Higher Education Quick Takes
Unions at several Michigan colleges and universities are exploring the possibility of agreeing now to extend contracts so that they can avoid for a few years some of the impact of the state's new "right to work" law, which bars anyone from being forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment, The Battle Creek Enquirer reported. Many in the unions fear their position will be weakened by the law, which takes effect March 27.
A Pennsylvania judge ruled Thursday that a former student had failed to demonstrate that a professor at Lehigh University was arbitrary in an illegal way in awarding her a C+, Lehigh Valley Live reported. The judge said that he did have some questions about the grade, but that the former student had failed to show that the grade was for "anything other than purely academic reasons." The former student had sought $1.3 million, saying that the low grade blocked her from proceeding in the graduate program of her choice.
The bookstore at Missouri State University handed out more than 6,000 free book bags with the word "university" spelled as "univeristy," The Springfield News-Leader reported. The university spent about $70,000 on the bags.
Advocates for college wrestling programs -- many of which have been dropped in recent years -- fear that the Olympic decision to drop the sport will lead to more team eliminations, The Chicago Tribune reported. "It will give athletic directors with tight budgets a new excuse," said Jim Scherr, a former Olympic wrestler. "Over a decade or two, the impact will be significant."
Science and engineering research space at research-performing colleges and universities increased 3.5 percent from fiscal year 2009 to fiscal year 2011, growing to 202.9 million net assignable square feet, according to a new analysis from the recent data from the National Science Foundation. The biggest growth was in facilities for biological and biomedial sciences, which saw an increase of 8 percent. Details about the study are available here.
The University of Southern Mississippi is facing tens of millions of dollars in repair costs due to Sunday's tornado, The Clarion-Ledger reported. The tornado struck several campus buildings, and state officials met Wednesday to discuss the repair process. The university will resume classes today, but 87 class sections will be held in temporary locations.
Westboro Baptist Church, known for turning up at locations nationwide for anti-gay protests, has announced plans to rally at Vassar College (or as Westboro calls it "Ivy League Whorehouse Vassar College") later this month. The church plans a 45-minute protest against Vassar, which it calls a "filthy institution ... wholly given over to the fag agenda." Jon Chenette, acting president at Vassar, sent a campuswide letter inviting students and faculty members to respond to the inflammatory statements in ways that would "celebrate the inclusiveness of our community and the multitude of backgrounds, interests, and preferences that enrich our experiences." Some students and alumni created an online fund-raiser for the Trevor Project, which provides counseling for young gay people who may be facing crises or thinking of suicide. The initial goal was to raise $4,500 -- or $100 for each minute that Westboro plans to be at Vassar. So far, contributions have topped $47,000.
It's not unheard of for professors to question the value of undergraduate education in business. It's more rare if you teach in -- let alone lead -- an undergraduate program in business, but that's what has happened at Tel Aviv University. Haaretz reported that Shmuel Ellis, chair of the undergraduate Department of Management, recently sent out an e-mail telling those who are undecided about their major not to pick business. He suggested they consider fields in the humanities, social sciences or biological sciences. "Study of academic disciplines prepares students to think scientifically in these fields and form the foundation for advanced studies in graduate degree programs," he said.
The comments have angered some students studying business. Adding to the anger is that Ellis was defending comments from Moshe Zviran, vice dean of the graduate business program, who recently questioned the value of undergraduate education in business. Zviran said that business study only makes sense at the graduate level. "Business administration is an excellent degree but needs to be studied at the appropriate time," he said.