspective is needed. "The premise that a commercial-business administration will rescue the universities is an addictive bit of propaganda," he said. "Essentially, as a consequence of the budget cuts the Finance Ministry forced on the universities, they have been administered as a 'business' for about two decades. And yet, experience shows that the more the universities adopt business logic, the greater the crisis in which they find themselves."
Members of the University of Southern Mississippi pep band chanted “Where’s your green card?” Thursday at an opposing basketball player from Puerto Rico, The Kansas City Star reported. But it was Southern Mississippi, not Kansas State University freshman Angel Rodriguez, that was sent home after the game. The Golden Eagles lost the second-round National College Athletic Association tournament game, 70-64.
Southern Mississippi President Martha Saunders issued a statement after the game apologizing to Rodriguez and saying that “The words of these individuals do not represent the sentiments of our pep band, athletic department or university.” Rodriguez, a 19-year-old guard from San Juan, is an American citizen by virtue of his birth in the U.S. territory.
As Rodriguez prepared to shoot free throws, members of the Southern Miss band were caught on tape chanting the racially charged phrase. Southern Mississippi’s interim athletics director apologized to his Kansas State counterpart after the game, the Hattiesburg American reported, and hoped to have the pep band director meet with Rodriguez. The pep band director stopped the chant and apologized to a TV reporter who filmed it, the American reported.
Enrolling in college in the United States remains a top goal of students at national high schools in major Chinese cities, according to a new poll by Art & Science Group, which advises American colleges on enrollment strategies. The survey found that nearly all (94 percent) of students at these high schools are interested in college in an English-speaking country, and that 78 percent are interested in enrolling in the United States. Asked to rate the quality of colleges in the United States, Britain and Canada, the Chinese students gave the U.S. the best marks for academic quality, teaching critical thinking, the quality of facilities and prestige. Britain was on top in campus beauty and an emphasis on the liberal arts. (The scores were quite close for most categories.) Asked to identify challenges to study in the United States, 45 percent worried that they might not be academically prepared, 37 percent said that they didn't know enough about American colleges and universities, 28 percent said that they were concerned about their English skills, 25 percent worried about being far from home and 21 percent worried about whether their families could afford it.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is pushing a plan to merge Rutgers University at Camden into Rowan University, a plan that is hitting opposition from some on both campuses who see their missions as distinct. One talking point for supporters of the plan has been that SAT averages of Rowan are higher than those of the Camden campus, part of the state's flagship university. It turns out they aren't. The Record reported that Rowan's figures excluded the scores of disadvantaged students. When they are included (as Rutgers does and as colleges are generally required to do by those who make SAT score comparisons), Camden's SAT average is higher than that of Rowan.
The Education Writers Association has honored the University of Venus -- an Inside Higher Ed blog by and about Gen X women in academe, all over the world -- with second prize for community blogging in the association's annual contest. Inside Higher Ed salutes the great writers of University of Venus, and all the winners in this year's EWA contest.
The New York Legislature on Thursday passed a plan supported by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that will cut retirement benefits for future state and local government workers, The New York Times reported. The cuts would affect new employees at public institutions such as the State University of New York and the City University of New York. According to the Times, the measure would save $80 billion for state and local governments over the next 30 years, even though one of the more contentious proposals in the measure -- a plan that would let new workers opt out of a traditional pension and let them choose something similar to a 401(k) --– would now be open only to new non-unionized workers who earn $75,000 or more, under a concession made by Cuomo.
Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress, a union representing 20,000 faculty members and staff at CUNY, said the plan -- also referred to as Tier 6 -- flowed from an ideological agenda of protecting the rich. “Tier 6 will hit CUNY especially hard; it will undermine CUNY’s ability to attract and retain the best faculty in national searches. I remember being told more than 20 years ago when I came to CUNY that one thing CUNY was able to offer was good benefits, including a decent pension,” Bowen said.
“We were hoping it would be defeated but that is not the way it turned out,” said Denyce Duncan Lacey, Director of Communications for the United University Professions, a union representing 35,000 faculty members and professional staff at state-operated SUNY campuses.
Santa Monica College's plans for two-tiered tuition rates (higher prices for high demand courses) have drawn criticism from those who view it as going against the traditional values of community colleges. But a local couple is responding to the news by donating $250,000 to pay for scholarships for those who can't afford the higher prices, The Los Angeles Times reported. Daniel Greenberg, who is giving the money with his wife Susan Steinhauser, told the Times that he admired the college's president, Chui Tsang, for proposing an innovative solution to the college's financial and capacity problems. "He has not dealt with this by avoiding the issues but by confronting them and hopefully has found a really good way of tackling them," Greenberg said.
Students and other experts on spring break (bartenders in spring break locales) report that students have become tamer, even "prudish" while on the vacations once known for every kind of excess, The New York Times reported. The reason? With video cameras everywhere, students fear that their exploits will be posted online in ways that will embarrass them. One piece of evidence for this trend: Only one bar in Key West is featuring a wet T-shirt contest, and it takes place only once a week.