Higher Education Quick Takes
The January suicide of James Aune, chair of communications at Texas A&M University and widely known scholar of rhetoric, stunned his colleagues nationwide. The suicide now appears to be related to blackmail, The Houston Chronicle reported. A Louisiana man has been charged with a scam in which he took nude photographs of a female relative, started a sexually explicit online relationship with Aune in which the man posed as the relative, and then pretended to be the father of an underage girl with whom Aune was allegedly corresponding. The man -- Daniel Duplaisir -- then demanded that Aune pay him, threatening to otherwise tell officials at Texas A&M that Aune had been engaged in an online sexual relationship with a girl. On the morning that Aune killed himself, Duplaisir sent a demand that the payments start within three hours or "the calls start." A minute before he jumped to his death, Aune sent Duplaisir a message: "Killing myself now. And u will be prosecuted for blackmail."
Faculty members in arts and sciences at Rollins College have voted no confidence in President Lewis Duncan, The Orlando Sentinel reported. Faculty leaders said that Duncan has not worked well with them, or communicated well to the college. In a statement, he said that he disagreed with the criticism, and that he has "honored" the principles of shared governance.
A new report from the European Commission examines the effect of the financial crisis on education budgets. The report shows that nearly half of the 28 countries for which data were available cut their spending on tertiary and adult education from 2010 to 2011, with the greatest decline observed in Slovakia (nearly 15 percent), and reductions of more than 5 percent in the Czech Republic, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, and Northern Ireland. In 2012, even larger cuts took place in Cyprus and Lithuania (more than 30 percent), and Greece (25 percent).
Only a few countries say that budget reductions have resulted in increased tuition fees. The report cites Spain and the United Kingdom as two countries where tuition fees are being increased “with the objective of aligning them with the real cost of studies.”
The report examines educational spending at all levels, from pre-primary to tertiary education.
South Carolina's attorney general has ordered Richard Routh, a professor at the University of South Carolina Upstate, to stop seeking investors for his business, Invictus University, the Associated Press reported. A cease and desist order accused Routh of selling unregistered securities. But Routh says that the business doesn't exist and that the website for the university, which he took down, was partly for a class project.
Regent's College in London has gained approval from British officials to become the second private nonprofit university in the United Kingdom, The Guardian reported. Regent's University London, as the institution will be known, will be the largest private institution in Britain, at 4,500 students. The University of Buckingham became the first private institution there, in 1983.
The U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights has announced that it found the South Carolina Technical College System and two of its colleges to be failing to comply with civil rights statutes requiring that websites be accessible to people with visual disabilities. The system and the colleges have agreed to make changes to come into compliance, and OCR said it would monitor progress on those changes.
Billy Donovan sure seems pretty popular as men's basketball coach at the University of Florida, so maybe he'll break the trend and won't get fired if his team loses next week. But the team his Gators beat in third round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's men's basketball tournament on Sunday, the University of Minnesota, fired its men's basketball coach, Tubby Smith, on Monday. And the team that Minnesota had beaten in the tournament's second round on Friday, the University of California at Los Angeles, fired its coach, Ben Howland, on Saturday after 10 seasons.
Smith had taken Minnesota to the NCAA tournament three times in his six years, and Howland had won the Pacific-12 Conference championship four times and made the Final Four three times in his decade as coach.
Harvard University on Monday sent a letter to thousands of alumni, asking them to volunteer to serve as discussion leaders for a new massive open online course based on a class they took at the university, The New York Times reported. The professor who teaches "The Ancient Greek Hero," said he was thrilled with the idea of a MOOC reaching many more students than he could in Cambridge. But Claudia Filos, editor of content and social media for the course, said that there was a need for more help with discussions. She said that, in some MOOCs, discussions "tend to run off the rails." Alumni who volunteer will be screened before taking on duties monitoring and helping to guide discussions.