Higher Education Quick Takes

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - 3:00am

A former assistant football coach at Louisiana State University violated National Collegiate Athletic Association recruiting rules by making excessive telephone calls to prospective players and tried to cover up his rule breaking, the Division I Committee on Infractions said Tuesday in punishing the institution. Despite the penalties, which included recruiting restrictions, the association praised LSU officials for uncovering and aggressively investigating the violations.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Francine Berman of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute discusses our growing need to store massive amounts of digital data and the problems we face in keeping our data accessible as storage formats change. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 3:00am

Iran's higher education minister is studying plans that would separate men and women at the country's universities, The National reported. At most universities today, men and women attend the same classes, but sit in separate rows -- a degree of separation that falls far short of what some religious leaders are advocating. Ayatollah Safi Golpaigani said last week: "Mingling of male and female [students] thwarts scientific achievements and causes great corruption. The costs of segregation [for the government] are affordable however heavy they may be."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 3:00am

Governor Bev Perdue of North Carolina said Monday that a legislative proposal to combine the operations of many of her state's community colleges would move North Carolina's education system "backwards" and represent an attack on rural areas. Four of the 26 two-year institutions that would be affected in the merger plan -- College of the Albemarle, Halifax Community College, Roanoke-Chowan Community College, and Tri-County Community College -- have no other community college within 30 miles, Perdue said, noting the job training and business development missions of the institutions. “Take away the community colleges and where will those businesses turn for workers? What other state -- or country -- will get our jobs instead?” she said.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 3:00am

The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of British Columbia, which represents more than 10,000 faculty members at universities, colleges, institutes and private sector institutions in that province, recently adopted a new statement of bargaining principles. The statement follows a wave of conversions of several area colleges into universities, which "has brought with it pressures to convert working conditions to the stratified tenure, non-tenure track realities of many old-line universities in Canada," an e-mail last week from at-large executive committee member Frank Cosco to union members read. "Conditions which seem to be the norm in the US."

The new set of principles was adopted at the union's general meeting in May but not distributed to many adjuncts until last week. It calls for bargaining policies to be based on a "collectivist, egalitarian, and equitable university workplace model as opposed to a competitive, stratified model of employment." More specifically, the principles embrace -- for both full- and part-time faculty members -- broad access to tenure and academic freedom regardless of the number of hours they work on a given campus, job protection and a single salary scale. Many adjunct faculty members in the U.S. chafe at their uncertain status in each of these areas.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 3:00am

Many of the same colleges that have ended SAT requirements, noting that wealthy students tend to do well on the exam and that many black and Latino students succeed in college while not doing well on it, may trust the SAT in other ways. These colleges buy the names of high-scoring students from the College Board (and from the ACT) and use those names to recruit prospective students, Bloomberg reported. Leon Botstein, president of Bard College (which neither requires the SAT nor buys names), criticized the practice. "They take a stance that looks principled but is strategic,” Botstein told Bloomberg. "They say 'I’m going to show myself to be open,' but in reality they’re completely buying into the definition of a good student that is guided by the test."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 3:00am

A state judge has ruled that Florida Gulf Coast University should reinstate and provide back pay to David Lounsbury, a fired forensics professor, The Naples Daily News reported. Lounsbury was fired for having students give him checks for a certification exam and depositing them -- a violation of university rules. The judge's ruling upheld one of an arbitrator last year, who found that the university would have been within its rights to punish Lounsbury, but not to fire him. The university plans to appeal.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 1:08pm

Higher education advocates are again on the defensive in the ongoing battle over Pell Grants, which Congressional Republicans are hoping to cut in deficit reduction talks. Eight college presidents joined student activists and U.S. Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin (both Maryland Democrats) at a rally Tuesday morning on Capitol Hill to criticize proposals to cut Pell's budget back to pre-stimulus levels.

Tuesday’s event was the result of some last-minute organization – the presidents were in town for a meeting of the Coalition of Urban-Serving Universities and worked with the U.S. Students Association to bring it together.

USU’s 46 member institutions, which are all public research universities in large metropolitan areas, have a lot to lose if Pell is cut next year because large percentages of their students rely on their grants. At Florida International University, for example, 37 percent of the 43,000-member student body received Pell Grants last year. More than half of those students – 54 percent – received the full grant amount of $5,500.
Mikulski asked students to be more vocal in their opposition to proposed Pell cuts, which could keep many low-income students from being able to afford a college education.
“We need you to flood the airwaves and the broadband,” she told the audience of students and education lobbyists. Student activists responded by talking about their plans to flood lawmakers’ Twitter and e-mail accounts on Monday – which they’ve dubbed “Save Pell Day” – to call attention to their campaign to preserve the program.
Pell Grants were spared major cuts in April, when Republicans agreed to preserve the maximum award amount while cutting the summer grant program – which shielded most of the program's 9.4 million recipients from cuts. But Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) proposal for the upcoming fiscal year would reduce the maximum award by $845 and render 1.7 million current students ineligible to receive the grants.

Monday, July 18, 2011 - 3:00am

Boston College on Friday filed a brief in federal court, defending the right of oral historians to make confidentiality pledges, arguing that courts need to factor in academic needs when weighing requests for access to those records. The college's brief answers one filed by the U.S. government, which asserted that academic freedom is not a defense to protect the confidentiality of such documents. The U.S. government has taken the side of the British government, which is fighting for access to oral history records at Boston College that authorities in the U.K. say relate to criminal investigations of murder, kidnapping and other violent crimes in Northern Ireland. The college promised confidentiality to many of those interviewed and is trying to protect those pledges.

In its brief, Boston College says that it has never made an argument of an "absolute" right to protect confidentiality of oral history documents. But the college says that numerous federal courts have called for a balancing of interests in such cases, and that academic freedom and the rights of researchers are parts of the public policy equation that should be considered. The college's brief also says that the government unfairly cited oral history agreements between interview subjects and researchers at other universities -- agreements that don't go that far too protect confidentiality. These "selective" comparisons, Boston College said, didn't include topics as "traumatic as the Troubles in Northern Ireland." The brief closes by stating that forcing the college to release the documents in ways that violate confidentiality would create "a daunting impediment to collecting candid information about important subjects from willing participants in future oral history projects."

Monday, July 18, 2011 - 3:00am

Many community colleges have a range of athletic options for male students, but just a single team for women, and dozens of community colleges have gone years without any women on athletic rosters, The New York Times reported. As an example, it cited Los Angeles Southwestern College, where women make up two-thirds of students and a quarter of athletes.

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