Higher Education Quick Takes
Metropolitan State University has paid its summer course instructors – a week late, the Pioneer Press reported. Administrators said last week that paychecks had been issued to several dozen instructors who did not receive their paychecks on time. The lump-sum payments were for thousands of dollars in some instances.
The Twin Cities-based university’s collective bargaining unit, the Inter Faculty Organization, representing faculty in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, also has requested "detailed, enumerated," line-items on their paystubs going forward, and an audit of six years’ worth of faculty pay and benefits, citing a history of payroll problems.
University administrators could not be reached for comment Friday.
Purdue University's regional Calumet campus has rescinded layoffs ordered for seven faculty members, The Journal & Courier reported. Administrators had said that enrollment declines necessitated the layoffs, but now officials say that more encouraging enrollment projects mean that there is no longer the need to eliminate positions.
Sheldon Hackney who served as president of Tulane University and the University of Pennsylvania, died Thursday at the age of 79, The Vineyard Gazette reported. Hackney died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, widely known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Hackney was respected as a historian (he focused on the American South), and his presidencies were generally considered successful.
But the end of Hackney's Penn presidency saw him and the university become the focus of a national debate on free speech. A student had shouted from his dorm room for a group of students below to stop making noise and he had called them "water buffalo." The students below were minority students and the student who shouted faced a university hearing over alleged insensitivity. (The student who shouted "water buffalo" said that the words came from an Israeli phrase for loud, rude people and had nothing to do with race.) The case galvanized many who felt that colleges were going too far in their push to promote sensitivity and that such efforts were intruding on free speech rights.
Hackney left Penn in 1993 when President Clinton nominated him to become chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. While Hackney was confirmed for that post, his confirmation hearings featured extensive discussion of the "water buffalo" case, which drew more attention than his plans for the NEH. At the endowment, one of Hackney's major projects was to encourage public discussion of difficult issues through a program called "A National Conversation on American Pluralism and Identity."
A student at Virginia College’s Augusta, Ga., campus has been arrested for allegedly giving her pregnant professor a tainted snack cake. Diane Ambrose was charged with reckless conduct after offering her professor a sealed cake she had injected with a foreign substance through the wrapper, WRDW-TV reported. The Richmond County Sheriff's Office says the 12-week-pregnant professor developed a stomach ailment two weeks ago, after eating the treat. Another student knew about Ambrose's alleged plan, but didn’t tell the professor until she knew she had become sick.
Virginia College did not return a call for comment on the condition of the professor and Ambrose's student status. Ambrose, arrested Wednesday, was out on bail Thursday.
Only 73 percent -- a new low -- of freshmen at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign this year are from Illinois, The Chicago Tribune reported. While some flagship universities (the University of Vermont, for example) have long had high percentages of out-of-state students, Illinois has not historically been such an institution. As recently as a decade ago, 90 percent of freshmen were from in-state. While the university has defended in general the push to admit more out-of-state students, Illinois officials said that their intent has been not to go below 75 percent from the state. But higher than expected proportions of admitted applicants from out of state (many of them international students) accepted admissions offers this year.
The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, an initiative to simplify the process by which distance education providers are authorized to operate in individual states, has begun staffing its central and regional offices. Marshall Hill, former executive director of Nebraska's Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education, will lead the effort from its Boulder, Colo., office.
Should the initiative, which is backed by a $2.3 million grant from the Lumina Foundation, prove successful, institutions that offer distance education could be authorized to operate in every member state. That would save the institutions from the cumbersome and expensive process of demonstrating how their educational offerings satisfy each state's regulatory demands.
NC-SARA's work will be implemented through its four regional partners, the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, the New England Board of Higher Education, the Southern Regional Education Board and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. These organizations will first hire people to lead local chapters in the states they cover, then, once states sign on, turn them loose to recruit individual institutions. "No regional compact is at the point of inviting states to participate yet," Hill said. "I think we’re about two months off from that."
The Ig Nobel Prizes -- the annual spoof of the real Nobels -- were announced Thursday night. Prizes honored breakthrough discoveries on the impact on mice of listening to the opera, of beer on self-perceptions of one's physical attractiveness (it turns out that if you drink a lot you will think you are more attractive) and of the probability of cows lying down and standing up. Details are available here. (The real Nobels are announced next month.)